LAPAZ (HSPA) — One candidate is studying finance in college. The other learned budgeting during the Great Depression.
Elma Konya, an 89-year-old who has been North Township trustee for 39 years, is challenged by 20-year-old college junior Chelsea Roose.
So what makes Roose, majoring in banking and finance at Indiana University South Bend, think she can oust such a tenured incumbent?
With towns in the news for electing 18- and 19-year-old mayors, Roose figured she’d have an equal shot at trustee.
“But I don’t want this to be about age — Elma has done a really good job for a really long time,” Roose said. “I just think people are ready for a change.”
And Roose says change is in the pipeline with the new highway bypass.
“It could have a Route 66 effect in the township,” she said. “I want to keep us on the map with achievable growth, keep pride in the community and provide budgeting for the poor.”
A Depression lesson
When Konya graduated from LaPaz High School in 1939, it was the Great Depression. That’s when she learned compassion for the poor and how to pinch a penny.
Konya still keeps the books balanced the old-fashioned way, doesn’t operate a computer, and boasts that her paperwork has never been disqualified.
“The books are all in order,” she said with pride. “And we just bought an ambulance, but there are no loans or debt.”
Besides relief to the poor, the trustee also is responsible for providing cemetery, ambulance and fire department services.
Konya was there on the foundation floor when LaPaz established its own ambulance service in 1974.
Although she already had eight years of experience helping the former trustee/assessor before she was elected, when she was on her own in 1971, Konya still had no clue what to do.
“It took years upon years to figure that out, and now the state regulations keep changing,” she said. “Heaven help the next person. I worked with the former trustee, Roberta Harbaugh, for eight years and then she begged me to stay on when she retired.”
Konya said her reason for running for the office again is just the same as when she started. She said, “I just like the people.”
A political background
Roose works part time at 1st Source Bank in LaPaz and is running on the Republican ticket.
Although Republicans pretty much rule the roost in Marshall County, North Township is a Democratic holdout. Konya’s held the seat for nearly four decades.
“I think at this level it doesn’t matter what ticket I run on,” Roose said. “People will go to the office for help no matter what party.”
Serving with the Republican party also runs in the blood.
Roose’s dad is a Republican county commissioner; her sister served as a Senate Majority intern in the Indiana House last year; and her stepmother ran against Konya and lost by only 32 votes — 536 to 568 — in 2002.
“I guess we’re more involved than the average family,” said Roose, whose first hands-on experience with government was at Hoosier Girls State as a LaVille Junior-Senior High School student. She graduated from LaVille in 2008. She is currently a junior at IUSB where she is majoring in business and finance.
Roose added, “I’ve been in the community all my life and I plan to stay here. I love this area, love the people and love to help people grow.”
Her community involvement includes working with United Way and Junior Achievement.
Roose believes North Township needs new leadership that will make a difference.
‘What else would I do?’
Konya performed township assessor duties until those were taken over by the county, and she hopes the rest of township government stays intact. Otherwise the area will be left in “a big mess,” she said.
Although Konya now has cataracts, some hearing loss and walks with a walker because of arthritis, she hasn’t considered retiring or giving up her office hours from 10 to noon Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
“What else would I do?” she smiled. “I don’t have much family and don’t travel. I guess my house might be cleaner, though.”
Konya’s outlived her sister, Rose, who was married to former Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen. Her daughter has become a busy auctioneer.
Until a few years ago, her daughter helped with office duties. A clerk was hired to fill those duties.
Of course, the majority of Konya’s time is now spent providing relief to the poor, and this year’s summer electric season was the worst she’s seen.
“We gave out $12,000 to keep people from getting shut off, and it used to be only around $2,000 to $3,000,” she said. “We had enough to cover it, but I don’t know what will happen if it continues.”
Konya said that while handling residents’ financial woes must be done with compassion, trustees also have an obligation to taxpayers not to give relief to those who simply don’t want to work.
Correspondent Carol Anders contributed to this story.