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County commissioner embarks on listening tour to inform potential run for mayor



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Amanda Barge, president of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners wants her mayoral campaign platform to be informed by citizens' feedback. If she decides to run, that is.

Barge announced four initiatives last week to hear citizens’ positive and negative feedback on the city. The meetings are part of an exploratory committee she opened earlier this month to help her decide whether to run against Mayor John Hamilton in the 2019 election. 

“My heart is about people,” Barge said. “We always need to put people over politics.”

Barge said people started approaching her at community events several months ago about considering a run for mayor. She announced that she was considering a mayoral campaign Nov. 13, just a week after midterm elections. 

Moving from the executive body of the county government to an executive role in the city would be a natural progression, Barge said. She has taken her first two years on the board of county commissioners to focus on the opioid epidemic and government transparency, she said. 

Barge plans to make a final decision in January based on the information she hears from her listening tour, her family and her team of supporters. She is leaning toward a mayor run, but said she is open to finding another position where she could have a greater influence on the community. 

“I really want to figure out where I can be most beneficial,” Barge said. 

If she decides to run, Barge will face an incumbent who won 77 percent of the 2015 vote over Republican John Turnbull. In the 2015 democratic primary, however, Hamilton won 3,970 votes to Darryl Neher’s 2,760 and John Linnemeier’s 91, according to Monroe County Democratic Party Chair Mark Fraley. 

Barge volunteered for Hamilton’s 2015 campaign and voted for him. But she and others have not been satisfied by the lack of inclusion and transparency they've seen in the administration. She said she reached a turning point when the administration publicly posted details on residents’ overdose death data.

The process the city took to purchase the BearCat armored vehicle, and the anger residents expressed at the decision, was another instance that for her marked the absence of public participation. 

“What I’m seeing that we’re missing is really listening to all segments of the community,” Barge said.

Hamilton had no official comment at this time. 

Barge plans to have 100 cups of coffee with individuals across the community. She plans to talk with larger groups at people’s homes, organizations and neighborhoods. Barge will also visit commercial spaces to learn more about the small business community. 

Barge graduated from IU with degrees in gender studies and political science before earning her master’s in social work at the University of Texas at Austin. She has owned a local private practice since 2011. 

Barge said she is willing to visit dorms, houses or anywhere else on campus to meet with as many students as she can. 

“Having grown up here, I know how important students are to this community,” Barge said. 

She is operating with a small team of volunteers and is collecting donations to fund professional staff. 

She has a small business tour, some group events and five coffees scheduled for this week. 

Should she win the democratic primary, Barge said she would eventually resign from the county commissioner position. But right now, she is focused on serving the county. 

“I’ll be doing my job just as I did before,” Barge said. 

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