Bang the gavel
Mark Heirbrandt becomes Westfield’s first resident to lead county commissioners
For the past two years, Westfield’s Mark Heirbrandt has served as Hamilton County Commissioner in District 3. This year he takes on the added responsibility of being the organization’s president – the first Shamrock to claim that title.
“I certainly hope it doesn’t change the way I was before. That’s one concern I’ve always had,” he said. “I really let my faith help me lead on really everything I do.
Adding to Heirbrandt’s history is the fact that he has never been elected into office by the public he represents.
Heirbrandt was elected during a caucus of Republican Precinct Committeemen from all across Hamilton County on Jan. 26, 2012. He is serving the remainder of Doug Carter’s term after he resigned in early January 2012 when he was selected by Gov. Mike Pence to be the Indiana State Police Superintendent. Heirbrandt said he has known Carter for 40 years but the two became friends during Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen’s campaign.
“If it wasn’t for him I never would have ran,” Heirbrandt said. “I talk to him all the time still. He was the first to say, ‘You should really, really run. I think you’d be good for this.’”
While District 3 includes Washington, Adams, Jackson, White River, Wayne and Fall Creek townships, Heirbrandt said he is doing just as much in Noblesville, Delaware and Clay townships which is why he makes it a point to attend all kinds of government meetings.
“The biggest thing is listening to people and working with them to get things done,” he said. “I take this as a serious responsibility. I feel that at any meeting I attend I am going to learn something and maybe find an opportunity for me to help them.”
Fellow commissioner Christine Altman described Heirbrandt as “boundless energy.”
“I’m excited to watch him as he progresses through the year,” she said. “He puts in the time and energy in the job and gets out to the communities. He represents us extremely well.”
Being involved in public service in not new for Heirbrandt, who served for six years on the Westfield Board of Public Works and Safety.
“I’ve never seen a harder working elected official in my days,” Mayor Andy Cook said. “He does a fantastic job of managing his professional life, family life and public life. I don’t know how he does it.”
Heirbrandt said his proudest achievements in Westfield are the drainage projects being worked on and Bridge No. 147 at 161st and Union streets.
“This bridge was probably the only non-two lane bridge in the whole county and we were able to work and get that accomplished (widened to a traditional two-lanes),” he said. “The (Westfield) mayor and town council tried to get it done for years. You had to stop and let the other guy go through before you could pass. It’s a lot wider now.”
One of the strengths of the county is its ability to plan and be prepared, Heirbrandt said.
“We’re always planning ahead because we are fortunate. We’re growing as one of the fastest counties in the state and country,” he said. “We are always in planning mode, looking out five to 10 years.
Heirbrandt’s goals are to make elected officials work together and to remove some of the grudges.
“I don’t care what happened in the past. I’m ready to move forward,” he said. “I’m trying to reshape the mindset of people to be positive, not negative, and to be proactive and sometimes it’s a struggle because people can’t let go of what happened in the past.”
Heirbrandt works in the water and energy efficiency industry and his focus is on local municipal governments within the state.
“What I appreciate more than anything is the people who work with the county,” he said. “We have solid people and I get to compare the governments of other communities I work with and have been to. I’d put our people against the best in the state. Our community expects a little more and I’m always cognizant of that.”
His background also has an impact on the taxpayers.
“With energy efficiencies, we’ve probably saved more than $300,000 in utilities since I came on board,” he said. “It’s been very rewarding to see some of the things happen that I was told were impossible to get done.”
Meet Mark Heirbrandt
Residence: Westfield (has lived in Hamilton County for 22 years, previously in Carmel and Noblesville)
Family: Wife, Gina; and three sons, Blake, Ethan and Evan.
Education: Ben Davis High School and the University of Indianapolis (on a track and field scholarship).
Hobbies: Golfing, fishing and working out.
Religion: Attends St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church in Westfield.
Something you may not know about him: Mark has an identical twin brother and twin boys. His brother Mark has triplets.
Personal quote: “I fully believe that if I do the right things, good things will happen. Sometimes it bites me, but in the end its always worked out.”
Top five 2015 projects for Hamilton County
1) Ind. 37 – Hamilton County officials have a proposal to reduce traffic congestion and travel times along a six-mile stretch of Ind. 37 between Fishers and Noblesville by creating a freeway with roundabout intersections similar to Keystone Parkway in Carmel. Cost of the project to own and operate the roadway is estimated at $243 million during 50 years. Heirbrandt said county officials, the cities of Noblesville and Fishers and state representatives have been putting pressure on the state and INDOT to make the project a priority. “The governor knows how important this project is to us and the citizens of Hamilton County,” he said.
2) Jail changes, expansion – As a result of legislative changes, beginning July 1 Indiana counties will be responsible for housing convicted inmates with Class D felonies instead of the Indiana Dept. of Corrections. Officials said a shell was built on the third story of the Hamilton County Community Corrections so the county has 33,000-square-feet of open space available. It is estimated to cost $70 to $80 per square foot to build out that area into usable space. “Our inmate population could increase by 70 inmates a day by 2016, bringing the inmate jail population to 123 percent of capacity,” Heirbrandt said. “We are looking at the master plan and how we are going to accommodate additional inmates. The state’s put that burden on us.”
3) Training facility – The commissioners and municipal officials are in consensus to build a county training center for public safety employees. Proposed plans for the 96 acres, owned by Westfield on River Road in Noblesville, include a multi-story burn tower, a 20-line weapons training and qualifications range, infrastructure for roads and a small building for classrooms, equipment and bathrooms. Officials estimate the project will cost $3 million. “I see us maybe in March/April having more discussions about the training facility and move to the next stage of implementation if the county council is interested in public safety for our community,” Heirbrandt said.
4) Judicial center expansion – Space at the Hamilton County Judicial Center is nonexistent and officials have decided to build an addition instead of find a new location to house county departments. Officials estimate it would cost $20 million to build three shell stories and furnish the first floor. However, any government or school project costing more than $12 million requires a referendum and that route is not something the county wishes to take. County officials have approached state lawmakers to adjust the bill. “It doesn’t fit the needs for every community,” Heirbrandt said. “We’d like to be able to insert money above the $12 million cap … I feel very confident we will get something done.”
5) Public safety – Countywide first responders will be switched to a new radio system. The county was previously split on two radio systems but the new one will allow easier communication and is the same one used in Marion County and by the Indiana State Police. “This allows us to talk to multiple agencies,” Heirbrandt said. “This is going to take public safety to another level for us.”