New town manager, councilman for Wakarusa

WAKARUSA — Wakarusa has one new face on its town council and a familiar one acting as town manager. The latter position was left open in 2010 at Tom Roeder’s retirement after 20 years serving in the role. The former position was left open when Wakarusa Town Council President Jeff Troxel was selected to fill the role as the town manager.
“The council had left the position open while they evaluated it and the town’s needs,” Troxel explained. “I had been on the council for two terms and when he (Roeder) left I thought it might be a good opportunity. The town manager position has been talked about but as council president, I decided I wasn’t going to try for it.”
An ad published in local newspapers resulted in 120 applicants seeking the position.
“We weeded through them all and selected a top five,” Troxel said. “We did interviews with them but the council couldn’t agree on one by a majority.”
The five-person council published the ad again in hopes to find someone local with just the right characteristics to get the job done. Troxel decided to throw his hat in the mix, thus refraining from acting as councilperson during the interview and selection process of the applicants, and of the three interviewed in the second round, his resumé came out on top.
Now in his fourth week as Wakarusa Town Manager, Troxel said he is still excited and that his general role is to assist in the day-to-day running of the town by meeting with business owners and prospective businesses that might be considering coming to the area. “I deal with complaint issues,” Troxel said, “attend county and state meetings and carry out a variety of things the town is involved with.”
One of which was a recent purchase of the adjoining building to the town hall and offices which used to be an antique store. “We’d like to get the police department (of five officers) in there,” Troxel explained, “so we can give them a town presence again. Years ago they used to be above the bank, but now they’re out of the general downtown area. “
In Troxel’s absence from the council, councilman Mark BeMiller was given the role of president.
Troxel’s full-time position comes with an annual contract and a performance review that will be carried out by the town council. But he says he couldn’t be happier about the position he now serves the townspeople from.
“I’m still learning things,” he said. “I feel I’m more involved in this role than when I was on the council — I of course have more time to put toward town business. …Right now we’re looking at bringing in more businesses and working with the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) of Elkhart County. We have great schools and we’re right off S.R. 19 so we have great highway access. And the council is very receptive to working with new businesses.”
The open Third Ward council seat was left to Dale Stickel of the Elkhart County Republican Party to deal with. He looked at the two people who were hoping to be considered for the position that met all the requirements to fulfill the term. July 19, he appointed Jeffery Ziegler to the seat.
“I contacted the local elected officials and asked for their input,” Stickel explained. “This is the way I usually handle these appointments because I am not familiar with the local situation. There was a consensus, not unanimous opinion that favored Jeff (Ziegler). I also talked to both candidates and favored Mr. Ziegler just on general impressions and since that was the consensus, I went that direction. I have no hard and fast rules and trust my own instinct — but local input is the primary criteria in my selection process.”
Ziegler and his family (wife of 26 years Dawn; son Clark, 21; son Cole, 19; and daughter Lindsay, 17, a senior at NorthWood High School) moved to Wakarusa in 2004. The principal (for the last two years) of Jimtown High School (four years prior he held the role as assistant principal), Ziegler said that he had had family in Wakarusa but it was the community itself, coupled with the commendable school system that brought him to finish raising his children in the area.
“I had thought about running for council in the past,” he explained, “ but a couple people in the community put a bug in my ear to go for it. Seeing the wonderful things this town does for families and during the holidays … I just wanted to be more involved, see if I could add something to that, and also to give back to the community.”
Ziegler said he did not come onto the council with any personal agendas and simply wants to represent the people of Wakarusa by listening to them and trying to come to make the best decisions possible.
“First of all, since I’ve been involved in education for such a long time I’ve learned that there’s no one person that is set up as the leader per se,” he said. “You are all part of a team. My role is to listen to the concerns and bring them to the council. I’d hope people would come in and voice their concerns in person at a meeting, but if they can’t I would act as an advocate on their behalf — but being only one person — again, one person isn’t in control, it’s the entire council.”