The number of candidates seeking the at-large county council seat held by the late Bob Sanders is now up to five.
Kosciusko County Republican Party Chairman Mike Ragan on Friday confirmed Brett Harter, Leesburg, and Kim Cates, Syracuse, have filed for the position.
They join three others who have already announced: Tressa Nichols, North Webster; Paul Finley, Warsaw; and Josh Finch, Warsaw.
The GOP caucus to fill Sanders’ seat is set for 7 p.m. June 7 at the old county courthouse.
Sanders died May 14 at the age of 69. He was elected to the council in 2005 and had served as council president the past four years.
Cates has over 30 years of business and board experience. “I think that sets me apart for this role,” she said in an interview this morning.
The longtime resident of Kosciusko County, Warsaw Community High School graduate and small business owner said her views are fiscally conservative while being responsive to the needs of the community.
She studied public financial administration at Indiana University, with a focus on community affairs, infrastructure and town/business management. A 32-year tax professional, she owned and operated an H&R franchise and is a master tax advisor and registered tax professional with the IRS.
She has served five years as a member of the Turkey Creek Township Advisory Board and as the board president to the Turkey Creek Township Fire Territory.
For nine years, she served as the Republican precinct chair for Turkey Creek Township 2. Three times, she was a Kosciusko County Republican delegate to the Indiana Republican Convention as well as hosted, sponsored and served on many Republican campaigns.
Cates managed several State Farm Insurance offices while holding Indiana insurance licenses for five years.
She was the media creator and buyer for a multi-million dollar marine for eight years. For four years, she was a media seller/account executive for five different Indiana counties’ visitor guides and chamber directories, including those in Kosciusko County.
For seven years, the was the corporate financial controller of a multi-million dollar RV manufacturing distributor.
She is a Syracuse-Wawasee Rotary member and served as the Syracuse community event liaison. She was on the fundraising committee of the Kosciusko County Community Foundation and attended Calvary United Methodist Church, Syracuse.
Over the years, she’s served on the Lakeland Community Services Inc. board of directors, Syracuse-Wawasee Chamber of Commerce, Kosciusko County Cancer Care Fund corporate sponsor committee and Muskies Inc. International Board of Directors. Her memberships include the National Rifle Association, American Bikers Aimed Toward Education and Kosciusko County Republican Women.
Cates said Sanders and other councilmen have encouraged her to run for county office at some point. With her township advisory board and fire territory board positions, she said she feels like she has the board experience and has demonstrated she can work with other board members for the people.
“My experiences give me the advantage for this unique experience,” she said. “I feel I’ve shown leadership in my different experiences. I have a lot of budgetary experience.”
Cates said the county council has the ultimate decision-making power regarding fiscal affairs for the county and is responsible to set priorities for allocation and spending of all county funds.
By serving on the county council, she said it will give her an opportunity to serve more people. She had planned on running for county council anyway, just not this soon.
She and her husband, David, have four children between them.
Harter, 47, who lives closer to North Webster but has a Leesburg address, is a general contractor and does residential construction, he said by telephone Friday.
A 1988 Wawasee High School graduate, he is a lifetime resident of Kosciusko County.
Though he’s never held an elected position before, he was the past president of the Builders Association Kosciusko Fulton Counties for four years and the current Indiana Builders Association state secretary. He also sits on the Kosciusko Economic Development Corp.
“Those are the three passions I just put my heart and soul in,” he said.
He and his wife, Nikki, also a lifetime Kosciusko County resident, have been married 22 years. They have a son, Trevor, 18, who just graduated Wawasee and a daughter, Logan, 15, who will be at sophomore.
Asked why he is running, Harter replied, “I have a passion for our county. I was born and raised here. I am builder here in our area. I feel I have an obligation to give back to our county, to protect our county and preserve the future of our county.”
Sanders was a 30-year friend and mentor to Harter. “I regret I didn’t get involved in county government with him while he was still in office,” Harter said.