Henry sets course for political future, announces re-election bid
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on Wednesday declared his intention to seek an unprecedented fifth term in office, setting the stage for a November showdown with Republican City Council member Tom Didier.
It ends months of speculation that have kept other potential candidates on the sidelines.
“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made to showcase Fort Wayne as the country’s best mid-sized city by nearly every measure,” Henry said. “But now is not the time to slow down. We still have work to do. I’m energized by the momentum felt throughout the city and want to see through completion the exciting economic initiatives we’ve begun, while also concentrating on quality of life issues that have made Fort Wayne a sought-after destination to live, work and play.”
The “will he or won’t he” question was answered during an address at the Clyde Theatre. The decision backs away from statements nearly four years ago that a fourth term in the mayor’s office -- his current term -- would be Henry’s last.
There is no term limit that applies to the position of Fort Wayne mayor.
Didier -- who is likely to pose the only significant challenge this fall -- is himself well established in City government. He was elected to his first Council term in 2003 and is a three-time president of that body.
Didier declared his intentions early on. Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters did likewise, but withdrew his candidacy earlier this year, clearing the Republican field for Didier.
In 2019, Henry eased past Republican Tim Smith, a local business executive, in what had been a spirited and well funded challenge. Andy Downs, with the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics, anticipates a hard fought campaign in 2023.
“The people of Fort Wayne should get ready for a good -- hopefully well thought-out -- campaign,” he said.
While Smith took a tack of “outsider vs. the establishment,” Downs said that may not be an option in the coming campaign, and could impact how key issues are addressed. Both the mayor’s office and City Council played roles in the handling of the troubled trash collection contract, for instance.
“The problem for Councilman Didier is he’s on Council,” Downs said. “He was on Council when the contract was approved, so he doesn’t get to challenge it the way that someone from outside is able to challenge it.”
Didier is likely, however, to point out Henry’s prior assertions that he would be leaving the office after 16 years.
“I’m done. I’m done,” Henry said definitively in a 2019 interview for ABC21′s “Political Radar.”
Didier declined to comment in advance of Henry’s announcement, but said he would speak about the campaign in the near future. Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine said he expects the mayor to face some criticism for his hesitance to embrace the Electric Works redevelopment project and for what he described as a lack of investment in the Sixth Ward.
“Having a new administration in place after 20 years might be very important,” he said. “New ideas, a fresh team, a different vision for the city of Fort Wayne. A concentration on neighborhoods more-so than it’s been under the Henry administration.”
Henry is 70 years old and has held the mayoral post since Jan. 1, 2008. He served in a two-decade period prior to that on the Fort Wayne City Council.
He is a near-lifelong resident of Fort Wayne, a graduate of Central Catholic High School and the University of Saint Francis and a former businessman and corporate executive.
Copyright 2022 WPTA. All rights reserved.