I am running for council because I feel that my career experience serving our community and helping people resolve problems will fill the void in leadership and experience that will be coming to the Common Council. I will not be outworked. I have spent over a decade working a full-time job and raising a family while attending night school to obtain my degrees. I also feel that as the law writing legislative body of our city, there is a huge benefit to the council and community by having a practicing attorney as a member of the body.
I feel that I can provide the leadership and build the bridges that our city legislative body needs to be successful. The City has seen recent growth and revitalization over the past seven years, and keeping that momentum going, while spreading it out more broadly in our community will be a priority.
My key issues will be assisting with growth and improvement in our neighborhoods and stimulating economic growth and development without putting our city into a long-term fiscal crisis. Many parts of our city have deteriorating infrastructure ranging from crumbling sidewalks and streets to stormwater and sewage overflow breakdowns.
Our city also has a crime problem that is neither a simple nor an easy fix. It is driven by addictions, untreated mental health needs, failure of our educational systems and systemic poverty. We cannot cure all these ailments, but the city has been and should continue to work to address them. Additionally, through my work at the Juvenile Justice Center I have seen first-hand the challenges many of our youth experience that lead them to patterns of crime and drug use, and I believe we need to be proactive, in order to reduce crime and change the course of their lives before it is too late.
I am currently a solo general practicing attorney, but I actually began my working career as a ditch digger and jackhammer operator for Trans Tech Electric in the mid-1990s. In 2000, I was fortunate to secure an apprenticeship in the Electrical Workers Local 153 and continued to work in construction. Being a union electrical apprentice led me to get involved both in my union and our community. I started volunteering on community projects and helping political candidates who supported ideals that fit with those of the IBEW; economic growth, strong wages to build the middle class; equal opportunity for all races, genders and economic backgrounds; using local tax dollars to support local jobs for local workers; providing support for families and people in their time of need; and using the power of collective action to bring about positive change.
During the five years of my electrical apprenticeship, I worked on the jobsite during the day and attended apprentice classes at night. In 2005, I received my associate’s degree, and then I started attending night classes and completing online courses at IUSB, intending to work towards a Bachelor of Labor Studies and Business Management. I continued to work construction until 2009, when I was offered a full-time position in the IBEW union office as an assistant business agent and organizer. During that time, I worked on community relations and community projects, and solved problems dealing with healthcare law, pension law, construction law, labor law, employment law, and business law.
In 2012, I was offered a scholarship to Valparaiso Law School that generously covered roughly 85% of my tuition and fees. I nervously quit my job and began commuting to Valparaiso for my law courses for the next three years. I attended class all day, came home to do chores and spend time with my children, and studied late into the morning. My hard work paid off, and I finished my first semester ranked 5th in my class. Outside of class, I approached law school as another apprenticeship. I tried to get as much as “on the job” training to supplement my classes as I could. I interned and volunteered for our South Bend City legal department, for several judges in both the state and federal court systems, with the public defender’s office, and finally, with a small firm specializing in general civil and business law. I graduated in 2015 with Honors and ranked 7th in my class.
Since then, I have been a licensed attorney and have spent the past three years in general law practice. I currently own and operate my own law firm, Warner Legal Services, through which I offer a variety of legal services. I assist small businesses and working-class families with a variety of legal issues and problems. In addition, I have also served part-time public defender for the past two years, providing criminal defense to members of our community without the financial means to afford legal representation. In January 2019, I left my position as a public defender to become the attorney for the St. Joseph County Sheriff and Police Department.
I am proud to say that I have lived most of my life in South Bend. My wife of almost twenty years is the strong wonderful, amazing and spell-binding artist Erin Ambler-Warner. We have spent nineteen of our years of marriage living within the city limits, half of which have been in the Northshore Triangle neighborhood, first on the east end of Marquette Ave. and then in the 600 block of Marquette Ave. We have two fantastic, independent, strong and beautiful daughters - one who is in school at Lake Michigan College and the other who is enrolled at Clay High School.
Over the past two decades I have been involved and active in our community. I have helped coach little league softball at Chet Waggoner, donated time and money to community organizations through events such as Stuff-A-Bus, Art Beat, On the River, Re-Building Together, Habitat for Humanity and others. I have also been a regular supporter of Youth Services Bureau and the South Bend Center for Homeless.
My political involvement over the past 15 years has taken many shapes and roles on over 30 different campaigns. These experiences have ranged from assisting with small township races and local campaigns for city offices, but I have also advised and consulted with the local campaign offices for larger Congressional and Presidential campaigns, as well as advising on Pete Buttigieg’s mayoral campaigns. After 15 years of working on other people’s election campaigns, I have decided it is now time for me to run for South Bend Common Council.