‘Now is the time’: Jensen talks plans for mayor’s office
BY SADIE HUNTER
JUNE 25, 2018
Chris Jensen could be Noblesville’s next mayor.
John Ditslear, who has held the office since 2004, said before his last election that it would be his last. His term expires at the end of 2019. Jensen announced June 14 his intention to run as a Republican in the May 2019 primary. He is the first to announce his candidacy, although official filing with the county doesn’t begin until January 2019.
“It was kind of the worst-kept secret in Noblesville,” Jensen said. “A few years ago, I would have told you you were crazy. I’ve loved being on the council, and it’s been such a rewarding experience, especially with it being my hometown. It means so much to me, wanting to make sure it continues in the right direction.
“About a year ago, I kind of took a look around and said, ‘OK, what is that next generation of leadership going to look like? Who fits the bill, and who’s willing to say let’s put our foot on the gas with infrastructure, downtown and public safety? Who’s willing to take that risk and lead us into the next chapter?’ Eventually, the finger pointed back at me.”
Jensen was elected to the Noblesville Common Council in November 2015 after beating Peggy Barts and Michele Leach in the primary. He serves as council president and is on the building and land acquisition, parks, economic development, road/traffic/engineering and nominating committees.
During his 2 1/2 years on the council, he has been a part of a range of projects, including two phases of the Midland Trace Trail; work for the redevelopment and extension of Pleasant Street; development and investment on the west side of downtown; and the Riverwalk, among initiatives.
With three young children, busy jobs and busy lives in general, Jensen said he and his wife, Julie, have committed to a life of “utter craziness.”
“She always jokes that when she married Chris Jensen, she married Noblesville,” Jensen said. “I have always made it clear that this is my home, and this is where I want to raise my kids. I think she will be just a phenomenal first lady for Noblesville.”
Julie Jensen’s background is in education. After teaching for 10 years in Carmel schools, she now mentors and educates inner-city teen mothers in a Christian-based ministry in Indianapolis, Young Lives, a sub-organization of Young Life.
Chris Jensen, 33, is the youngest of three boys behind Matt, 39, and Ryan, 37. His parents relocated to Noblesville in the early 1970s, and his mom, Elaine, still lives in the home the family built in 1983 in the West Harbour neighborhood. His dad, Richard, died in a car accident in 1985 when Jensen was 18 months old.
“I spent a lot of time growing up kind of not talking about it, but as an adult, looking back now, you can see why I am who I am when you look back on that,” Jensen said.
He graduated from Noblesville High School in 2002 and from Butler University in 2006 with a degree in journalism and business. He lives in the Slater Farms neighborhood with Julie and their kids, C.J., 7, a Hazel Dell Elementary student; Vivian, 3; and Hank, 18 months; and their dog, Indy.
At his day job, Jensen works is a client service manager at Lochmueller Group, a civil engineering company, a job he took in 2015 after working for six years in the office of former Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman as a special assistant and director of intergovernmental affairs. He is a board member for the Noblesville High School Alumni Association and Nickel Plate Arts. He also was executive director of the 2016 Indiana Bicentennial Commission.
“My goal these next 11 months is to shut up and listen,” Jensen said. “I want to see what folks want in Noblesville’s next chapter.”
“From Pleasant Street to State Road 37 to the trails system and connectivity, it is time, or maybe even past the time, to invest. We’ve invested a lot as a county in north-to-south mobility. In Noblesville, our future depends on east-to-west mobility. Although we haven’t turned any dirt (for Pleasant Street), we’ve probably moved the ball forward more in the past 18 months than we have in the past 30 years in terms of funding and design for it.”
“I think downtown Noblesville is our unique identifier. It’s what makes Noblesville, and I think it’s really time that we invest, even in the small things, but really invest some good money in sprucing up downtown and adding some amenities downtown in terms of liveability, housing. Our neighbors have in some ways done a better job with that urban, mixed-use development. We need to focus on that, because if we want more restaurants and more shops, we need to have some more market-rate density. It’s really time we doubled down our efforts downtown.”
“Our future is dependent on how we develop our workforce in Noblesville. We’re fortunate enough to live in a county with about 3 percent unemployment. What comes with that is a whole set of challenges. If we bring new companies to town, we have to have the workforce to fill those jobs. Otherwise, they’re not going to come. We have great public sector partners like Ivy Tech and Noblesville Schools, but also private sector companies like Gaylor Electric and Hare Chevrolet. If the private side can do it better than government, by all means, let the private side do it. They know what they need specifically. Let them drive the conversation, and let government be there to support that.”
“Public safety is job No. 1 in any city or county, and we saw that on May 25 across the board. I really think when the investigations are complete, people are going to look to Noblesville as an example of things that went right. We have a role to play, and I think we can be a catalyst in the community and across the country on how you move forward, and how you act as a community to make it safer tomorrow than it was today.”