Kyle Swain, 26

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Kyle Swain, 26

In a county with roughly 18,000 Democrats, there isn't single Democrat in office in Johnson County. Kyle, 26, hopes to give them a voice on his hometown's city council in Greenwood, Indiana.

What was the best piece of advice you received before you ran for office?

Just do it.

When did the light bulb go off for you? When was the moment you realized that you want to run for office?

I had run before during the midterms and I realized that there's still a lot of enthusiasm and energy in my area. I already knew a lot of people and I realized that we had the ability to make a difference locally this year. I wasn't going to pass that up.

What are your “potholes”? What are the issues in your community you feel are getting neglected, but you want to see addressed?

We've had pretty much the same people in power for decades and we haven't had any alternatives for about 40 years. I feel that breeds a lot of complacency, and also opens the door for corruption and nepotism. That's something that I would like to make sure it doesn't happen.

Yes, and you’ve stated that while there are roughly 18,000 Democrats in your area, there’s not a single democratic elected. Why do you think that is?

For a number of reasons. There is a very strong political party here for the Republicans. But there's been a bit of a death spiral. Democrats used to hold a lot of local offices and Republicans held many of the national offices. But what happened was, over the course of time, the Republicans got stronger and the Democrats started getting even weaker. So there was less enthusiasm, less involvement, less participation, less donations. And that led to what we have today.

Speaking of the current elected council members, what perspective do you think are really missing? And what are you hoping to bring?

One, lack of enthusiasm. Mostly, it's the same people, some of them have been appointed only, not elected.

You don't see anybody other than what you'd expect in the county, which is typically retirees. They tend to be someone who just kind of shows up for 30 minutes, twice a month.

And they don't have a lot of perspectives on technology. They don't have a lot of perspectives on my generation and that understanding is really lacking.

One of the things you talk a lot about is the need for transparency on city council. There have been issues of corruption and investigations into some council members. How do you hope to fix these issues if you’re elected to the council?

So, we do have recorded meetings, which is a great first step. The problem is that a lot of people don't know where to go for those or they don't find them easy to access.

Oftentimes, if you're just coming into a local issue and you haven't had any background, you find yourself kind of lost. You don’t understand something, the jargon, or it may be another issue that you just haven't followed and it’s hard to jump into. So what I plan on doing is have my social media available for everybody to be a kind of a translation.

So I can say, “Tonight, we had this resolution, what that means in common jargon is ___, and this is my stance on it. And if you have any question, please feel free to comment or message or call me.”

How do you keep informed about what’s going on in your community?

I started off being a volunteer for Liz Watkins in the midterms, a candidate for US Congress for our congressional district. I was the field organizer for the three counties in my area and that's what gave me a lot of face time with the organizers  and the volunteers.

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That's when I first started running for office, I ran for County Recorder and it gave me a lot of experience and a little bit of the lay of the land for Johnson County where I live.

And what were some issues you learned about while canvassing? What are the issues you find that people in your area are really invested in?

So recently, we had a lot of development issues that a lot of people were really keyed in on. There's a big, big fight over that recently in our city council meeting. I talked to a lot of the residents at those meetings about that. It's not necessarily the project that they're concerned about, but ultimately when it comes down to it, the biggest fear is that they just feel like they can't just trust the council. If this passes in the council, it's going to let everything else steamroll. And they don't feel that they're truly being listened to in a number of ways. I tried to work with the council members to provide alternative options and tasks that we could take to satisfy both business development and homeowners. But they just don't seem interested in trying anything other than what they've already done and have always done.

If you make it on the council and could wave a magic wand, what's the first thing you would pass?

A human rights ordinance because Greenwood currently does not have one. And I would also stop all the focus on TIFs or tax incremental financing. TIFs lock the funds that go into a certain area for a couple years, then those go into a general fund essentially. That general fund can be used for anything else in the city. And in addition to that, we have a lot of tax abatement proposals, a lot of businesses like to come in and just dictate the terms of what they want. It's really not doesn't make much financial sense to me and I would at least scrutinize a lot of those.

Campaigns often focus on what's wrong with a community, what needs to be changed or fixed. What's something you love about your area? What makes you so passionate about your city?

It's my hometown, it's where I grew up. It's where I live.

I know a lot of good people that would like to see things improve and there's definitely a lot of potential here. We get business developers, we get businesses that have a lot of interest in Greenwood, because of its location next to a highway going to Indianapolis. We have a lot of opportunity to really develop a strong economic powerhouse of a city. And that's something I'd like to see done.

Now, let's have a little about you what first got you interested in politics and government

Well, I've always kind of been interested ever since high school.  I went to to college for political science. I learned a little bit there but I didn't know exactly where to go. So when Liz Watson started running in our district, it really lit a fire for me. It kind of gave me an opportunity to learn more about the political process, how to campaign, get involved in and meet the local players. I got to learn a lot about what's going on locally and become a respected member amongst them. Ad I've been able to take that in and develop my public speaking skills, my campaign fundraising, and strategy.

So tell me, what doubts do you think people have about you as candidate? And what do you say to someone who might think you're too young to run?

I think the doubt people have initially is strictly party. They're going to see that I'm running as a Democrat, and they're going to have immediate concerns. And then, of course, there are going to be people that are concerned that I might be too young.

I would say that I've already had a lot of experience trying to develop bipartisan outreach, and solutions. That's already happened for me, I have built the respect of a lot of the members of the community. And they've already seen me, in very many instances, speak to large audiences. That's something that I've already proven. I've already shown that I can be a field organizer. I have the professional experience, the political experience, and the local know-how of the issues,  to be successful from day one.

What advice would you give to another young person considering a run for office?

Get started, meet with the county officials, and the local officials. Learn as much as you can. You can't go wrong. You’ve just got to start somewhere.

The views expressed in this interview are those of the candidate, and do not reflect the beliefs and views of Ballot Breakers or its staff. 

Lacy Wright