Exclusive video shows councilman’s minute-long rant
Audience bewildered at unexpected outburst
Pepelea remembered in 2011 for leading tribal group chant
The Madison County ALERT has obtained exclusive video of Anderson City Councilman Art Pepelea berating a group of high school students, then storming out of the room after a city council meeting in 2013 was delayed by six minutes.
Earlier in the evening, approximately 17 students representing city and private schools had been sworn in as newly appointed members of the Mayor’s Youth Commission. After a brief ceremony in the mayor’s office, the members planned to take their reserved seats in the city council chambers.
In an ALERT telephone interview with one of the former youth commission members in attendance the night of Feb. 14, 2013, he described Pepelea’s outburst as egregious and recalled the event as “almost more clear in my mind than signing my oath to be on the commission.”
“It underscores an overall attitude of not wanting people involved. And, if that attitude persists, we won’t have a future.”
—Former Youth Commission Member
After nearly a decade-long hiatus, Mayor Kevin S. Smith revived the defunct Mayor’s Youth Commission in 2013 “to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the youth of this community.” City ordinance 54-96 allows for 28 student members and two adult advisers representing Anderson High School, Anderson Preparatory Academy, Indiana Christian Academy, and Liberty Christian School.
The former commission member, who is now a college student, said Pepelea’s outburst, which immediately followed the Pledge of Allegiance, left students and family members in shock and disgust. He said the harsh rebuke discouraged civic engagement and seemed to exclude the public from participating in or scrutinizing city council business.
“It underscores an overall attitude of not wanting people involved. And, if that attitude persists, we won’t have a future,” he said, referring to the youth of Anderson.
Then-President Councilman David Eicks fomented Pepelea’s rage when Eicks delayed the monthly council meeting for approximately five minutes. He had extended the courtesy so that students could listen in-full to Mayor Smith’s proposed annexation of nearly 17 square miles in Pendleton and an additional four square miles of land northeast of Anderson. A month later, the city council panned the mayor’s ambitious idea that failed to gain public consensus.
Pepelea, as a 12-year councilman, is widely known for his quick temper and combative behavior during city council meetings. He is now asking voters for a fourth term. He was first elected in 2004 after beating Democrat Gary Davis by a 468-vote margin in District 5, which spans the northwest side of Anderson.
In next week’s May 5th primary election, Pepelea is challenged by Republican Josh Gaskill, the grandson of longtime local businessman Larry Gaskill.
This election cycle, Pepelea is supported by Mayor Smith, his former political adversary. Smith, who is seeking a third term as mayor, is challenged by the third woman in Anderson history and the first Republican woman, Heather Prophet, to make a run for mayor.
Democratic Mayor Kris Ockomon awarded Pepelea the key to the city in 2009, and was bestowed in 2011 with the annual Republican men’s club award. The event is remembered in local political circles for Pepelea’s misty-eyed acceptance speech and his leading attendees in a call-and-response tribal group chant of “I am a Republican! I am a Republican!”