Cheryl Munson 2024

Four women are running for office in 2024, and have applied for endorsement by the DWC.  All were interviewed in March by the DWC Endorsement Committee whose recommendations will be presented at the DWC lunch on Friday, April 5.  They responded to same questions posed to all of them so that our members have information prior to voting on whether or not to endorse them.  Here are the responses from Cheryl Munson.

Cheryl Munson, running for County Council At Large

1. Why are you running for this office?
I love our community and care deeply about the county that our children and grandchildren will inherit. Local government has critical roles to play in the paths we take toward our future and what the physical and social environment will be.

I am motivated to serve another term because in the immediate future the County Council must decide on two unfinished, long-standing projects that are of great importance to our community, and I want to see them through: (1) how best to fund the siting and operations of a new Justice Center – which would provide for a modern jail and ancillary services and offices; and (2) the sale or lease of county-owned downtown properties for uses related to the expanded Convention Center

2. Describe the duties of the office for which you are running.
The County Council is the county’s fiscal body, charged with approving:
• all county department and fund budgets,
• funds for contract and land purchases,
• bonds, loans, savings, and tax abatements, and
• all job county descriptions and the salaries and other compensation for our 750+ county employees.

In making budget decisions the Council considers:
• the state-allowable budget growth quotient for the year,
• the county’s projected tax revenue, state revenue due to the county, external funding, and
• budget reversions and county savings.

Based on these data the Council sets the tax levy (the amount to be raised from property taxes)
and the corresponding tax rate.

3. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, community supporter, public servant, and a now retired” archaeologist (emerita Research Scientist, IU). BA 1965, University of Arizona, Anthropology and Geology; MA 1971, University of Illinois Anthropology, Archaeology.

My husband Patrick and I came to Bloomington in 1971 when he accepted a faculty position in the Department of Anthropology. I soon found a position at the Glenn Black Laboratory of Archaeology (now subsumed by the Indiana University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology) and carried out research projects focused on southern Indiana and adjacent states.

Soon after we arrived and with a desire to live in the country and grow much of our food, we searched for and bought a farm in beautiful Indian Creek Township, brought up a daughter and son, became involved with our community, raised cattle and numerous other animals (too many to count), and now enjoy four grandgirls.

My professional contributions in archaeology and related fields have been a large part of my life: Scholarly publications (98) as author, co-author, or editor: 4 books; 4 monographs; 9 book chapters (1 in press); 3 book reviews; 35 abstracts, and 33 articles in journals or proceedings. Technical reports: 36 for major projects; estimated hundreds of short reports. Museum work: 14 exhibits, consultations, and reviews. Professional and scholarly meetings and invited symposia:
104 papers presented. Professional service: member of 10 professional organizations (various offices); invited testimony on archaeological issues to U.S. Congress, and the Indiana legislature. 

4. Please share information about your community involvement.
I began my community involvement soon after we bought our farm because there was a local controversy about cost of services. Our rural telephone service was going to increase because the company was planning to install single-party lines (replacing 16-party lines), but also raising monthly rates. The next issue was elementary school consolidation and where to locate the new school. And then. fundraising to build and operate a volunteer fire department via huge community bar-b-qs, auctions of various donated goods and equipment, and door-to-door “boot drives.” There was always something going on in Indian Creek.

Before we moved to the farm, I became a volunteer at Planned Parenthood 2 weeks after we moved to Bloomington. I had a personal commitment to the organization, and had been a volunteer in Pittsburgh, including when I was pregnant. That also was the case a couple of years later before our son was born. Other community involvement related to our kids and their interests at the time: PTO and various committees, Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs, sports team boosters, etc. I continue to be involved in our community as a member of the board of directors of the Friends of Lake Monroe, the Monroe County History Center, and the Indian Creek Community Association.

I served on several county boards and committees, as well: the Historic Preservation Board (2001-2012), which I chaired for 9 years; Extension Advisory Board (3 years), Plan Review Committee (7 years), County Council Grants Committee (community member, 2 years). 

