Joe Craig
Joe Craig
Voters may have noticed three familiar names missing from the primary ballot released by the Jefferson County Voter Registration Office this week.
Superior Court Judge Michael Hensley, Jefferson County Council member Joe Craig and Coroner Rodney Nay did not appear on the primary ballot, which required candidates to register before noon Feb. 7.
Craig and Hensley have said they will not seek re-election, while Nay said he will be added to the ballot by the Democratic Party before the July 6 deadline.
Craig, the longtime owner and principal of the Craig Toyota dealership on Clifty Drive, said Wednesday he is not seeking re-election after what will be 32 years on county council. He was first elected in 1988 and was part of a commission that established the county’s 911 system as it is today, consolidated county dispatch, significantly enlarged one jail and authorized the construction of a new jail, and faced the issues of increased crime and drug use in the area.
Craig said that while it has been an honor to represent taxpayers and make connections around the community, after eight elections, he felt it is time to step away.
“I’ll be 66 coming up here soon,” Craig said. “I have other priorities than I did then. I feel very fortunate that I was allowed to represent taxpayers this way throughout the years, campaigning and going door to door, meeting people...there have been so many blessings.”
In addition to serving on the council and owning the dealership for the past 30 years, Craig has served on numerous boards and commissions, including United Way, the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, Visit Madison, Automobile Dealers Association of Indiana and Madison Redevelopment Commission. While he’s “always believed in community service,” Craig said he would be putting more time into growing his business, which is the oldest Toyota dealer in Indiana.
Craig said he was grateful to have worked with a number of people who helped keep the county financially stable through tough times, often across party lines.
“Politics were left out of it as soon as we all got together,” he said.
Judge Hensley, on the other hand, is retiring for the time being and taking a year off to decide his next move after over 40 years of practice.
Hensley, 64, was elected judge on the Democratic ticket in 2014 after nearly three decades of practice at Madison law firms. He oversaw a number of changes to the Jefferson County courts in his six-year term, including the addition of pretrial release for defendants, adding a magistrate to the court system and securing reimbursement from the state on public defender expenses, which now saves the court a couple hundred thousand dollars a year, he said.
“Pretrial release hasn’t cured our jail problem, but I think it’s certainly helped it,” Hensley said.
Hensley graduated from law school in May 1980 at Indiana University Bloomington and spent the next eight years working as in-house legal councel for Madison Bank and Trust. He was then a partner at several Madison law firms throughout the years, including Hensley, Walro, Collins & Hensley, which he ran with his father, Joseph Hensley; Kemper, Collins, & Hensley; Collins, Hensley & Wynn; and Jenner, Pattison, Hensley & Wynn.
The years of constant meetings, after-hour work and waiting on call have culminated in a much-needed break for Hensley, who said his longest vacation was two weeks in 2008 to recover from open heart surgery.
He plans on keeping his license and possibly work as a senior judge on occasion, or following in his father’s footsteps and writing legal books. His father, a circuit court judge for two terms and a representative in the Indiana General Assembly in the 1960s, was also a lifelong fan of science fiction and crime stories and wrote more than 20 novels and more than 100 short stories in those genres.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be of service the past six years and wish my successor, whoever it is, the best of luck,” he said.
Jefferson County Coroner Rodney Nay, who is up for re-election, did not appear on the ballot for much different reasons.
Nay said a couple of coroner cases got in the way of filing before the Friday deadline, but he’ll still appear on the November ballot. Now seeking his second term in Jefferson County, Nay said he explained the situation to Democratic Chair Dana Riddle and she agreed to add him to the ticket.
Nay beat Republican challenger Scott Stevens in 2016 to secure his first term, after eight years as coroner in Switzerland County and more than 20 years as president and owner of Morgan & Nay Funeral Centre in Madison and Hanover. Nay is also a co-owner and funeral director of Haskell & Morrison Funeral Home in Vevay and has held positions with numerous boards and organizations, including the Indiana Funeral Directors Association, Madison Elks Club No. 524, Wreaths Across America and at least three other cemetery boards.
No other Democratic or Republican candidate was listed on the primary ballot for coroner.