Julie Thomas 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.  There was no word limit.  Here are the responses from Julie Thomas.

Julie Thomas, running for re-election as County Commissioner District 2

1. Why are you running for this office?
It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve the people of Monroe County – first as a County Councilor (2009-12) and currently as a County Commissioner (since 2013).

I am running on my record – and I have worked hard for our residents. I would like to continue my service to Monroe county and her residents. We have more work to do - to complete the American Rescue Plan Act projects that are in the pipeline, to finalize the County Development Ordinance, and to finish the development of the justice complex.

2. Describe the duties of the office for which you are running.
The Commissioners are the legislative and executive branches of county government. We are responsible for the operation of key departments in the county (highway, technical services, etc.), buildings (new construction and maintenance), and vehicles. When there are emergencies (COVID, floods, tornadoes), the Commissioners play a pivotal role in the response. Collaboration is key – across county departments, with other entities (city, towns, townships), with community stakeholders, and with residents across the county. We listen, learn, do our homework, and respond to the needs of the community while developing innovative programming to build a better – and stronger - future.

3. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I came to Monroe County in 1993 to attend graduate school at IU. I became involved as a volunteer at various social service agencies in the area. I joined the DWC in 2004 as it was being formed. One of the things I learned in the EMILY’s List training is the importance of asking women to run. After helping a candidate run for County Council, I ran and won as an at-large candidate.

I earned my second Master’s Degree and Ph.D. at IU Bloomington and have continued to teach (on a very limited basis) both online and in person. Although I typically teach history (an inclusive version!), I have also taught courses in gender studies/women’s studies and at PACE (Political and Civic Engagement at IU).

4. Please share information about your community involvement.
We have been involved in the community response to COVID - providing CARES funding for individuals, small businesses, and social service agencies. Similarly, we have focused on community needs through the development of programs and projects utilizing American Rescue Plan Act funding. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build essential infrastructure in our community (repaving and drainage) and develop programs related to shelter for the unhoused, affordable housing, childcare, and tackling food insecurity. We don’t just provide funding. Since COVID, I have volunteered my time with Habitat for Humanity (Osage Place build day), Pantry 279, and the Hoosier Hills Food Bank (Fresh Food Friday distributions and assisting with the Book Fair). This additional effort at giving back to the community demonstrates our support for these social service agencies and it helps us gain an even deeper understanding of the issues facing the community.

This recent volunteer activity builds upon my previous work in the community, including:
   WFHB – Board of Directors
   Planned Parenthood – clinic safety escort, PP-Indiana Board of Directors
   Middle Way House – On Scene Advocate (20+ years), Board of Directors
   Indiana Equality (for marriage equality)
   Circles Program – Ally (SSCAP Bridges out of Poverty)
   DWC – Steering Committee, Chair
   Community Justice and Mediation – Victim/Offender Reconciliation

5. Tell us about any previous elected offices you’ve held or other political experience you’ve had.
County Council (2009-2012) and County Commissioner (since 2013).

The experience of running for County Council and serving in the role helped me develop a much deeper understanding of our community, as well as county departments and budgets. I continue to build on this experience, developing a much deeper understanding of county government and the community as a County Commissioner.

I have assisted a significant number of women as they have run for office – some for the first time. I have managed, mentored, trained, canvassed, raised funds, and worked extensively to bring qualified, quality candidates to elected office at local, state, and national levels.

6. What do you believe is most important to serving successfully in the office you are seeking?
It is difficult to name just one thing which leads to success as a commissioner.  Much like the job, it is about everything all at once. Listening and collaborating, time management, project management, creativity and innovation, hard work, and research – each of these are essential to success in this role.

A good example of this is in planning. I have been a member of the Plan Commission since 2009. In that role, I have developed a deep understanding of our county’s unique environment (stormwater, karst features, slopes, soil quality) and our infrastructure development. As new developments are proposed, we listen to the builder/developer, our highway and stormwater departments, and the neighbors who already own property (residences and businesses). The goal is to balance out these (sometimes) competing interests. In some cases, it may mean we need to ask the developer to alter some of their plans or to add provisions to protect the environment and/or property owners in the area.

7. What makes you the best candidate?
Experience is vital. As a public servant I have been tested by the pandemic and natural disasters (floods, tornadoes, etc.). I am tough – I will fight for residents while protecting (and enhancing!) their quality of life. I am trusted to work hard, listen, collaborate, make sound decisions, and innovate. I have demonstrated my commitment to Monroe county and her residents. I fight for our residents everyday: to ensure continued access to transit, to support the development of infrastructure and new industries with high-salary jobs, ensuring the provision of transit and broadband, and fighting the proposed annexation (after hearing from residents in the city and outside the city) that is far too large and too costly for residents.

8. How do you plan to win this election?
While running for office, I am focused on continuing my role as a public servant – prioritizing my work as a commissioner over the campaign for re-election. For example, I have taken a leadership role in developing the local Broadband challenge efforts, coordinating the data collection, technical assistance, and public relations efforts to ensure that we reach as many people as possible throughout Monroe County. The site selection for the justice complex is ongoing and involves components that demand our attention. I am working with Rural Transit and Ellettsville’s Town Council to ensure the continued availability of transit services outside of city limits. Lastly, the Monroe Health Equity Council – which I have been involved with since it began – is a finalist for the National Civic League All-American City Award (for Monroe County).

The campaign includes in-person contact (canvassing), building on the many community connections I have already developed as a commissioner. There will be postcards to complement social media (Facebook and Instagram) and a website.

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?
We can and should always do more to encourage people to apply for employment, for Boards and Commissions, and to mentor the next generation of elected officials – with a focus on diversity and equity. Everyone has access to our office hours and my personal cell phone number is posted on the county website. I have worked extensively on the Community Voices for Health project – which is now the Monroe County Health Equity Council. As a member of the Steering Committee and Chair of the Government Relations Committee, the goal of the Health Equity Council is to transform the public participation process in local decision-making. This has implications beyond issues directly related to public health. The Broadband challenge effort is key to maintaining social connections, accessing work and educational opportunities, as well as telehealth services. Equitable access to the internet is key. Lastly, a focus on providing mental health and substance use disorder services both in the new jail facility and in the community will help ensure a healthy, positive future for all Monroe County residents.

10. What issues impacting women are most important to you right now?
Every aspect of county government impacts women’s lives. If women cannot access childcare, they cannot work – so we have focused on including various childcare programs as part of the American Rescue Plan Act funding. Providing affordable homes with Habitat for Humanity is another critical component. We are also investigating the creation of a Residential Tax Increment Finance District to provide additional affordable housing opportunities. Protecting our environment
(including our drinking water supply) is vital. In addition, I am proud of our work to provide an abortion travel fund for county employees.