A group of Peru residents who all filed Monday to run for city council seats in the 2019 primary election say they’re tired of politics-as-usual – the mudslinging, the finger pointing and the partisan bickering.
That’s why they decided to from a bipartisan coalition called “Peru United” that, they say, puts the good of the city over party politics.
Joseph Molyneux, a 61-year-old Air Force retiree who is running as a Republican for the District 1 City Council seat, said seven people so far have signed on to the coalition’s bipartisan effort to run on a platform of positivity rather than divisiveness.
“We don’t think politics really belongs at this level,” he said. “All we want to do is what’s best for Peru. Peru is on an uphill swing right now. It’s come a long way in the last three years. We want to see that continue. That’s our goal.”
The coalition currently has members running for every district seat except District 2, which is currently occupied by Republican Tom Gustin, who has filed to run again for the position.
Three people on the coalition have filed to run for the city’s two open at-large council seats. That means one of them is guaranteed to lose.
Steven Anderson is one of those people. He serves on the Peru Board of Works at the appointment of Peru Mayor Gabe Greer, and is running as Democrat for the at-large seat.
And, he said, he’s perfectly fine if he gets beat out by the two other candidates – Kathleen Plothow, a development consultant who is running as a Republican, and Carrie Young, who is running as a Democrat and works at First Farmers Bank & Trust.
“Regardless of who gets the seat between us three, it’s all good, because it’s going to be good for Peru one way or the other,” Anderson said.
Plothow agreed. She said she knows both Anderson and Young, and knows they’ll do what’s best for Peru.
“I’ve not known Steve for very long, but I like him and I know he’s a good man. He’s honest,” she said. “ … We’re all going to have our strong points and our weak points, but if I win, I’m going to need these other people to make a difference.”
Cheryl Lee, the District 4 Democratic councilwoman who filed on Monday to run for a fourth term, said she is a lifelong Peru resident and has never seen an effort like Peru United that promotes unity in local city government. That’s why she decided to join up with the group.
“I’m excited and I’m impressed that a group decided to get together and do something like this,” she said. “This is what we need. We have to grow as a community. We’re a small town. What worked in the past isn’t necessarily working anymore in a lot of areas. So if we can all come together and put in our ideas, hopefully we can all learn from each other about what we can do as a city to improve things.”
Anderson said the coalition formed organically after a group decided to hold an open meeting for anyone who was considering running for city council to discuss why they were running, and what they wanted to see happen in Peru.
Soon, they all discovered they were on the same page about almost everything – even though some of them were Republicans and others Democrats. Rather than run competing campaigns, they all decided to join together and form a bipartisan group and support each other.
“Then we all decided, let’s just go and file together,” Anderson said.
That comradery was on full display inside the Miami County Courthouse Monday afternoon. Coalition members joked with one another and complimented each other as each waited their turn to file their candidacy.
Molyneux said besides running on a platform of unity, the group also supports the recent downtown revitalization efforts that have spruced up buildings and brought new businesses to the city’s core. He said they also support making it easier for businesses to develop in the city.
“Either we’re here for the city or we’re here for our party,” he said. “I’m not here for my party. I’m here for my city.”
Plothow said the group not only aims to make Peru a better place. Its members also hope to show whoever is willing to look that politics doesn’t have to be ugly.
“It’s so divisive out there,” she said. “If we can set a precedent at the local level, maybe Peru can start something bigger. Maybe we can start something that will spread at the grassroots level.”
To that end, Anderson said, members of Peru United have all pledged to not engage in partisan politics or mudslinging on the campaign trail. He said after the primary, members of the coalition plan to have events together – regardless of each members’ political affiliation.
“There’s not going to be any ugly, dirty politics here,” he said. “We’re going to leave that all alone. The Facebook drama and all that, we’re done with it.”
Lee agreed. “We’re done with that. We want positivity, because we’re talking about the future of our city.”