Southport Mayor Jesse Testruth has been on the job for nearly six months, and he is working to patch up hostile differences within this community of 2,000 residents.
For the past four years under the administration of Dr. Rob Thoman, the community nestled east of Madison Avenue on Southport Road, has been in turmoil for lack of budgetary figures presented to city council members, and not having prayer at the start of a council meetings.
The 61-year-old Testruth, with his straightforward manner and sense of humor, has soothed over much of the grumbling about access to up-to-date city budget information and allowed prayer at the start of meetings.
He is working on bringing the community together with several community outings this year. But his highest priority is the safety of Southport residents.
Another priority is developing business on the city’s west side to Madison Avenue.
The police department is at full complement, although new police Chief Randy Ellison, a former U.S. marshal and has studied at Indiana Law Enforcement Academy, is nearing completion of certification. Assistant chief William Bick, a former police chief, has resigned, but also is working toward upgrading certification.
Testruth said he wants a chief who has a safety background.
“The police chief’s job is an administrative position,” he said. “The board of public works is to advise and assist, and not tell the chief what to do.”
Testruth is focusing on training and pay for the police. He praised Chief Ellison Monday night for cutting gasoline use $600 to $2,300 for the month of April. He said he wants the police department to be self-contained financially, like other city departments.
As for the squabble between the mayor and the board of public safety, Testruth must find replacements on the board for Kevin Bandy and Andrew Harrison, both of whom walked off the job.
Southport does not have a court to decide traffic, civil and ordinance matters. Testruth is working on setting up a working arrangement with the city Beech Grove for court action, a move that the previous administration wanted to do.
The redevelopment commission, sworn in by the mayor Monday night, is comprised of Roger Harris, Duane Langreck, James Keller, Jim Cooney and Russell McClure.
Members of the city council are: Jim Cooney, district 1; Nick Schmoll, district 2; Rose Harrison, district 3; Larry Tunget, district 4, and Thomas Quinn, at-large.