MARKLEVILLE — Although she hails from big-city Indianapolis, Kaele Albert wanted good schools and land where her three young children could pursue 4-H projects and have the same opportunities to grow up in a pastoral environment similar to that experienced by her husband Doug.
“We knew we wanted this for our kids,” she said.
But since the couple moved to an area between Anderson and Markleville shortly before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Albert, 30, concluded there was still room for improvement. This is why she is a candidate for the county council.
“I decided to run because I wasn’t really happy with what I saw,” she said. “I have a deep investment in this community growing and being the best it can be.”
Albert hopes to unseat Republican incumbent Rob Steele in Tuesday’s primary. There is no Democratic opposition for the November general election at this time.
Among his concerns are what Albert perceives as a lack of transparency in county government.
“If you want to find something, you have to call nine people to find something at the courthouse,” she said.
Unlike Hancock County where she lived, Albert said, Madison County also isn’t making the most of its most important communications tool, its website.
“It’s just really outdated and not how this county should be run if we’re going to bring more families and businesses to Madison County,” she said.
Albert says she is also interested in economic development.
“There’s so much potential here,” she said. “There is so much potential to have all the amenities like good schools, good police and firefighters. Everything is here. We just need to refine for those watching from the outside”
Although this is her first application for office, Albert said she has a lot of political experience, with her interest beginning as a teenage page at the Statehouse.
“Several of my immediate family members ran for county council positions in the central Indiana countries,” she said.
A trained registered nurse, Albert, who works in quality and data improvement for Ascension’s corporate office, said his most important trait is his ability to listen.
Incumbent Rob Steele, 59, a principal engineer at Borg-Warner, is completing his first term on the board. Previously, he served two terms on the Lapel City Council and two terms on the Frankton-Lapel Community Schools Board of Directors.
“It has been a pleasure to serve so far, and I hope my vision matches their desires,” he said.
Steele, who was also born and raised in Indianapolis, moved to Lapel in 1985.
“We moved here for work and the closeness of family,” he said.
A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Steele said he wanted to move politically to the county council because it serves as the county government’s financial arm. Over the years, in his various public roles, he added, he wrote 17 budgets.
“I feel very comfortable and have a lot of experience in this area,” he said. “I’m very conservative when it comes to spending money as my own. Don’t live on debt. Save for a rainy day. And I hope we are doing what is best for the residents of the county.
His priorities during that first term, Steele said, were paying down debt and giving county employees their first raise in seven years.
“I helped build on a philosophy already established by the majority of board members and the auditor,” he said.
The biggest challenge, Steele said, is deciding which services need to be delivered within a budget.
“Sometimes not everyone gets what they want,” he said. “These decisions were difficult. It’s easy to give a raise. I do not envy those who did not give raises in previous years. But everyone helped manage those budgets, so we had the ability to move forward to provide those increases.
If he wins another term, Steele said the priority is likely to be Lapel and Pendleton’s projected growth as population pressure from fishermen pushes residents north.
“We expect a lot of growth to come, so we have some work to do in the planning,” he said. “Pendleton and Lapel have good comprehensive plans as well as a good comprehensive county plan to manage growth.”