Candidate Q&A: West Lafayette City Council District 1
A candidate Q&A with Republican Aaron Abell and Democrat Laila Veidemanis, each seeking an open District 1 seat on the West Lafayette City Council.
Republican Aaron Abell and Democrat Laila Veidemanis are seeking a District 1 seat on the West Lafayette City Council in the Nov. 7 election.
Democrat Nick DeBoer, who has served 10 years on the council, is not seeking re-election in a district that covers the Village area and other spots close to the Purdue campus.
Early voting started Tuesday, Oct. 24.
Here, the candidates discuss their approach to the four-year position.
For more: Find bios of each candidate, along with a city council district map and information about where and when to vote at the end of this article.
Why are you running?
Aaron Abell: District 1, despite being the most populous area, only had 90 total votes cast for City Council in the last election cycle. I remember seeing those results back in 2019 and the seeming apathy towards local government and resolving that I would run for office and try to change that. Our democracy, even at the local level, can only function if people actually make their voices heard.
Laila Veidemanis: It has been my lifelong dream to run for an office position and make a change in any community I am in. After living in such a beautiful town with friends who have been passionate to make the community better, it inspired me to do the same.
How long have you lived in West Lafayette? And how did you land in the city?
Aaron Abell: I moved to West Lafayette and lived on-campus in 2018, then moved to Chauncey Hill year-round starting in 2019. My wife and I both came here to study at Purdue but came to the realization that this was where we wanted to raise our family after our oldest was born.
Laila Veidemanis: I have lived in West Lafayette for the past 2.5 years. I am from the Chicago area and go to school at Purdue University.
Name two of your top priorities for the district. And how will you handle them?
Aaron Abell: Other than local involvement, my top two priorities are sustainability and affordable housing. For the former, I will support the continuation of the Climate Action Plan, encourage forms of transit with lower emissions and promote renewable energy sources. My plan for affordable housing is to push for comprehensive zoning law reforms allowing for denser development beyond the confines of Chauncey Hill and increase the availability of a variety of housing options beyond single-family detached residences and high-rise luxury apartment buildings.
Laila Veidemanis: The two top priorities for the district I have are affordable housing and better parking and infrastructure. There are so many more that I could talk about and would love to hear from constituents, but I feel like these are the most talked about. Housing is a complicated issue and I understand that, but many more projects can be approved for citizens/students to live in. Parking is more of a problem with Purdue students and we would have to coordinate with Purdue as the city.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for the district? And how do you proposed to solve or deal with it?
Aaron Abell: The biggest challenge facing District 1 is definitely the housing crisis. In addition to aforementioned solutions, I’d also like to work with Purdue about keeping admissions growth to a reasonable level and allow housing supply to catch up to demand.
Laila Veidemanis: I think the biggest challenge for the district would be housing and building up infrastructure. The city council does not have the jurisdiction to set housing price limits. There is much more that we can do to put pressure and talk with these housing companies that I would be willing to have conversations with.
How well do you think the city has handled issues of available and affordable housing? What is the most pressing issue related to housing and how would you address it?
Aaron Abell: While the city didn’t do enough over the past decade, the council has made significant progress over the past few years. In fact, two construction sites within a tenth of a mile of my residence will provide over 850 beds by themselves. I look forward to working with the council to continue this progress and forward momentum.
Laila Veidemanis: The city has done a good job with the issues of affordable and available housing knowing the past context. With Purdue's tuition freeze, Purdue admitted many more students, which artificially inflated the housing market. We should have had more dorms and off-campus places built before the number of students increased. Now we are playing catch-up.
What, if anything, should the city do about the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s plans to build a water pipeline from Tippecanoe County to feed developments in Boone County and in communities along the 35-mile route?
Aaron Abell: The state of Indiana has not provided nearly enough evidence that this pipeline will be anything other than an ecological disaster for West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County. I wholeheartedly support the council’s resolution condemning the project in its current state. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any action West Lafayette can actually take beyond raising awareness and supporting local state legislators in their efforts to protect our water resources.
Laila Veidemanis: The city does not have the jurisdiction to stop this plan, but we can put enormous amounts of pressure to stop them from taking water from the Wabash.
