The democratic mayor of the city of Sturgis will be seeking the position of Union County Judge Executive in 2018. Michael Hardesty, was the first person to file his candidacy for the position on Wednesday morning, the official start of the 2018 election cycle. Hardesty hopes to succeed current Judge Executive Jody Jenkins who was federally indicted in September on public corruption-related charges. Jenkins has previously stated he will not resign but it remains unclear if he intends to run for re-election.
Tom Stevenson, a democrat, and Adam O’Nan, a republican, also filed on Wednesday. Prospective candidates have until Friday January 29th to file.
Hardesty, the current mayor of Sturgis and former city councilman, said he was urged to run by friends and supporters.
“I was requested to run for judge executive,” Hardesty said. “They thought I would do a good job so I’m giving it a shot.”
In addition to serving as the city’s mayor, Hardesty owns and operates a True Value hardware store on Main Street in downtown Sturgis. It appears that his campaign has already hit the ground running. A campaign Facebook page has already been created and dozens of campaign signs are ready to be handed out.
“I’ve lived here all my life. I’ve never owned a bed outside of Union County,” Hardesty said. “I believe I can make Union County proud of me and proud of the courthouse again.”
For some residents, pride in the Union County courthouse has been hard to come by. In mid-September, current Judge Executive Jody Jenkins, also a democrat, was federally indicted by a grand jury on four counts of honest services fraud. According to the criminal complaint, Jenkins accepted $20,000 in kickbacks in 2014. The alleged kickbacks were allegedly requested by Jenkins when the county purchased heavy equipment later tied to a theft ring operating out of Vanderburgh County. Jenkins has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in May.
It is unclear if he intends to run for re-election.
When asked about the controversy and allegations against Jenkins, Hardesty didn’t sling mud. Instead, he stressed the need for more jobs and economic development opportunities in the county.
“[The stolen equipment controversy has] put things in a tough position but we’ll just let the courts play that out as they will,” Hardesty said. “The coal severance money is fading away. We need to work on the economic development and the fiscal responsibility of the county. The fiscal court has the responsibility to give the highest quality of living for the residents of Union County at the best rates possible. That’s what drives every decision that I will ever make.”
Incumbent fiscal court magistrates Chuck Voss, Joe Wells and Joe Clements will also seek re-election. Wells will have a challenger, Gary Wright.
Longtime county attorney Brucie Moore said she will not seek re-election once her term expires in 2018.
“If I filed for county attorney and was re-elected, I know I would not serve the entire 4-year term based upon by future family plans,” Moore said in a statement. “I am not comfortable seeking re-election for a term I know I would not complete… I thought it only fair and proper to announce my intention.”
At the end of her term in 2018, Moore will be approaching the age of 62. Despite not running for re-election, Moore will continue her private law practice. Moore said her decision to not seek another term has nothing to do with the controversy surrounding Judge Jenkins. Moore said that was one of the reasons she was actually considering another run at county attorney because she wanted to help guide the county through the issue.
In the end, however, family won, Moore said.
“I will forever be grateful to the people of Union County and their support of me professionally and personally through good times and tough times,” Moore said.