Letter to the Editor: Co Chair of IAFF #357 Explains Endorsements


My name is Mike Dickinson, Co-Chair Evansville Professional Fire Fighters Local 357 PAC, a Captain and 16 year member of the Evansville Fire Department. I am writing this in response to the many comments I have read on this and other sites regarding the reasoning behind our endorsements in the Evansville city elections. I make this response, not as a spokesman for the PAC, just as my observations after having co-chaired nearly all of the meeting on this subject.

There are several avenues that we explore when vetting the various candidates. Since summer 2010 we have held two candidate/officeholder meet and greets and one formal Candidate’s night which was conducted using a debate format. All candidates and officeholders for all positions were invited to attend. We also send out questionnaires to the candidates before the primary and general elections which allow candidates and officeholders the opportunity to address in writing their stances on issues important to Evansville public safety officials in general, and firefighters in particular. Additionally, the seven elected members of our PAC Board of Directors spend considerable time attending political functions to get to know candidates and office holders and find out their stance on issues important to our members.

After this extensive fact finding, our PAC board meets to discuss the candidates that we are going to recommend to the body for endorsement. The body then meets for discussion, and all members are allowed to have their say. The debates can and do become quite lively. Then there is a simple majority vote of all members present. We take this process seriously and do our best to make informed, knowledgeable decisions. With that background in mind, here is a list our endorsees with a brief explanation of why we feel that they are the best candidates.

Mayor: Rick Davis
As I have stated publicly before, the first time I and another member met with Rick Davis in the winter of this year, he explained to us that the ONLY things that he would promise us was to treat us with dignity and respect, two things that I feel have been sorely lacking for the last eight years. Additionally, he also has told us that he wants us to be the best trained, best equipped fire department that is possible and that he will work with us to make that happen. He actively sought us out to let us know that he believes that public safety is the first responsibility of government and that is the cornerstone of his platform. He has been open and accessible to our members since announcing his candidacy.

1st Ward City Council: Dan McGinn
Yes, Dan McGinn is running unopposed. We still felt that we should show our support for him. We have not agreed with Dan on every issue, nor do we think we will agree on everything in the future. What sets Councilman McGinn apart is that he has always been respectful of us, even when disagreeing. He has, on every occasion, been honest, presenting well thought out reasons for his votes. Again, it’s about mutual respect, and in our opinion Mr. McGinn has proven to be an even-tempered, intelligent council member who appears to genuinely have the best interest of the citizens of Evansville in mind.

2nd Ward City Council: E.L. Lon Walters
Originally, we backed one of our own in the primary for this race. I hope that most will understand that. We decided to back Mr. Walters in the general election for many reasons. He has stated that public safety is one of his top concerns, and Lon has attended every event we have hosted, answered every questionnaire and replied to every communication that we have sent him. His opponent has been given equal opportunity to attend and/or respond. She has chosen not to.

3rd Ward City Council: None
Even after personal conversations and review of both candidates’ questionnaire answers, our board was divided on this race. Both candidates made it a point to attend various Local 357 functions, and both brought a unique set of personal skills and background that would give them insight into local public safety concerns. A lack of previous local political experience also made it difficult to determine how each candidate would actually make decisions concerning public safety if they were elected. Frankly, after much debate, the board was split & no one could make a compelling argument for or against either candidate. Our membership agreed with this conclusion, and we are confident we can work with whichever candidate comes out the winner in this particular council race.

4th Ward City Council: None
The lone candidate for this position has not sought out our input or endorsement.

5th Ward City Council: Brent Grafton
Mr. Grafton has presented us with answers to our questions that have been well thought out and honest. He has asked us for our input to solutions to the challenges we face. Brent has been open to the options that we have proposed. In fairness his opponent, John Friend, has found his voice in recent months. But, based on his past record on supporting our issues, we feel Brent Grafton is a better fit.

6th Ward City Council: Al Lindsey
Yes, he is one of our own. We know he will represent our interest on the council. Beyond that, Al has a vision for this city that goes far past public safety. He has shared ideas on parks, roads and cost cutting that are sensible and doable. Al has served this community as a Firefighter/EMT for over 25 years, and served as a member of our armed forces for decades, most recently when he was deployed to the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Service to country and community is a cornerstone of our profession, and Al embodies these values as well as any other person running for office.

