Newly elected Madison, Ind., Mayor Damon Welch
says he is hoping to get off to a quick start to his four-year term in
office by familiarizing himself with a number of ongoing projects taking
place on many levels throughout the city.
Among these projects are planning for the grand re-opening of the Milton-Madison
Bridge, tentatively scheduled for early 2013; continued development of
the Madison riverfront and the Heritage Trail; ongoing efforts to market
the city to visitors with a newly released logo, directional signage and
banners; and evaluating the citys progress and future direction
in economic development initiatives. He has appointed a new economic development
panel to explore ways to improve the citys economic climate, and
he considers this initiative as his top priority. This group plans to
hold its first meeting sometime in March.
I am not going to take credit for our successes because there are
some great people working here on staff, and the people I have brought
in and surrounded myself with are great, said Welch, 58. Together
with their help, I want to get going and make things happen quickly.
by Don Ward
years on the City
Council, newly elected
Madison Mayor Damon
Welch now has a chance
to put his own mark
on his hometown.
Asked why he decided to run for mayor, he replied, Except for going
away to college and my time in the Air Force, I have lived in Madison
all my life, and it is a special place for me. I wanted to make a difference
in my community.
Welch is a 1971 graduate of Madison Consolidated High School who earned
a bachelors degree in 1975 at the University of Kentucky. He served
in the U.S. Air Force, where he attained the rank of captain. He owned
and operated Damons Restaurant for nine years in Madison and then
worked in the hearing health industry for 20 years. He now serves as elder
and worship leader at North Madison Christian Church. He and his wife,
Ginny, have been married for 38 years and the couple have three children:
Gaeli, Kirsty and Collin.
Welch outlined his plans as mayor during a Feb. 10 interview in his office
at City Hall. Community Relations assistant Andrew Forrester also sat
in on the interview. During the discussion, Welch said he was comfortable
in his new role as mayor, having spent the previous four years as a member
of the City Council. He is familiar with many of the issues but is now
getting involved at a more detailed level to manage the citys day-to-day
affairs while also keeping an eye on a larger range of issues.
Forrester, 22, is working closely alongside Welch to help gather information
and provide input by sitting in on various boards and meetings. He has
a seat on the tourism board, the Milton-Madison Bridge Mitigation Committee
and leads the Branding Leadership Team meetings, for instance. Welch and
Forrester say they want these groups to work more closely together so
that the city can put action to words and maintain more communication
Tim Armstrong, 2008-2011
Al Huntington, Dec. 1994-2007
#Morris Wooden, 1988-Dec. 1994
Markt L. Lytle, 1984-1987
Warren R. Rucker, 1976-1983
Brooks E. Davis, 1972-1975
+Donald J. Vaughn, 1966-1971
*Markt A. Lytle Sr., 1960-1965
+W.H. Wetzel, 1957-1959
*Charles H. Vaughn, 1952-1956
William Eckert, 1947-1951
Orris L. (Mickey) Head, 1943-1946
Frank Schnaitter, 1939-1942
Marcus R. Sulzer, 1934-1938
Frank J. Pritchard, 1930-1933
Marcus R. Sulzer, 1926-1929
Edward Eckert, 1922-1925
James (Boss) White, 1918-1921
James E. Crozier, 1914-1917
George F. Harper, 1910-1913
John M. Cisco, 1904-1909
John G. Moore, 1902-1903
Ellison D. McGuire, 1894-1901
John W. Linck, 1894-to end of Wagner's term
Isaac Wagner, 1892-Jan. 1894 (served as sheriff for four years during
the Civil War)
Joseph T. Brashear, 1884-1891
Samuel J. Smith, 1882-1883
Joseph T. Brashear, 1876-1881
Alex White, 1874-1875
+John Marsh, 1872-1873 (finished Shrewsbury's term)
Charles L. Shrewsbury, 1870-April 1872
Ebenezer Rodgers, 1868-1869
Miles S. Burnes, 1865-1867
John Mulvey, 1856-1864
W.N. Taylor, 1853-1855
Milton Stapp, 1850-1852
Moody Park, 1838-1849
= Died in office
+ = Named by council
# = Took job with state government
Madison-Jefferson County Public Library
In addition to the learning curve that he has been on since taking office
Jan. 1, Welch and his staff have submitted an application for an $11.6
million Stellar Communities grant from the Indiana Office
of Community and Rural Affairs. The money would be used for a variety
Last year, in the grant programs inaugural year, North Vernon and
Greencastle were jointly awarded $31 million over a three-year period.
Each town also is investing another $9 million each in local and private
funds. North Vernon, just 20 miles north of Madison, is using its money
for such things as downtown streetscaping, building facade improvements,
a new events center, a pedestrian plaza and a mixed-used trail to connect
North Vernon to Muscatatuck County Park.
Madisons grant application requests money for projects that include:
Heritage Trail extension, $2 million;
Rehabilitation of upper floors of downtown commercial buildings
for residential use, $600,000;
Owner-occupied housing rehabilitation in impoverished neighborhoods,
Park and recreational enhancement in low income neighborhoods,
Commercial building facade improvement, $500,000;
Senior Center development, $1.5 million;
Broadway Street corridor and Jefferson Street development,
Sidewalk rehabilitation and construction, $500,000;
Fire station construction near the new hospital site, $750,000;
Drainage improvements, $2 million;
Bicycle lane creation and improvement, $250,000.
The Stellar Communities grant application process began under Welchs
term. Patty Jackson and Susan Craig of the Southeastern Indiana Regional
Planning Commission prepared the application letter. And Jenny Eggenspiller,
working for then-mayor Tim Armstrong, also contributed by getting Ball
State University students to come to Madison to conduct a study that resulted
in a five-year, Comprehensive Strategic Plan, which was required to be
eligible for this particular grant. The plan is still being finalized
and should be available in March, according to Forrester.
The Ball State students are working on some minor changes to the
draft and then the City Council wants to review it before it is released
as the citys official plan, Forrester said. We hope
that will be completed sometime in March.
The grant application requires a timeline for completing the projects
and an accounting of who or what organizations will be involved. Nearly
every major organization is listed as partners in achieving these goals.
Primary among these are the city, Economic Development Partners, the Madison
Area Chamber of Commerce and the Southeastern Indiana Regional Commission.
Welch, meanwhile, writes in the grant application letter, In Madison,
we have big ideas. We have large goals. We have the citizens and organizations
that are more than willing to work together to complete a task. The only
thing we lack is the funds to complete these projects and fulfill our
Eight to 10 finalists are to be determined in early March from the 40-plus
applicants for this years grant monies, Forrester said. Judging
by what is taking place in nearby North Vernon, it would be a boon to
Madison to receive a grant for these worthy causes. But Welch said he
is determined to move forward on many fronts, with or without the grant.
We have much to do and a lot going on already, so while it would
be nice to have the grant money, we will just have to find it somewhere
else, he said.
In addition to these goals and his economic development initiative, Welch
will face several other challenges in the coming months. These include
the ongoing bridge construction project and the resulting traffic issues,
and the economic impact that is expected to occur with Kings Daughters
Hospital and Health Services move in 2013 from downtown to its new location
on the hilltop.
Welch says he is in touch with hospital CEO Roger Allman about the search
for a new tenant for those downtown buildings. And he already has met
with Indiana transportation officials about the impending five-day closure
of the bridge, scheduled for April 25-29, as well as other bridge-related
Given these major economic issues, it wont be long at all for Welch
and his new team to be tested. Hopefully, for the citys sake and
his own legacy as mayor, Welch has done his homework.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout.
Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.