Who'll be South Bend's next mayor?

By Jeff Parrott, Tribune Staff Writer

December 9, 2010

 

SOUTH BEND - Mayor Stephen Luecke's announcement Wednesday that he won't seek re-election kicked off what could be a crowded Democratic primary race this spring.

Three residents confirmed they will run for the city's highest political office, while two others who have expressed interest stopped short of committing.

Pete Buttigieg (pronounced BOOT'-uh-judge), Mark Dollinger and Ryan Dvorak said they will run. Mike Hamann said he will announce his plans at a noon news conference today, and the Rev. Barrett Berry said he was still contemplating a run.

Buttigieg, by far the youngest in the field at age 28, is a former Rhodes scholar. He worked as an economic development consultant before quitting that job to return to his native

South Bend and run unsuccessfully for state treasurer in the recent election."I grew up here and I care a great deal about this community," Buttigieg said. "I want to make sure this is a community where people want to stay and live. I want to make sure this is a city where people my age feel like there's a future for us."

Asked how he might do that as mayor, Buttigieg said it's too soon to discuss details of the policies he has in mind. He said he is not worried that voters will be hesitant to support someone so young.

"I think my experience is highly relevant to making a difference here," he said. "I think the reason people have asked me to run is because of my private sector experience. There are surprisingly few business people running for office at the local level."

Dollinger, 51, is a business services representative at WorkOne, the state's workforce development agency. He has held that job for just more than a year.

Before that, he coordinated South Bend's Weed & Seed Alliance, a federally financed program aimed at reducing crime and improving neighborhoods on the west side.Before that, he was a district manager for Family Dollar stores, overseeing about 21 stores in Indiana and Michigan, he said.

If elected, Dollinger said, he would work to strengthen neighborhoods and improve communication with residents.

"There are parts of the city that businesses won't come into for many different reasons," Dollinger said. "The first thing is to build neighborhoods up and use that as a partial entrance to economic development."

Dvorak, 36, a lawyer and state representative, is the son of county Prosecutor Michael Dvorak. He said people had been asking him to run for mayor for several years, but he never wanted to challenge Luecke.

Dvorak said he isn't concerned that voters will fear having a prosecutor and mayor in the same family."I don't see any problems," he said. "I'm sure there are people that will (try to make an issue of that). They're separate jobs. The prosecutor has countywide jurisdiction and the mayor has the city. If you asked anybody, they'd tell you we're two separate people."

Hamann, 51, was a Republican county commissioner from 1999 to 2003, and since October 2009 has been a County Council member.

Berry, a minister and financial adviser, declined to be interviewed but issued a written statement saying he will be conducting focus groups to help gauge whether he will run.

County Democratic Party Chairman Owen "Butch" Morgan said he won't yet endorse a particular candidate, but that could change as the May 3 election draws closer.