City Council At Large: Dan Adams
Dan has been a backer of Firefighters and Police Officers since before he joined the City Council. He is a straight talking, brutally honest man, showing time and again the ability to think independently on concerns important to this city. He understands the ins and outs of city government, and his long career as a cardiac surgeon has given him a keen understanding of emergency medical issues and the importance of quick emergency response. Dan approaches his job with intelligence and common sense. He believes that we should be safe and that the public deserves the best service that we can provide.

City Council At Large: Michelle Mercer
Michelle comes from a background as an ER nurse. We feel this gives her an intimate understanding of what has become our most common response: Emergency medical runs. She knows what is involved in our prehospital care of patients and the tools that we need to perform at our optimum level. She supports better equipment and more training for all first responders, and has served as an advocate for a number of local causes related to health and safety for our citizens.

City Council At Large: Bill Kramer
Honestly, the toughest decision we had to make was who our 3rd endorsee for Council At Large would be. There are several good candidates that we feel are qualified and would serve the public well on the city council. In the end Bill’s unbridled enthusiasm for what we do and his knowledge of our issues won us over. He asks our members questions about our needs, and has sought our opinions on how to address those needs. Bill also has a background in environmental emergency response and experience as the owner of a successful local small business. All of the above traits factored into our decision to endorse Bill, and we are pleased to do so.

You see folk, for all the conspiracy theories, innuendoes and people with absolutely no firsthand knowledge of our process, this is not rocket science. We support the candidates that support us. The same as the chamber of commerce, the same as the other unions. I think what gives us a unique perspective is that we are not only worried about our members’ needs, but must also consider the health and safety of the public. In the end, your firefighters are seeking thoughtful, intelligent elected officials who will listen to our concerns and take our expertise into consideration when making decisions that affect our members and the public.


  1. What would De Tocqueville say?

    I’m somewhat surprised to hear the importance that these council picks have first responder experience. In the council, these people won’t be making runs… or will they?

    I’m also surprised to hear vague references to candidates intelligence when it comes to government business… considering the void of any *issues* mentioned. (other than the self serving support of the firefighters – not that there is anything wrong with that in itself)

    The long and short of it seems to be… jump when we say jump, show up every event we ask you to show up, promise us the moon – and we’ll endorse you.

    I’m also shocked at how similar the, don’t you dare offend me or your history… (King John syndrome, especially with Grafton and Walters) well… let me just say, it just reminds me of the current administration’s attitude.

    Like I said the other day, “I keep harping that it’s not necessarily the POLITICIANS that are fundamentally to blame for the sneagle.”

    • I cannot speak for Mr. Grafton, but I am offended by your reference of me to the Weinzapfel administration. While I cannot speak for Mr. Grafton on other matters, I know him well enough to know he also would be offended by that reference.

      I was given a set of questions from the firefighter which I answered to the best of my abilities, I am sure if you asked them they would tell you that I did not make them any promises. I probably did not answer all the questions they asked the way they would have liked. I was honest with them and I think they respected that. One of the main reasons that I am running for City Council is because I was tired of all the rubber-stamping of everything King John wanted. I am an independent thinker and have not ever in my life been a rubber stamp for anyone or any group, and that will not change if I fortunate enough to be elected.

      “The health of a democratic society may be measured by the quality of functions performed by private citizens.”
      Alexis de Tocqueville

      • Hey, what’s to be offended by?

        I applaud you for stating, “that public safety is one of [your] top concerns”.

        Your attendance record, your promptness in answering questionnaires along with your replies to every communication impresses, even me!

        Based on those qualities alone, we should expect great things!

        (Now, let me take my tongue out of my cheek.)

        Nothing personal, I’m only saying a pattern of behavior is a pattern of behavior.

        I do appreciate, a man that can take offense from his own shadenfreude.

        • Nothing could be future from the truth, one of the reason I running for the seat of City Council 2nd Ward is because I want to improve the quality of life in the 2nd ward.

        • It would appear your comments are merely stated for the lulz value…and actually have little real substance.


  2. I can understand the affiliation with people who have been first responders and the want/need to support these folks, also the support of military veterans and those of their own, until your in a life or death situation where split second decisions carry the weight of peoples lives in the balance it may look like patronizing but in reality it’s just support for people they think they can trust.

