Anti-wind chimes sounded loudly once again in Tuesday’s primary election. This time, the vibrations ended a 43-year career in public service.
First-time-ever candidate Steve Dellinger easily defeated three-term Middle District Commissioner Kim Cronk, garnering just over 60 percent of the vote. The final vote total was 3,402 to 2,233.
The news Tuesday that he had decisively defeated such a well-known candidate filled Dellinger with multiple emotions.
“I’m actually in surprise and awe at this point,” Dellinger said. “I knew Kim would be a formidable adversary and being my first time out of the gate, I figured it would be a tough row to hoe. I’m still kind of in shock. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle. I figured it would be tough to do. I’m actually overwhelmed, surprised and humbled.”
Dellinger’s victory means the three Commissioners who approved a controversial wind turbine ordinance in 2018 will all be gone come 2021. Ed Tarantino defeated Butch Baker in 2018 by 17 percentage points. Meanwhile, Ed Yanos decided not to seek re-election in the Southern District this year. The winner there for the GOP Tuesday, Bobbi Plummer, is also an anti-wind candidate.
So will Dellinger’s first actions as Middle District Commissioner be voting for an ordinance saying wind turbines are not welcome in Henry County?
“I think all three of us share the same concerns,” Dellinger said, speaking of Tarantino and Plummer. “I think we’ll be able to put our heads together and try to move the county forward.”
Technically, the Commissioner races are not yet over. In the Southern District, Plummer still has to face Chris Newkirk, who was unopposed on the Democrat side Tuesday.
Henry County Democrats and Libertarians have until noon June 30 to fill vacancies in the Commissioners’ races.
Dellinger said it was the wind issue that led him to run. It will be his determination as a new elected official to help put an end to it.
“I didn’t feel like the residents of the county were being properly represented and I felt that the more I listened to what was going on, it made me feel like our elected officials were not engaging the rest of the county,” Dellinger said. “Being an elected official, you’re supposed to listen to your constituents. I thought the Commissioners had lost touch with a lot of people and, to me, that was unacceptable. Somebody needed to stand up and look out for those citizens being neglected. I didn’t see anybody else jumping at that, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring.”
Cronk, meanwhile, was both gracious and positive-minded in defeat.
“I’m positive,” Cronk said. “I kind of expected it. It’s just time to move on. I gave 43 years. It was all great. I’m proud of everything I’ve done. I was able to work with county officials and improve the county to the best of my abilities. I have no ill feelings.”
The former two-term sheriff was teased that he could write a book on his wide range of experiences in county government. In addition to three terms as a County Commissioner, Cronk served six years on the County Council and six years on the Shenandoah School Board.
“I love county government,” Cronk said. “I have no ill feelings. I wish my opponent well, and I’ll be there to help in any way I can.”
Circumstances surrounding this delayed-election may have influenced part of the outcome.
“You couldn’t campaign door-to-door because of COVID-19, but I’m not going to blame the loss on that,” Cronk said. “It’s just one of those things. Change sometimes comes. And it’s not bad, sometimes.”
Cronk, who turns 65 this year, said retirement is in his future plans now.
“My time on the sheriff’s department was the highlight of my career,” he said. “I loved that and look back on it all the time. It was a great time in my life.”
While he has no political experience, Dellinger does have more than four decades of experience building things. He looks forward to doing a different kind of heavy lifting on a county level as a Commissioner.
A foreman and crane operator for the loading crew at Core Slab Structures in Indianapolis, Dellinger said his new job as Commissioner may hasten his retirement from what has been his career up until now.
“We load giant slabs of pre-cast concrete,” Dellinger said. “We poured the slab and walls for the New Castle prison. We built all the risers inside Lucas Oil Stadium, did risers and seating for Victory Field, Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, the Coliseum, the old RCA Dome and most parking garages in Indianapolis.”
A former Blue River Valley student, Dellinger graduated from Knightstown Community High School in 1979. He looks forward to helping in the process of a new county jail.
“It’s been long overdue,” Dellinger said, “a can that’s been kicked down the road far too long. My only issue is if we have a way to pay for it. I understand part of that has been addressed already.”
Road issues and the financial health of the county are also immediate concerns Dellinger said he’d like to help solve.
One additional emotion Dellinger felt as he was congratulated for the big victory was pride – pride in the place he wants an opportunity to serve.
“This county is a great place,” he said. “I grew up here. My children and grandchildren still live here. It’s still a great place to live.”
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