By Crusader Staff Report
Gary Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade has announced that she is running for mayor, setting up a battle with incumbent and political rival Karen Freeman-Wilson.
“I believe Karen has failed this city. I believe that she puts cronies above taxpayers and it’s evident in her budget decisions,” Sparks-Wade said in one news report.
Sparks-Wade, who represents the 6th District, ran unsuccessfully for mayor as an independent in 2011. She was beaten by Freeman-Wilson that year. Sparks-Wade will reportedly run as a Democrat this time.
A vocal critic of Freeman-Wilson, Sparks-Wade turned up her criticism against the mayor last year and led an effort to subpoena the mayor after it was discovered that city officials dipped into the Gary Fire Department Emergency Medical Services Account Fund 224 to the tune of $4.8 million, without getting approval from the city council. The effort fizzled after it was determined that the city council cannot subpoena an individual. Freeman-Wilson maintained that all monies spent from the fund went for city expenses and ordered a state audit.
The state audit determined it was allowable for the city to use a portion of the EMS proceeds for general fund expenses but cited the lack of internal controls and late account reconciliations, and spending from the Emergency Medical Services account outside of the parameters of a Council-approved ordinance.
Sparks-Wade may raise the controversy during her campaign for mayor. Freeman-Wilson plans to run for re-election. The Harvard graduate has won two mayoral terms, in 2011 and 2015. Although Gary’s economy has been slow in rebounding, the city has shown signs of an economic recovery with several companies opening plants that will create hundreds of jobs.
Freeman-Wilson told the Crusader that she wasn’t surprised by Sparks-Wade’s decision to run against her.
“It’s easy to be a candidate,” Freeman-Wilson told the Crusader. “But one has to look at a track record to see how they served their city. There’s a clear contrast between us, but I welcome the opportunity for voters to decide for themselves who they want to be their mayor.”
Sparks-Wade said in one news report that she believes it’s time to “elect leaders who have the people’s interests in mind.”
More challengers are expected to run before the filing deadline expires at noon February 8.
Gary City Councilman Ronald “Ron” G. Brewer Sr., D-At-Large, reportedly said Friday that he was considering running for mayor, but instead will seek a new term on the City Council.
Newly elected Jerome Prince, a former city councilman from 2000 to 2008 said in one news report that he is contemplating a run for mayor and has yet to rule it out.
Councilwoman Carolyn Rogers will reportedly retire at the end of this term to spend more time with family.