Hot Dog! Likely New Frankfort Mayor is 23-Year-Old Butler Student

My parents and grandparents are from Frankfort and I lived there until I was five, so it’s an Indiana town I have a strong affinity for. Seeing this news yesterday was quite intriguing: Soon-to-be Butler University grad Chris McBarnes won the GOP primary, likely making him the town’s next mayor.

Good luck to him, and I think it’s safe to say he won’t end up like another young government exec — "Parks & Recreation" character Ben Wyatt. Wyatt became mayor of his hometown of Partridge, Minnesota at 18 years old, only to bankrupt the burg by investing all too heavily in "Ice Town." Newspapers then blasted the young mayor with the headline: "Ice Town Costs Ice Clown Town Crown." Thankfully, Mr. McBarnes seems far more fiscally responsible, so this likely won’t be an issue.

Every weekend since October, McBarnes said, he and a core group of supporters were out knocking on doors and talking to residents. He estimated the group of about 25 volunteers knocked on the doors of 90 percent of the homes in Frankfort.

The grass-roots approach succeeded in raising about $15,000, most of which came in donations of less than $100, McBarnes said.

Terri Jett, an associate professor and chairwoman of Butler’s political science department, said McBarnes’ strategy was diligent and effective. Jett didn’t have McBarnes as a student or know him from campus, but she said his message must have resonated in Frankfort.

"The success of someone his age depends on the makeup of the community," Jett said. Frankfort "looks to be a changing community with an influx of immigrants and a population that’s relatively young. So there are people there who are not so tied to the old system."

McBarnes talked to potential supporters about his plans to unify city and county governments, end infighting and promote small-business growth. He promised to engage citizens and make sure people could speak up at local government meetings without feeling intimidated.

Youth involvement also was part of his platform. McBarnes wants to create a job-shadowing program to help high school students explore various professions. He also hopes to work with city youths and inspire them to return to Frankfort after college.

"Some of the youths feel shoved aside in this community," McBarnes said. "I want to make sure those who go on to further education are proud of their community and make them want to come back."

Other commitments he’s made include preserving municipal employee health insurance benefits, working on city beautification, seeking grant funds and assisting with the Frankfort Roundhouse — a project to build a proposed railroad museum and business center on the city’s west side.