5. Tell us about any previous elected offices you’ve held or other political experience you’ve had.
In my profession, I served for several terms as president of the Council for Indiana Archaeology and became involved with efforts to change the state laws protecting archaeological sites and cemeteries. It took years, many legislative committee meetings, and widespread publicity about the looting of archaeological sites to convince legislators that the state had a problem that could be partly solved through legislation and the legal system. And they eventually came through.

During this time, I was appointed to Chair the Government Affairs Committee of the Society for American Archaeology. I reviewed legislation to inform the members across the country, testified at Congressional Committee hearings, submitted written comments, or recruited others who could bring their expertise. The work was challenging and professionally valuable, as I worked with other national organizations that had interests in the proposed legislation, including funding considerations.

I served in public office on the Indian Creek Township Board for 4 terms (1995-2010) and was elected in a contentious race centered on township fire protection issues. We solved the issue once, and I thought I was not needed and would “retire,” but then conflict reared its ugly head again. Different people; same basic motivations (“lust for power” made vicious by the smallness of the stakes and the limited reach of the arena). The Indian Creek Fire Wars would make a good
Netflix series (though I would like to choose the actor who plays me). Once “everything” in Indian Creek looked calm, I decided to run for County Council. 

I was not successful in my first campaign for a seat on the County Council. In 2010, I ran for a District seat, with Warren Henegar (then At Large County Council member) as my campaign chair, plus very considerable help from the DWC and some of its members. In the General Election I didn’t lose by much. Warren told me after the votes were tallied that I had done fantastic. He had run for that District seat and lost by a lot since the District (until the county was redistricted in 2012) was substantially Republican. I asked him “why didn’t you tell me about this when I was deciding whether to run?” He replied that he didn’t want to discourage me.

I ran again for County Council in 2012, but it was not at all how I had planned. I had intended to run for an At Large seat in the Primary on a slate with Warren, Julie Thomas, Geoff McKim, and others, but then my friend Sophia Travis decided she wanted to run for an At Large seat. I didn’t want to have a competitive primary with experienced public servants like Sophia, Warren, and Julie, so I just supported them. Thomas, Travis, and McKim won. Then, after the Primary, Julie accepted a vacancy position on the November ballot for County Commissioner, because Mark Stoops left that ballot position to run for State Senate. That left a vacancy on the ballot for County Council At Large, which was to be filled by a caucus. I decided to run in the caucus, as did Lee Jones, Scott Wells, and Jeff Carson. After a series of tied votes and re-votes, Lee was ultimately victorious by one vote. Then, tragedy struck. Sophia, who had not been well, died unexpectedly. Shortly thereafter, and with the blessing of Sophia’s husband, I agreed to stand in caucus to win he party’s approval to have my name on the ballot in her spot, but only on the condition that this not be a competitive caucus. It was September and the election was just weeks away. I had a whirlwind of a campaign and won an At Large seat on the Council thanks to incredible support from Democratic friends.

I have since served two full terms on the Council, being re-elected in 2016 and 2020, and presently am in the last year of my third term. I was chosen as Council President in 2015 and 2016. With many important decisions still ahead for the Council I look forward to serving a fourth term during 2025-2028 and seeing significant projects to completion.

One of the highlights of my service so far, and hopefully into the future, is chairing the Sophia Travis Community Services Grants Committee and the program that awards Council- funded grants to applicant not-for-profits to help them meet a wide range of community needs. The Council named our grants program after Sophia because she had been instrumental in helping the best-qualified NFPs provide community services that local government does not.

Other highlights of my public service as a Council member include:

• Developing secure financing for juvenile services—to keep our troubled youth out of detention;
• Promoting funding for the expansion of road deputies, to decrease emergency response times in rural and suburban areas;
• Advancing tourism through service on the Convention and Visitors Commission;
• Creating a funding stream for the expansion of the Convention Center, and serving on the Convention Center Advisory Commission and the Food & Beverage Tax Advisory Commission;
• Working with City and County officials to direct public safety funding to county Fire Departments;

• Guiding the expansion of trails and additional amenities for county parks, with the Parks Department;
• Increasing recycling services and helping to lead the Waste Reduction District Board of Directors;
• Providing emergency funding during the pandemic;
• Securing ARPA funding for early childhood education and childcare;
• Promoting salary adjustments to increase equitable compensation and benefits for all county employees;
• Passing fiscally responsible budgets each year.