    As far as intelligence in candidates, isn’t that a worthy attribute to have or quest for? isn’t intelligence related to rational thinking? isn’t intelligence something that is often lacking in politicians? isn’t intelligence often tied to a quest for more knowledge and also the pursuit of the truth? Isn’t it true that as far as politicians go we have had our fair share of pretty boy but dumb as a box of rocks officials?

    In Ms Mosby’s case it’s very easy to see, she supported closing two fire stations one of which is on the fringe of the 2nd ward which she represents which in my mind makes very little sense to support such a issue so close to the people you are suppose to be serving. She also early on copped an attitude about Rick Davis and true to the old boys club she serves does not support him even though he is her parties candidate…..as I live in the 2nd ward and have personal issues with her that influence my personal opinion of her abilities I’m probably a little biased, but I think a public figure representing constituents should be more then a sock-puppet for the establishment which is what she appears to be to me. My line of thinking also explains why when asked to participate in a PAC or meet the candidates meetings she has declined to attend these functions, either her stance on the closing of fire stations was indefensible, or she just didn’t want to take the heat for her decision in a room full of firefighters.

    I’m not disagreeing that politicians are the only blame for sneagle acts or policies, everyone who is a party has equal blame and as such should stand ready to take the heat when called on to defend the sneagle….sadly some cower in corners of darkness hoping it will all go away or point a finger in the opposite direction.

    Every single person has a agenda either personal or public, it’s human nature to believe what you believe and want what you want, be it policy, influence, or stature in the community it’s how you go about gaining or advancing your agenda that sometimes becomes sneagle.

    As always JMHO

    • An intelligent rationale?

      You know, things like, explaining to us how Winnecke won’t provide “dignity” and “respect” perhaps?

      Maybe mentioning any other issue of public safety, other than equipment and training? (Smoking, Meth, Parks, roads etc?)

      To me, an “intelligent” rationale, would be one that cites a justified and admitted preference… not an exclusive ability and desire to deal with only one of the caididates?

      Lacking specific issues and little substance, these picks could be viewed as “point[ing] a finger” from a (union) corner, of darkness…

      Granted, I might be reading between the lines here… But I just have a hard time NOT reading between them because of the vagaries implied. For example, I just have a hard time accepting that Mosby doesn’t “put public safety as a top concern”? [I can hear an axe grinding when I read that.]

      I appreciate the focus on safety the firefighters are trying to do here, but we have a local government that is involved in everything from fighting fires to paying judges to building private homes (via FDP) to building stadiums & hotels…

      I do appreciate Mr. Dickinson’s explanations, it helps put these “picks” in some perspective for me.

      • Yes he did a great job of scrubbing the endorsement rationale, but you know what they say about a polished turd.

      • Not to be argumentative but….

        “For example, I just have a hard time accepting that Mosby doesn’t “put public safety as a top concern”? [I can hear an axe grinding when I read that.}”

        No ax to grind…really none at all but a simple question.

        Since Ms Mosby has a high regard for public safety why would she vote to close a fire station (14’s) that within it’s territory is our premier college (U of E), a high school (FJ Reitz), a grade school (St Bens), one of the highest accident rate intersections in the city, (walnut & 41), numerous apartment buildings, frat houses, not to mention homes and businesses who pay taxes each and every year for fire protection.

        If there was a fire at one of these schools or the collage would response time really matter, if it was her kids attending that school would it matter more? or how about your kids would it make a difference? Where do you draw the line saying that I’m for public safety but not for you folks that live on collage highway you don’t need a fire station because you all live in nice homes and we all know nice homes never catch on fire…do they?

        I fail to understand how anyone could make that statement (I’m for public safety) with a straight face then vote to close a fire station.


        • For the record, F.J.Reitz high school is on the west side of Evansville. The school two blocks from station #14 is Reitz MEMORIAL High School.

          Station #14 would also be primary or first back up for Bosse High School and Harper Grade School.

          A nursing home, The Little Sisters of the Poor, is also one block away.

          You also have Methodist Temple and Redeemer Lutheran in #14’s territory, as well as six university residence halls.

          By the way, college is not spelled with an “a”.

          Also consider whether you want to continue the Mosby “legacy” in Evansville.

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