The South Bend Voice is publishing a series of articles on local candidates running for city offices. We believe that it is vitally important for voters to be informed before they head to the ballot box on May 5. While we do not endorse individual candidates, we are providing an equal opportunity for candidates to share their views with the public.
Both candidates for South Bend city clerk have responded to a questionnaire that we sent last week asking them questions pertinent to the position. Only light alterations have been made for spelling and grammar. We believe that our job is to ask the tough questions and the candidates’ responsibility is to speak directly to voters.
We have limited responses to 250 words or less. We should also note that candidates did not have the opportunity to see their opponent’s responses ahead of time.
With that said, let’s introduce the two candidates for South Bend City Clerk.
Full Name: Derek Dieter
Current Job Title: Owner, Operator Dieter Security, LLC
College Major: A.S. Criminal Justice
University Alma Mater: Indiana University South Bend
Experience in Elected Office: South Bend Common Council Member (2004-Present), Common Council President (2009-2013)
Full Name: Kareemah Fowler
Current Job Title: Deputy City Clerk
College Major: B.A. in Business/Organizational Management and A.A. in Human Services
University Alma Mater: Bethel College
Experience in Elected Office: I have over 14 years of Administrative Experience. I am currently in the Leadership training class with the Chamber of Commerce. I am in my second term as an officer on the City of South Bend Diversity and Minority Utilization Board. I’m a member of Municipal Clerk Treasurers in Indiana. I’m a level II Assessor/Appraiser with the State of Indiana. I currently sit on the IT Committee for the South Bend Community School Corporation.
Candidate Questionnaire (responses in rotating order)
The city clerk’s main responsibilities include keeping the city’s records and ordinances, as well as maintaining Common Council minutes. Why are you most qualified to carry out these duties?
Dieter: Management of four employees is the key to a successful team in the clerk’s office. As a Common Council member for the past 12 years, I have worked very closely with the City Clerk’s Office, and I am intimately familiar with office operations. As Council President, I observed aspects of the City Clerk’s Office operations that could benefit from change, both technical and operational. I worked on tax abatement filings, agenda structure, setting meetings and council/clerk documents.
I have past experience coordinating special details as a South Bend Police Officer (team leader of the SWAT team and uniform shift supervisor), as well as my day to day experience of filing accurate, complete, detailed reports in the course of my regular duties as a police officer. My private business requires me to keep accurate records and to provide regular, concise reports to businesses I contract with. I am well-qualified for keeping records and minutes as the City Clerk.
Fowler: I have over 14 years of administrative experience. I have worked every position in the City Clerk’s Office, and I know the ins and outs of the job. Throughout the years, I have gained valuable knowledge in government affairs and the expectations of the residents of South Bend. I am a relationship builder and have built valuable relationships within our community that I believe will be a great asset as City Clerk.
How would you ensure that the city clerk’s office runs efficiently?
Fowler: Cross-training between staff, streamlining of systems, new office policies and continued education of staff.
Dieter: My experience in both the public and private sectors has required me to develop work standards for employees to maximize efficiency. Uniform expectations for performance, detailed job descriptions, holding employees accountable for hours worked, on-the-job operations assessments and diligent pursuit of finding better ways to fulfill our statutory duties will be my strategy for creating the most efficient South Bend City Clerk’s Office possible.
If elected city clerk, how will you keep technology up-to-date? Will adopting new technology be a priority?
Dieter: Updating office technology will have the highest priority if I am elected City Clerk. I have investigated technology upgrades for meeting recording and archiving as well as utilizing forms of social media to make public information available to citizens. While everything reasonably possible should be done to fund upgrades within the current operating budget, the long term benefits of updated technology may justify capital expenditures to cover the costs of new technology in the City Clerk’s Office.
Fowler: I have the following plans to increase access and transparency when elected City Clerk, including a City Clerk column on the Mayor’s Newsletter that is included with your monthly water bill, update current video and recording equipment with integration between governmental entities (city and county) for cost-efficient savings, revising the structure codification of the municipal records for clarity and consistency between chapters and updates, preserving our history — which includes the barcoding of all city records with a link to historic preservation — and the creation of a mobile app specifically designed to give the community easy access to public records.
Both candidates have expressed support for providing Spanish language information to the public. How will this actually be implemented? Will it require additional staff?
Fowler: It will not require additional staff. Technology is at our disposal today. Actually, the Clerk’s Office has technology that will translate into Spanish.
Dieter: There are several options to explore. However, the most desirable would be to have a Spanish-speaking staff member in the City Clerk’s Office. There may also be the opportunity to provide internships for Spanish-speaking college students to serve as translators in the office for school credit and/or recruit volunteers from the Hispanic community to serve as translators on a rotating schedule. I will explore all of these options and any other suggestions to enhance public information access for Spanish-speaking citizens.
The Kernan-Shephard Report on streamlining local government recommended replacing elected city clerks with appointed city clerks due to the administrative nature of the position. A change in the law would require an act of the state legislature. Do you support or oppose such a proposal?
Dieter: While it does not appear likely that the Kernan-Shephard Report recommendation regarding changing the City Clerk’s Office from an elected position to an appointed one, I would not object to change. The statutory duties of the office are functional in nature not legislative or administrative. As long as the City Clerk’s position remains an elected office, I will do everything in my power to be fully accountable to the public as defined by state statute.
Fowler: I do agree with the Kernan-Shephard Report but not all aspects of the report. In terms of the City Clerk being the liaison/mediator between the council and the mayor, the position of the City Clerk has to be neutral. Therefore, it should be an elected position.
We would like to thank the candidates for taking the time to share their views with voters. Be sure to vote on Tuesday, May 5.
You can also read short statements from each candidate detailing their experience, priorities if elected, and why they would make the best choice for voters. Click here for Derek Dieter’s statement. Click here for Kareemah Fowler’s statement.