Candidate Preview: Bloomington City Council


Sandwiched between the 2014 midterms and 2016 presidential election is the race for the City of Bloomington’s local offices. In the May 5 primary, voters will nominate candidates for mayor, city council and city clerk. Fifteen candidates are seeking the nine spots on the Bloomington City Council. Most are Democrats who, if nominated, could run an uncontested primary.

Information about the candidates was taken from their websites, social media pages and company and city websites.

District 1

Kevin Easton (D): A native of Indianapolis, Easton originally moved to Bloomington in 2002 but left after taking a job with the federal government in California and Washington. In 2009, Easton moved back to Bloomington and now works as a Procurement Technical Assistance Center consular, where he manages government contracts.

Chris Sturbaum (D): Sturbaum has represented District 1, made up of largely the west side of Bloomington, since 2004. A graduate of Wabash College, Sturbaum has been the owner of Golden Hands Construction Company on South Jackson Street for 36 years. In addition to representing District 1 on the common council, Sturbaum serves as the council appointee on the Bloomington Plan ?Commission.

District 2

Dorothy Granger (D): Running unopposed in District 2 is incumbent Dorothy Granger. Representing much of Bloomington’s north side, Granger has worked in a variety of fields, including broadcast media, where she is currently the development director for WFHB, a nonprofit radio station in Bloomington. Granger, who earned a doctorate in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding Graduate University, worked as a finance director on Shelli Yoder’s failed bid for Congress.

District 3

Allison Chopra (D): A five-year veteran of the Indiana Army National Guard, Chopra is seeking to represent District 3, which largely makes up Bloomington’s northeast side. Chopra has two degrees from IU, a Bachelor’s of Science in criminal justice, psychology and sociology and a master’s of science in kinesiology and exercise science. Chopra currently works as a legal assistant at Bunger & Robertson law firm and was the former owner of Urban Fitness Studio.

Nelson Shaffer (R): Now a retired geology professor, Shaffer is seeking public office after running in 2014 for Monroe County Council against Kelley School of Business lecturer and former candidate for Congress Shelli Yoder. Shaffer is an Ohio native and originally came to Bloomington in 1974 to teach geology at IU, where he specialized in coal and industrial minerals. Shaffer, who attained his doctorate in Applied Geology from IU, is the only Republican candidate running for Bloomington ?City Council.

Marty Spechler (D): Incumbent Marty Spechler is a retired professor of economics at IU and has three degrees from Harvard University, including a doctorate in economics. Spechler’s research specializes in migration, European Union and Eastern European economics. Spechler has often collaborated with his wife and current IU professor of political science Dina Spechler on a number of academic articles. Spechler currently serves as an appointee on the Bloomington Sidewalk Committee and Jack Hopkins Social Services ?Committee.

District 4

Philippa Guthrie (D): Originally from Green Bay, Wisc., Guthrie is a practicing attorney. She received her law degree and an M.P.A. from IU. Guthrie has lived in Bloomington for 26 years. She is the Vice President and General Counsel of the IU Foundation. Guthrie now works as co-chair of the IU United Way Campaign, a volunteer position.

Dave Rollo (D): First elected in 2003, Rollo serves on several boards and commissions, ?including the Environmental Commission. Rollo recently retired from his work at IU, where he was a research assistant in the Department of Biology from 1995 to 2011. Rollo also chaired the Deer Task Force, the group that allowed the use of lethal force to cull the Bloomington deer population.

District 5

Kurt Babcock (D): In the only council race with no incumbents, Babcock is one of three candidates seeking to replace Darryl Neher’s spot on the city council. Babcok currently works as the Geographic Information System’s coordinator for Monroe County. As part of the work for the county, Babcock serves on the joint county and city Technical Advisory Committee, advising the Policy Committee on technical matters.

Gabriel Colman (D): Colman is the curator of The Venue Fine Arts & Gifts, an art gallery located on South Grant Street. A Bloomington native, Colman is a graduate of IU, receiving a bachelor’s in fine arts in 2004. Colman is a member of the Bloomington Gallery Walk Committee.

Isabel Piedmont-Smith (D): Native to Bloomington, Piedmont-Smith has been employed by IU as the fiscal office and department administrator for the Department of French and Italian since 1998. Piedmont-Smith previously represented District 5 for one term from 2007 to 2011 and chose not to run for re-election.

District 6

Steve Volan (D): Unopposed incumbent Steve Volan represents much of downtown Bloomington. Volan has represented District 6 since first assuming office in 2004. Volan previously founded BlueMarble Information Services, the first Internet provider in Bloomington. In addition, Volan owned Cinemat, a video rental store, that has since become The Bishop, a bar located on Fourth and Walnut streets. Volan also teaches Intro to Chess at IU.


Tim Mayer (D): Mayer, a 19-year veteran of the council, is running unopposed for his at-large seat this May. Mayer serves on the Community Development Block Grant Physical Improvement ?Committee, Utilities Service Board and the Jack Hopkins Social Service Funding committee. In addition to his six terms spent on the council, Mayer serves on the board of directors for Hoosier Hills Food Bank and the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.


Andy Ruff (D): IU students majoring in human biology might be familiar with Ruff, as he is the academic advisor for the major. Running unopposed, Ruff is a member of the City Council Sidewalk Committee and the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization citizens advisory committee.


Susan Sandberg (D): Like the two other at-large members on the Bloomington City Council, Sandberg will be unopposed in this May’s primary. Sandberg has been on the council since 2007 and is looking for her third go-around. Sandberg originally took over for current prosecutor. Sandberg is also a career advisor with the Career Development Office at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

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