6. What do you believe is most important to serving successfully in the office you are seeking?
I believe truly knowing our community -- including all residents of the county: City of Bloomington, Ellettsville, Stinesville, our various small villages such as Smithville and Harrodsburg, and the rural areas of the county – are truly fundamental to successful service. By “knowing” I mean:
• ascertaining the ways in which the residents of all parts of the county value various county services,
• identifying the current unmet needs of our residents, and
• understanding and prioritizing the steps to be taken to meet future needs.

7. What makes you the best candidate?
The depth of my experience in local government, along with my diverse experience in various aspects of community life, sets me apart from other candidates for the office I seek. Experience in some domain or another does not equal knowledge, but it sure makes it easier to know more of the relevant info. I am also one of the best candidates in general when it comes to reaching people and making them feel comfortable asking a question or raising a concern. I think
they sense that I want to hear from them -- because I do. Lastly, I have a breadth of experience that few other candidates have, in that I’ve worked “in town” since the 1970s, I live in a rural area – aka “the sticks” -- with its distinct set of experiences and challenges. I feel that I have brought my experiences to fully serve ALL the residents of Monroe County, regardless of where they live or their concerns, and I am well prepared to continue this service.

8. How do you plan to win this election?
My campaign plan is based on reaching voters to let them know my experience, commitment, and county-wide view. I have sent out press statements already. I will attend all forums and complete all questionnaires sent by groups to inform their members. I will occasionally post on Facebook. I will put out the signs I still have, but not order new ones because there are more cost-effective ways to reach voters. The focus of my outreach will be via postcard mailing.

9. Are there existing aspects of the office you are seeking that should be addressed in order to be as equitable and inclusive as possible? If so, how will you go about that?
Equity and inclusion is a significant part of good governance. The current seven members of the County Council, on which I hope to continue serving, make up a good mix of women and men. Nonetheless, we are a relatively “senior” group, and we are still overly “white.” I believe it takes experience in local government and in non-government aspects of our community to prepare to serve on the Council, so this means we need to (1) actively encourage people of color and younger age to join our committees and our boards and commissions, (2) challenge or charge our boards and commissions with meaningful endeavors that they can accomplish, and (3) acknowledge the achievements of our boards and commissions when they deserve this, so they will continue to progress. Leadership of our boards and commissions is extremely limited, and only one Committee (Sophia Travis Grants Committee) is overseen by the Council. The others fall primarily under the Commissioners. My suggestions will help fill the campaign pipeline for county government elections and create well-qualified candidates.

10. What issues impacting women are most important to you right now?
It is truly unfortunate that one of the fundamental issues impacting the lives of women and families is one that has remained for decades – inadequate childcare resources. I faced this personally years ago, but my friends and constituents today are still grappling with limited availability, schedule constraints, and cost. There have been innovations with schools accommodating before- and after- school day care. There have been significant improvements in health and safety. Not-for-profit organizations and for-profit businesses providing childcare have increased the number of children who are served, but as our community grows the need is never satisfied. Sadly, the once hoped-for solution of the parents’ places of employment providing childcare programs, comparable to the programs in many European countries, have mostly come and gone in Bloomington (and elsewhere in Indiana). Do we need better information on the relationship of employer-provided childcare benefits, and how and where it works well or hasn’t worked? I say, yes. Maybe this is a topic the Women’s Commission might have interest in.

A significant limiting factor in the availability of childcare is the small number of people willing to be employed in carrying out this work. Low salaries and a lack of professional standing contribute to this situation and seem to have created a negative feedback loop. Increasing the professionalization of childcare workers, with certificates for various professional attainments (comparable to the multiple steps of nursing skill programs) would undoubtedly help raise the professional standing of childcare workers but would not help with the cost of childcare to families. The cost of childcare limits the quality of life and prospects for women and families, constraining the pursuit of higher education and advancement in employment for many.