PLYMOUTH -- The Pilot News sent a questionnaire to all candidates facing a contested race in the November 2019 Plymouth municipal election. The newspaper will run the candidates’ answers in print and online as the candidates submit them and as space allows. The candidates were given a deadline of Wednesday, Oct. 23, to return the questionnaire.
Here are the answers submitted by Josh Walker, a Democrat hoping to be Plymouth’s next mayor. His responses have been edited for length.
Tuesday, Nov. 5, is Election Day.
Office you are seeking: Mayor of Plymouth
Family (Spouse, names and ages of children): Wife, Amy, and daughters, Soleil, 19 months, and Isla, 6 weeks.
If married, how long married: 12 years.
How long have you been a Plymouth resident: Since 2009.
Current occupation: I'm the founder and owner of Recon Media, a website and social media marketing agency in Plymouth.
How long: Recon Media is headed into its fourth year.
Previous work experience you believe is relevant to the office you seek: I was a Cavalry Scout in the 101st Airborne Division and served in combat in Baghdad, Iraq in 2005. I was responsible for leading weapons cache search teams, dismount patrols, and humanitarian support missions.
This involved building relationships with local Iraqi families and village leaders, working to understand their concerns, fears, and needs. This helped us build equity and trust with the local families, further enabling us to be more effective on mission due to the increased cooperation, intelligence, and logistical understanding of the environment.
I learned to negotiate very sensitive and difficult situations with people and families, working to establish rapport and respect with all we came into contact with. These involved situations with high levels of intensity, language barriers, and cultural sensitivities. I appreciated and learned from the differences in our cultures and value that experience as an incredible opportunity to forever place the utmost importance on communication and listening to people in all situations.
My military training and combat experience have provided me the ability to make difficult decisions on the fly during critical moments or emergencies, the skills necessary for appropriate risk assessments, conflict resolution, and the ability to plan for contingencies and unexpected changes in action plans.
After completing my audio engineer schooling, I was hired as a tour production manager for Christ In Youth where I managed teams of technicians, engineers, and managers for large live events geared toward youth groups in cities around the United States. This job involved months of planning for each individual event, onsite logistics management, and on-the-fly problem solving and troubleshooting during events with more than 3,000 people and students in attendance.
Aside from the regular duties of the job itself, I was able to travel the country and experience many communities big and small and all they offered families and visitors. I’ve always looked at Plymouth as the place to bring back some of the innovative things other communities have been able to do successfully. I believe it’s most effective when we model after successful initiatives instead of trying to recreate the wheel.
As a disaster relief volunteer, I’ve deployed to communities hit by natural disasters such as floods, tornados, and even earthquakes.
I’ve served on and volunteered for number of nonprofit boards over the years, including the Arts Council of Marshall County that promoted visual arts, Encore Performing Arts which promotes performing arts events in Marshall County, Here/Hear, a Plymouth-based mental health nonprofit, disaster relief nonprofit Heavy Equipment Response Coalition, the Rees Theatre Restoration Project Committee, the Marshall County Neighborhood Center, the Indiana Arts Commission, and international disaster relief and veteran-focused nonprofit Team Rubicon.
High school you attended and graduation date: John Glenn High School, 2002.
College you attended and graduation date (if applicable): The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences, Tempe, AZ 2008; West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
Other education/training you believe is relevant to the office you seek: At West Virginia University, I studied public relations, entrepreneurship, organizational management, and philosophy. These areas all directly relate to the responsibilities that come with being mayor and an advocate for families. The leadership, communication, mission planning, and crisis management skills required for combat and disaster relief are vital components to my skill set as a candidate for mayor.
Why are you seeking this political office/what makes you the preferred candidate? Over the last decade I’ve continued to see a need for a new, innovative, and energetic vision and direction in Plymouth. My personality is not one to stand by and watch from the sidelines when I know there is more work that can be done to help a person, a group, or a community. I know our potential as a community is great, but we’re just not reaching it fully on our current path.
