JASPER — Dean Vonderheide will officially take over as Jasper’s mayor on Jan. 7.
And he is looking forward to the challenge.
“I’m delighted to be elected,” he said Wednesday afternoon. “We’ve got a great momentum going in the city. I want to keep that momentum going.
Vonderheide, 65, was chosen for the position by a caucus of Republican committee members. The voters hold committee positions in the precincts that vote for Jasper mayor.
Four candidates — Vonderheide, Nancy Eckerle, Bernie Fallon and Levi Hulsman each spoke for two minutes at the Wednesday caucus at Jasper City Hall before the 13 voting members cast their vote. The caucus was over in about 15 minutes, with Vonderheide receiving nine votes in the first round of voting; Eckerle received the remaining four votes.
Vonderheide said that he wants to keep the community, especially young people like Hulsman, involved in city activities and decisions. Hulsman came in with Vonderheide and county Republican Party Chairman Mark Messmer and listened as Vonderheide talked to the press after the caucus.
“With people like Levi as a candidate, it just shows you that our young people are interested in what we’re doing, and sets the stage for their engagement,” Vonderheide said. “That is one of my plans.”
His immediate plans include seeing the Thyen-Clark Cultural Center through to completion and working on the city’s comprehensive plan, which will involve community engagement. In fact, he wants to make sure there are many opportunities for the community to voice their ideas and opinions as the city progresses.
“When I was in high school, I was fortunate enough to be on the Mayor’s Council in Jasper (under then-mayor Jack Newton). That, to me, was a great opportunity to voice what we, as high schoolers, thought was needed in the community,” Vonderheide said. “I believe there ought to be those kinds of forums for discussions, for ideas. I do believe that as we develop this comprehensive plan that it takes a lot of community output, and community confirmation.”
He also wants to strengthen the relationship between the city and county. “There is an opportunity to work closely with the county and do some things collaboratively, similar to what the city and the library have done,” he said. “I am going to open those doors.”
Seitz’s resignation will be official Jan. 6, Messmer said; Vonderheide will take over Jan. 7. Vonderheide plans to meet with Seitz prior to that date to make sure there is a smooth transition of duties, but he is not planning to make any immediate changes to the staff. “Mayor Seitz has put together a good staff,” he said.
Vonderheide will step down from the Jasper Public Library Board, of which he is president, and the Dubois County Contractual Library Board. He will also resign from his at-large seat on the Jasper Common Council.
He definitely plans to run for mayor next year.
“Being on the council the last three years has opened my eyes to the opportunities in Jasper, and how we can influence the region,” he said. “What’s good for Jasper is good for Dubois County, and what’s good for Dubois County is good for Jasper.”
Vonderheide hopes to participate in Friday’s swearing-in ceremony at Jasper City Hall, but said that he must check his father-of-the-bride schedule; daughter Anna is getting married on New Year’s Eve. He and his wife, Ellen, are also parents to daughter Meghan Premuda and grandparents to two girls.