New Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen Sets Goals For First Year In Office
Photographer / Whitney Williams
As Noblesville’s new mayor, Chris Jensen says he’s excited to take on the various challenges the city is faced with and improve on what he sees as its many successes.
“Having grown up here, I’m excited for the chance to give back to my city as mayor,” says Jensen, who won a four-candidate primary race and was unopposed in the general election.
Jenson plans to tackle four areas that served as the focal points of his mayoral campaign — public safety, workforce development, infrastructure and investment in downtown.
“With infrastructure, east-to-west city connectivity and the extension of Pleasant Street is something we’ve talked about in our city for a while and it’s well past time,” Jensen says. “It will be an expensive project but vital to our community’s future. Progress on State Road 37 is also important, and that project is not complete until it reaches at least State Road 38 and 32 in Noblesville.”
With 2.7% current unemployment in Noblesville, Jensen says the time is right to facilitate strong connections between local employers and those seeking to acquire the skill sets those employers need.
“We don’t need just any jobs to come to Noblesville, we need the right jobs to come here,” he says. “We need to work with our current employers to understand what kind of skills their workforce needs and find out how we’re partnering with our high schools and Ivy Tech – as well as adults – to enhance those skills for the next-generation workforce.”
Jensen says public safety, which comprises 48% of the city budget, is also a top priority. Last fall he announced the appointment of Hamilton County’s first-ever public safety director, retired IMPD Commander Chad Knecht, to oversee local police and fire departments in all matters of public safety.
“Public safety has completely changed — we’re not just fighting fires and catching bad guys anymore, we’re dealing with school shootings, mental health issues and opioid overdoses,” Jensen says.
Jensen also hopes to work with fellow officials to further maximize dining, shopping and living opportunities downtown, while finding fresh ways to showcase the White River.
“Downtown is our crown jewel, and we have to protect its historical heritage, but we also have to enhance it,” he says.
“My mom still lives in the house I grew up in, and my wife teaches in the Noblesville school system,” he says.”We’re very much invested in the community. My family and I are all in.”
While he took a liking to his government classes in school, Jensen says he never considered politics while coming up through high school and college.
“I’ve always enjoyed government, and my favorite class in school was my honors government class,” says Jensen, who interned for former state senator Luke Kenley in 2006 after graduating from Butler, and went on to work at the statehouse for seven years while Mitch Daniels served as governor.
“I always worked behind the scenes and never necessarily envisioned myself as a candidate, but Mayor John Ditslear called me five years ago when we were transitioning to a Class 2 city and encouraged me to take a look at running for a council seat that had been added,” Jensen explains. “I’m a hometown boy and also a 30-something millennial, and I felt like my type of voice needed to be represented on the council level.”
Jensen won the added council seat in 2015 and grew passionate about serving Noblesville during the following four years.
Timing played a hand in Jensen’s decision to run for mayor, particularly when Ditslear announced his retirement after four terms in office.
“John had a heck of a run for 16 years, and when conversations started to turn to who would lead after he was gone, my name started coming up,” Jensen says. “I went on a listening tour for about six months, listening and talking to folks I admired in the community. I came to the conclusion that maybe I could be the best leader for the city moving forward.”
Jensen vividly remembers the moment when it became clear he’d be Noblesville’s next mayor.
“It was overwhelming,” he says. “I was with my family at Bru Burger that night, and the last few weeks of the campaign had been just really long and brutal hours. My family and the people around me were so stalwart and there for me through the whole process. I thought, ‘Wow, I get to be mayor of my hometown.’ Not many people can say those words. It’s so humbling.”