I've always worked hard to give back to our community, through volunteering on committees, serving on boards, starting Discover Plymouth with a group of other passionate local leaders, and volunteering to organize, manage, and lead the initial relief effort during the 2018 flooding event in our community.
What are the biggest issues facing the city? There is a lack of transparency and accountability in local city government. Voters I’ve met and talked with don’t feel they have clear or easy access to city information and activities taking place. There is a sense of exclusivity in government among voters, and they want that to change.
Sustainable job creation and a dynamic local economy is another issue. The city of Plymouth has lost hundreds of jobs over the last number of years, and while we have businesses expanding in the city, we’re still recovering from that job loss even today. We need to build up a local economy that is scalable and future-oriented, one that is prepared for future economic downturns so we avoid this kind of hit to our job market next time.
Another issue that affects many Plymouth families is the lack of quality, affordable housing. With a shortage of quality housing stock, many families are paying high rent costs because of the lack of quality housing supply. The hospital has difficulty attracting doctors and nurses because of the housing issue, and the public schools have trouble recruiting teachers to move and stay in Plymouth. This in turn causes a higher turnover in these organizations and has a destabilizing effect on our local economy.
Housing in Plymouth is also affected by properties, both residential and commercial, that are allowed to deteriorate and become an eyesore in our neighborhoods. This impacts property values and decreases the likelihood of private investment.
What are your proposals for solving those issues? Information is a type of currency today - we need to ensure access to information so residents and business owners can make informed decisions, ask the right questions, and be more engaged in their local government and community. Regarding transparency in local government, I will require all public city meetings to be live-streamed and archived for later viewing online. This will allow voters and residents to be engaged in their local government, regardless of the transportation, timing, or location issues. Having city meetings video recorded and archived online for public viewing will also enable voters to hold their elected officials accountable down the road.
I will hold monthly coffee chats at businesses around the city of Plymouth to give residents the opportunity to talk directly to me regarding their questions or concerns without having to make an appointment. Communication is vital to a healthy community and local government, so I will ensure Plymouth residents have multiple ways to communicate with me as mayor and the city at large.
I will also hold regular town halls throughout the year to update the public on current and upcoming city activities, projects, and policies. These town halls will be another opportunity for residents to make sure they have access to the city administration.
I will work with regional organizations and stakeholders to create a strategic economic opportunity and development plan. This will focus on not only bringing investment to our community and creating jobs for our current families, but will be used in conjunction with a larger plan to attract families to move to Plymouth to take advantage of our quality of life, school system, and local job market and economy.
Because homeownership is one of the foundational paths to building family and generational wealth, I will work to develop a housing plan that provides quality, affordable, and diverse housing that is accessible to our families and those seeking to move to Plymouth. This plan will include housing for low, middle, and high income families. With a socioeconomically diverse population in Plymouth we need to ensure everyone has options for their families, whether they live in Plymouth currently or consider moving here in the future. It’s time we looked at all the challenges our families face.
To address the issue of blighted properties in the city of Plymouth, I’ll ensure local codes and ordinances are updated, relevant, and being enforced across the board. I will impose fines and penalties on these properties to the extent allowed by law, because it isn’t fair to the rest of our community when a few property owners are allowed a pass to let their lack of care put a black eye on our neighborhoods.
The reality is no one issue Plymouth faces is independent or in a vacuum. We need to take an innovative approach at identifying the overlapping issues that we can address simultaneously to continue moving in the right direction.
Personal, concluding statement if you’d like to include one: When you go to the polls to cast your vote for mayor on Tuesday, Nov. 5, vote for transparency, innovation, and vibrancy.
Vote for the future of Plymouth, helping move our families forward with quality affordable housing and quality jobs.
Vote for a leader who will help build a city our young people want to return to.
Vote for an accountable mayor and local government, one you can rely on to advocate for you and your family.
Vote for Josh Walker for Mayor of Plymouth.
My time in service and uniform may have ended, but my desire to continue serving others has only continued to grow stronger. I look forward to the opportunity to serve you.