History made with big shift in City Council makeup

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A new era in the Fort Wayne City Council will begin in 2020 after a big night for Democrats Tuesday.

What was once a seven to two ratio of Republicans to Democrats, will soon be a five to four ratio, marking a significant shift in the political makeup of city council. And it’s not just a change in party politics that caught people’s eye.

Democrats Glynn Hines and Michelle Chambers won two of the at-large seats in a close six-way race, bumping two Republican seats from the table. With Sharon Tucker’s unopposed win in the 6th District, the three of them made history.

This is the first time in Fort Wayne’s history that three African Americans will serve on city council. Tucker and Chambers also made history as the first two African American women to ever serve as council members.

“I’m super excited to be able to make a difference and make change and make ‘HERstory’ or history,” Tucker said. “It’s exciting for me.”

“We have made a shift,” Chambers added. “Our city council now reflects our city.”

Hines has served as the 6th District councilman for 20 years. Earlier this year he announced he was giving up his seat to go after an At-Large position.

One of his goals was to increase representation from the southeast side. With his, Tucker’s, and Chamber’s victories, that mission has been accomplished.

“That was some of the chatter from our community southeast, was that the mayor was not giving it the kind of attention that he needed to, and now with three of us saying the same thing, I think he may listen,” Hines said with a smile.

Fresh off his own victory, Democratic Mayor Tom Henry says he’s excited about the new makeup of City Council.

“I think it’s going to be so refreshing, and it’s really going to put us in a position to move our city even more forward than what it is now,” Henry said.

Incumbent Geoff Paddock also won, accounting for the fourth Democrat on the nine-person council.

Republicans didn’t walk away empty-handed though. Incumbents Paul Ensley, Russ Jehl, and Tom Didier all won their districts by good margins, while Jason Arp just barely edged out Democrat Patti Hays by about 300 votes.

Republican Tom Freistroffer maintained his At-Large seat as the top finisher in that race as well.

As the five remaining Republicans look ahead to the future, they’re faced with new challenges of working within a significantly different dynamic.

“It puts a little more balance into the city council,” Freistroffer said. “You work with the people that are there, and once again, I’m going to continue to work like I have in the past, vote with my heart, vote with what I think is best for the constituents, and go from there.”

All of the new city council members will officially take their seats in January.

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