New commissioner, council member to take seats this week

Two residents will be making decisions that will affect the more than 145,000 people in Johnson County, such as deciding how much the county will spend on deputies patrolling the roads and finding a solution for jail overcrowding.

Construction Contractors owner Kevin Walls and Greenwood Police Department Sgt. James Ison had no opponents in the November election. Walls was elected to the three-member Johnson County Board of Commissioners, and Ison was elected to the seven-member Johnson County Council.

Both will begin their four-year terms this week and have spent the past few months attending meetings, talking with other elected officials and researching the key issues they will make decisions about, such as setting the county budget and considering proposals for an expanded jail or new community corrections facility.

Walls will replace Tom Kite as commissioner in District 2, which covers Union, Franklin and Needham townships. Residents in the district already have emailed and called Walls about issues, such as a state law that could send more offenders to county jails instead of state prisons, Walls said.

Walls is excited to start and finish upcoming projects that come before the commissioners. For example, the commissioners will have to defend why Interstate 69 should go through Johnson County, instead of bypassing the county to avoid Perry Township on the southside.

Since the last section of I-69 could be completed in the next 10 years, current officials will be the ones who make decisions about zoning, infrastructure and development along the interstate.

“I think a lot of the decisions that the commissioners have to make are solid business decisions,” Walls said.

That’s where he said his 26 years as a business owner will help.

Ison, who is replacing Anita Knowles as the county council member representing the northern half of White River Township, said his experience with budgeting for the Greenwood Police Department as the former assistant chief will help him in his new role.

He wants to help shape the future of the county for his two young sons, he said. As a county council member, he will help set the budgets for county offices, such as the sheriff’s office, jail and highway department.

Ison ran for a county council seat in 2012 but lost. He decided to run again with encouragement from Knowles, he said.

On the county council, he will decide how to spend tax dollars without raising taxes, Ison said.

If a new jail or community corrections facility is built, the county council will have to find money to pay for it.

“I don’t have the solutions right now,” Ison said. “I’m going to try to gather the facts, and we’ll have several meetings and options presented for what’s the most cost-effective approach to those issues.”

Ison met with Knowles at least six times to discuss the issues that will come before the council, such as paying for courthouse security and deciding if more is needed, and discussing the need for a new office for the county coroner.