What to know about the three South Bend City Clerk Candidates

Updated: Apr. 27, 2023 at 5:15 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) -South Bend City Clerk candidates are preparing for election day on Tuesday.

Three Democrats are vying for the position, and all of them spoke with our own Jack Springgate on Thursday to tell us what they’d bring to the office in the next four years.

There’s an insider, an outsider, and an incumbent seeking your vote. Here’s what sets these three Democrats apart from each other.

Many of you might already be familiar with the incumbent Dawn Jones. She’s served as clerk since Democrats appointed her to take over for Kareemah Fowler back in 2019.

In the past four years, she says she’s made major tech upgrades to the council chamber, lead the office’s adjustment to remote meetings during the pandemic, and streamlined the agenda-building process.

She says she wants to improve digital communication from her office and collaborate more with residents if given another four years.

“The reason why it’s an elected position is because we have specific duties that we do, that no one else can do. The mayor’s office—they have their own way of making sure information gets to the public, but it is my specific job as City Clerk to make sure the public knows,” said incumbent South Bend City Clerk Candidate Dawn Jones.

Her last four years came with some challenges too including the failed hiring of the initial community review board director when that responsibility was under her office.

She says any tension between the Clerk’s office, Common Council, and Mayor’s office is a result of the checks and balances nature of their working relationships.

“This isn’t a council imbalances system. It’s just like the federal government where everybody holds each other accountable. Sometimes when that happens, we’re not the best of friends. We’re not enemies. I’m just doing my job,” Jones said.

Bianca Tirado is the candidate backed by the Mayor’s office, saying she’s the key to restoring the professional working relationship between all three branches.

She worked under Jones in the Clerk’s office between 2019 and April 2022 before transitioning over to work with the Common Council.

“I’ve worked in the Clerk’s office since 2017 as deputy director of policy, and moving into chief deputy of city clerk, so I have the knowledge of how the Clerk’s office should be ran and how it works,”said South Bend City Clerk Candidate Bianca Tirado.

Part of her job there was to oversee the training of the Clerk’s office, including her former boss, something Jones objected to as an overreach by the Common Council.

While Tirado says she’s the best candidate to work with the Mayor and Common Council, she also knows that she isn’t working for them.

“Tough decisions in our government have to be made, and sometimes, yes, the Clerk has to move forward with a decision, but when you have the relationship, you can work that out behind the scenes. I’ve had those difficult conversations being in the Clerk’s office and I’m prepared to work with our council and our mayor, and administration to really build the checks and balances as they need to be in order to do the job,” she said.

The third candidate says he’s running after realizing the only others on the ballot were Jones and Tirado.

Jason Banicki says voters deserve to have a candidate that can start a new relationship with the Common Council and Mayor’s office.

“When it became clear that the two options were the two people in the office already and there was no one else who was going to run, I decided that people need a fresh face and a fresh start for this office, and that’s why I put my name in the mix,” said South Bend City Clerk Candidate Jason Banicki.

Banicki doesn’t have any prior clerk’s office experience, but his other work history includes sales management and community corrections.

He says he plans to expand the office’s digital reach and try to meet residents where they’re at.

“Really in the Clerk’s office you’re doing administrative work and clerical work for the City Council, so the ability to manage people, develop a team, and deliver results is what I bring to the background. I think just looking at different ways to get information to people in this day and age, not waiting for them to come to us, but getting the information to them where they’re at, whether that’s Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram,” he said.

The City Clerk’s general responsibilities include doing clerical work for the Common Council while also attending the council’s meetings to keep an accurate record of all proceedings.

The role also acts as a liaison between the Mayor’s office and the Common Council. Some things to keep in mind before you head to the polls.