Commissioner-elect sees challenges ahead for county

Newly-elected Whitley County Commissioner George Schrumpf said that a desire to win, diligent campaigning and a changing political climate made for the ideal conditions for his Tuesday win over Commission Chairman Mike Schrader.“I think it was just a perfect storm,” said Schrumpf, 58, who ousted Schrader 5,438-4,934 for the lone seat up for grabs on the commission.“It was a combination of things, but the whole Republican thing...”Schrumpf refers to a nationwide ouster of Democrats in the wake of growing dissent over the economy and the current administration in the White House.But Schrumpf didn’t leave anything to chance.“I never went into it (the commissioner’s race) to lose,” said the Big Cedar Lake resident who owns a Fort Wayne business and manages another in Columbia City.“I did a lot of door-to-door and sent out a lot of mailers,” he said.“The door-to-door was very interesting and I really enjoyed it. But Jim Banks (chairman of the Whitley County Republican Party) told me I should try to hit 3,000 homes. Because of the way things are, everyone wanted to talk. I told Jim it’d take 42 years for me to hit 3,000 homes.”Schrumpf has been a commercial pilot and still flies an ultra-light in his spare time.He owned his own small plane until about five years ago that he and his wife Lola used for the occasional getaway.The Schrumpfs have lived in Whitley County about 12 years.“Whitley County’s been very good to us,” he said.“I’ve got time now to work in county government and sometimes people complain about how things are run but don’t do anything about it. Hopefully I can bring a different perspective.”Schrumpf said visibility of the three-man panel will be one of his goals.“I’d like to make the commissioners available to the people,” he said. “I’d like to visit existing businesses in order to develop a good relationship with those businesses.”In addition, Schrumpf, who said he helped found the Allen County Alliance (now called the New Allen Alliance), which promotes economic development in Allen County, said he would bring any economic development expertise he has to commission in order to attract new industry to the county.“I should be able to add a different look, being a businessman, I have knowledge of how businesses work and budgeting, balancing a budget and working within the confines of that budget.”Schrumpf has high praise for his predecessor and the two men he will join on the commission.“Mike (Schrader) has done a great job,” he said. “Just the Schrader name alone, being sheriff for two terms and serving as the chairman of the commissioners says a lot about him.”Schrumpf will join Commissioners Don Amber and Tom Rethlake on the commission effective Jan. 1.“I’ve been around Don Amber and Tom Rethlake and they seem like great people. I’m looking forward to working with them,” he said.The freshman commissioner said that recent cuts in various income taxes designed to help cities and counties conduct business will make his new job a challenge.“One of the biggest concerns will be reductions in CAGIT (County Adjusted Gross Income Tax) and CEDIT (County Economic Development Income Tax) funds,” he said. “We’ll be losing about 37 percent. Things like our EMS (Emergency Medical Services) services are going to be a big concern.”According to Schrumpf, the same climate that helped his election will also be one of his biggest challenges in office.“Everybody is concerned,” he said. “A lot of people are without jobs. Even in our county. I thought we were doing pretty well, but there are still a lot of people out of work.”According to the Whitley County Board of Commissioner’s regular schedule, Schrumpf should see his first action as a commissioner Jan. 3.