Rate the city’s relationship with Purdue. What, if anything, should be or could be done to improve it?
Aaron Abell: I’d rate the city’s relationship with Purdue at a 3 out of 5. While there’s a working partnership that betters both parties, there’s definitely room for growth. The fiasco with the unilateral renaming of portions of State Street without seeking city council input, for example, shows how communication can be improved. There’s also been no shortage of frustration expressed by members of the council in regards to admissions policies. To improve the relationship, I’d like to see the Joint Board given greater importance moving forward.
Laila Veidemanis: Purdue's and the city's relationship could always be better. There can always be more communication and transparency between the two entities.
West Lafayette will have a new mayor for the first time in 16 years? What changes, if any, would you like to see in the city’s focus?
Aaron Abell: It’s an exciting time in the city. We’ll have a new mayor, new council president, and at least three new councilors. I’d like to see our government focus more on forging an independent identity for West Lafayette beyond just being “that place where Purdue is.”
Laila Veidemanis: Erin Easter is a very amazing woman and inspires me to be better in my daily life by helping others. As far as I can see in the past three years, John Dennis did a good job with the city, but change can be good to have some new ideas and other focuses. I hope we start to focus on developing the city infrastructure more and building a bustling downtown area.
Name two specific things that separate you from your opponents and why they matter.
Aaron Abell: Two things that set me apart in this race are my dedication and my experience. I filed my campaign nearly half a year before my opponent, responded to more interviews, attended more city council meetings and performed more voter outreach. I’m also the more experienced candidate, as I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years working in local government as a first responder. In that time, I’ve learned much about what it means to serve our community.
Laila Veidemanis: Currently, I am a Purdue student and directly connected with thousands of peers and West Lafayette residents. I have a variety of different opinions, ideas and people to converse with about city issues. Also, with currently going to Purdue I can directly draw from my experience walking and commuting in the city every city day. Being on campus and living off campus I see a variety of different issues and things that can be worked on.
Occupation: 911 Dispatcher
Education: Graduating December 2023 from Ivy Tech with an A.S. in Business Administration.
Past Positions: Precinct Committeeman for Wabash 28, 23, and 21
Immediate Family: Wife Alexis; two sons, Nathanael and William
Campaign Site: aaronabell.com
Education: At Purdue University
Your campaign site online: lailaforwlcitycouncil.com
ABOUT THE NOV. 7 MUNICIPAL ELECTION
WHERE TO VOTE AHEAD OF NOV. 7: Early voting started Tuesday, Oct. 24. Here are the times and locations. Voters should bring a valid ID.
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 24,-Friday, Oct. 27: Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St., Lafayette.
8 a.m.-noon, Saturday, Oct. 28: Clarks Hill Christian Church, 9510 Pearl St., Clarks Hill.
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 30-Friday, Nov. 3: Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St., Lafayette
Noon-6 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2-Friday, Nov. 3: West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave.; Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, 1406 Teal Road, Lafayette; First Church of the Nazarene, 3801 Union St., Lafayette.
9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4: West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave.; Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St., Lafayette; First Church of the Nazarene, 3801 Union St., Lafayette.
8 a.m.-noon Monday, Nov. 6: Tippecanoe County Office Building, 20 N. Third St., Lafayette.
ELECTION DAY POLLING PLACES: Polls will be open 6 a.m-6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 7. Registered voters in Tippecanoe County may use any vote center.
West Lafayette Wellness Center, 1101 Kalberer Road
Faith West Community Center, 1920 Northwestern Ave.
West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave.
Evangelical Covenant Church, 3600 S. Ninth St., Lafayette
Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, 1406 Teal Road, Lafayette
Northend Community Center, 2000 Elmwood Ave., Lafayette
Christ United Methodist Church, 3610 S. 18th St., Lafayette
First Church of the Nazarene, 3801 Union St., Lafayette
Gathering Point Church, 7201 Wesleyan Drive, Dayton
ON THE NOV. 7 BALLOT: Get a full list of candidates here.
CHECK YOUR VOTER REGISTRATION STATUS AND THE CANDIDATES ON YOUR SPECIFIC BALLOT: Go to the Secretary of State’s portal at www.indianavoters.com.
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