Get to Know Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer / Justin Sicking

When Mark E. Heirbrandt was elected as Hamilton County Commissioner in February 2013, it was baptism by fire – via water.Mark Heirbrandt

When he took office, 30% of Sheridan was flooded, so he spent his first week meeting with citizens with water-filled basements, trying to rectify the problem. There were, and always are, a host of issues to address as county commissioner.

“Most people don’t realize what this job entails,” Heirbrandt says. “I’m the executive of the county.”

This means he’s responsible for the government center, which houses judges, prosecutors, clerks, and surveyors. He’s also in charge of the courthouse, fairgrounds, jail, probation, community corrections, coroner, and all countywide parks. Plus, Hamilton County owns Riverview Health, which means the commissioner’s office appoints the entire board. In addition, they are responsible for the sheriff’s office and therefore collaborate with police forces to ensure community safety.

And did you know that half of what they do is drainage? “That’s important because every project that gets built, you have to understand where the water’s going,” Heirbrandt says.

During his first three months on the job, Heirbrandt seriously considered quitting. After six months, however, people started thanking him for listening to their needs and positively impacting their lives.

Over the past 10 years he’s been involved in numerous transformation projects in Hamilton County. For instance, there’s the State Road 37 Improvement Project as well as the historic Bell Ford Covered Bridge, which is currently being brought to Hamilton County. Built in the 1800s, this post-truss covered bridge is the only one left in the world. Obtaining it was quite a feat. When Heirbrandt first called the commissioner in Jackson County to express interest in the bridge, Heirbrandt was told, “You and everyone else want it.”

A local historian encouraged the Jackson County commissioner to give it to Heirbrandt because, the historian said, the bridge would be constructed properly.

At a lunch meeting between Heirbrandt, the Jackson County commissioner and the Hamilton County parks director, a deal was made. After receiving close to $3 million in federal funds, construction commenced. The bridge is expected to be completed next year.

Mark HeirbrandtHeirbrandt worked on the State Road 37 project with Mayor Scott Fadness. Back in 2015, State Road 37 saw a lot of accidents. Since it is a state road, the pair met with Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) to ask them to make it safer. Initially, INDOT leaders told them they had no money, but Heirbrandt and Fadness kept pushing. Finally, INDOT officials said they could invest $100 million to put in J-turns (referred to as Michigan lefts) along the corridor. Many constituents detested J-turns, so Heirbrandt and Fadness left the meeting disheartened.

The good news, however, was that they knew INDOT had $100 million to invest in the project, so they leveraged that money and inserted their own portion to create full-blown interchanges that enabled traffic to flow easily.

“Our main goal was to protect businesses along that corridor, and to provide safer transportation for our constituents,” Heirbrandt says.

Now it takes only 10 minutes to get down to Interstate 69.

“The large transformational projects we do take a long time, but what we do well with the explosive growth we deal with is that we plan ahead to get these projects in the queue,” Heirbrandt says.

As for future aspirations, Heirbrandt is working on opening a women’s domestic shelter in Hamilton County. He’s also in the process of a U.S. Highway 31 corridor transformational and economic development project for northern Hamilton County.

“That’s taking shape now,” he says. “We’re putting water and sewer in Bakers Corner. The reason there hasn’t been development up there is because there’s been no water and sewer. They’ve been on septic systems and wells.”

With the population growth, he also wants to add more judges to the government center.

“When you have more constituents moving into the county, you need more resources to serve those people adequately,” he says.

Heirbrandt says he feels like God put him in this position for a reason. He says he gets signs from time to time telling him so. For instance, in 2019 a man showed up in his office to tell him that 28 years earlier, the chance encounter they shared hugely impacted his life. In 1991 Heirbrandt found this man sobbing in the lobby of Riley Hospital for Children and asked if he was OK. The man shared that his son had just died. Heirbrandt had offered to pray with him and the man declined because in that moment, he was furious with God for taking away his child. Heirbrandt encouraged him to pray at some point when he felt up to it.Mark Heirbrandt

“I saw you on TV last night, and I drove all the way from Martinsville to tell you that I took your advice 28 years ago and prayed every day,” the man said after showing up at Heirbrandt’s office in 2019. “Three years later my wife got pregnant with twins. When they were born, you were the first person I thought of. I thought of you again when they graduated from high school and college and when I walked my daughter down the aisle last month. I just wanted you to know what an impact you made on my life.”

As for his tenure as Hamilton County Commissioner, Heirbrandt maintains that when he first started in the position, he crawled. Over time, he learned to walk, then jog. Now he’s in full sprint mode.

Mark Heirbrandt’s additional notable transformation projects and accolades:

  • Town of Sheridan: Symons Krause and Krause drain project (drainage improvements that impacted 30% of downtown Sheridan)
  • Ivy Tech College: Collaboration with the City of Noblesville, the state, Noblesville schools and the county to bring post-secondary education to Hamilton County
  • 276th Street to 281st Street corridor expansion for Beck’s Hybrids
  • 236th Street/U.S. Highway 31 expansion for the Town of Cicero and Town of Sheridan economic development
  • Lowe’s Way Project: Transformational bridge to connect Carmel and south-bound Keystone access
  • AAA Bond Rating: Only county in the state to have a AAA Bond Rating for local income tax and property taxes in 2021
  • 2018: Construction of the new Riverview Health Westfield Hospital
  • Collaboration with the City of Carmel for the construction of 96th Street and Keystone Avenue interchange
  • Secured tax credits ($3 million-plus) with Indiana Economic Development Corporation to secure Convention Center and economic development on U.S Highway 31/State Road 32 in Westfield
  • Led the efforts for the largest solar project for a county jail in the state of Indiana,
  • at $12.5 million in energy savings over 25 years
  • Negotiated the utility sale of the Westfield water/wastewater treatment plant to Citizens Energy Group
  • Leadership and execution for the Humane Society for Hamilton County
  • Leadership for Hamilton County’s water availability study
  • Current president of the Indiana Association of County Commissioners (statewide organization)
  • Commissioner of the Year Award from the Association of Indiana Counties (2023) and Commissioner of Year from the Indiana Association of County Commissioners (2022)

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