The two candidates for the middle district seat on the Board of County Commissioners have similar-sounding last names and have served in public office, but are making their first run for the Board of Commissioners. They are seeking the seat on the three-member board being vacated by Julie Berry, who did not seek re-election.

The Board of Commissioners has three members. The upper district seat, held by Democrat Tom Pietrykowski, is not up for election this year. The lower district also is contested. Profiles of the candidates for that seat will be published this week.

Although candidates must live in the district, voters through the county can cast ballots in the race. The office term is for four years. The pay is $22,998 a year.

The middle district candidates, in alphabetical order, are Republican Robert "Bob" Little and Democrat Andy Lytle.

Robert Little

As a township trustee for one term, Robert Little said, he learned how the county and state governments work, and how tax money is allocated. His office had a budget surplus when he left, he said. Little said he also learned about grants while working with other county officials to obtain grants for updated radios and safety equipment for the two fire companies under contract with the trustee.

Little said he has a broad range of experience. "I am competent in electrical work, networking, telephone systems, and construction. ... Having worked personally in residents' homes and local businesses for over 38 years, I know and understand the needs of the county. I don't have all the answers, but when presented with all the facts and using common sense, I can make sound decisions for reasonable solutions."

As a commissioner, he said, he would seek public participation in decision-making. "I want the public to be involved with their input being presented and heard before any decisions are made and the decisions being acceptable to both sides."

Little said a government handbook lists 38 duties and responsibilities of county commissioners. The highest priority on his list of those duties is construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.

"If the county hopes to attract new businesses and families, these have to be maintained on a top-priority level," Little said. "The worst roads need to be fixed first, then move on to the next, but keep these repaired roads in a maintenance program so they do no get in this state of disrepair again. This won't happen overnight, but several years into this program the results will be evident."

Fostering economic development and developing land also were among the duties listed in the government guide published by the Indiana Farm Bureau.

"Since we do not know the future of EDP (Economic Development Partners), we must still strive to provide work force development so when businesses decide to locate in Madison, we can have skilled workers to fill those needed jobs," Little said. "This could be accomplished by local residents and business people who have the needed skills, education and expertise to make this happen."

One area that could provide the county with a new source of revenue is natural gas, Little said.

"Jefferson County is sitting over one of the largest fields of natural gas," Little said. "Emissions are almost zero, plus the engines run cooler.

"Jefferson County and the city of Madison have a great opportunity if they will seize on it," Little said. "It is much cheaper than gas or diesel. It is usable right out of the ground. Vehicles can easily be converted to run on either fuel. Maintenance on engines is cut in half. .. I would like to see Jefferson County take the lead on this flex-fuel opportunity."

Andy Lytle

Experience is his strength in the race, Lytle said. He has experience in business and with state, local, county and schools government, which has enabled him to "establish relationships of trust that will allow me to go to work on Day 1."

His years on the school board have been about "cooperation and collaboration," and managing a $37 million budget, he said. He has managed employees as a business owner-operator for 35 years, and as personnel/human resources manager at City Hall. As the city's purchasing manager, he said, he saved $17,000 on uniforms the first year. He said he was accessible as the human resources manager, going to where employees were working to answer questions and resolve problems.

His top priority if elected will be to get an interstate connector.

"My effort will be working with state officials and local officials to land an interstate connector," Lytle said. "I'm going to work daily on it."

A connector formerly was in the state's plans, but was dropped out. It probably is the one Lytle said he would try to revive - a widened two-lane State Road 256 to Austin, possibly with a passing lane.

"An interstate connection will create jobs and reduce shipping costs," Lytle said.

Other priorities will be educating the work force - "We're terribly unskilled" - and working on the retention and expansion of existing businesses, and recruitment of new companies, perhaps ones that are technology-based and not automotive-related.

"We need to modernize our ideas," he said.

Economic development should be "depoliticized," he said, with government involved at the beginning with money and at the end with decisions on locations. But in-between those parts, an economic development council made up of representatives of banking, health, industry, businesses large and small, educators at all levels and possibly youth could be the economic development engine.

"Then you have a nice variety of talent that works better in the people's interest than political people do," he said. "Political people come and go."

A big help for economic development would be to let those involved in it operate with transparency - except for the recruiting process, which he said must be confidential - without a barrage of criticism.

"If we criticize each other, we're going to tear each other down," he said.