Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry dies after battle with cancer

On Thursday, March 28, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry died.

According to an announcement released by his family, Henry experienced a medical emergency the day before. After consulting with medical professionals, Henry opted for comfort measures rather than surgical intervention. 

Last month he announced he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and would be starting treatment, but assured the public he would carry out his term as mayor for as long as he was able.

“Mayor Henry was a man of the highest character – a true servant leader who devoted his entire adult life to the betterment of Fort Wayne and its residents,” the statement reads. “He was also the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. We, his family, mourn the loss of Tom with the rest of our community, but we also take great comfort in knowing that he is once again with his beautiful Cindy who passed away from cancer just two months ago. We thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers, but also ask for privacy as we grieve Tom’s passing and celebrate his extraordinary life and legacy.”

His legacy

As mayor of Indiana’s second-largest city, Tom Henry served four consecutive terms and was a few months into an unprecedented fifth term. He was first elected as mayor in 2007.

During his long tenure as mayor, Henry made a significant impact on the city of Fort Wayne. He oversaw developments like Promenade Park, Electric Works, Parkview Field, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge, and more. 

Among the notable accomplishments during his time as a public servant, Henry also expanded the Fort Wayne Police Department, launched the SmartGov initiative to make government more open and responsive, and invested millions into expanding and upgrading the city’s parks and trails.

He first served on the Fort Wayne City Council from 1983 to 2003, representing northwest Fort Wayne. He started his career in the private sector as CEO of a group purchasing organization serving hospitals. Then he became the owner of a local insurance agency and healthcare consulting firm.

Henry was a lifelong resident of Fort Wayne and the second oldest of 17 children. He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1970 and then later earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an MBA from the University of Saint Francis. He also served in the Army.

He and his wife Cindy, who passed away in January of this year from cancer, were married in 1975. Together they have two children and four grandchildren. 

The future

On Friday, Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer was sworn in as the acting mayor of Fort Wayne by Henry’s nephew, Adam Henry. He will serve as mayor until the Allen County Democrats caucus for a new mayor to finish out the term Henry was elected to serve late last year. 

Bandember says he will not run in the caucus and will focus on continuing Henry’s agenda and momentum for the city. He has served as deputy mayor since 2013 and hopes to continue serving as deputy mayor after the caucus. 

Garry Morr, city controller, was sworn in as deputy mayor on Friday as well. He will serve as both deputy mayor and controller for the time being.

Allen County Democratic Party must hold a caucus within 30 days of the vacancy. They announced on Monday the caucus would be held at 10:30 a.m. on April 20 at the Lincoln Financial Event Center at Parkview Field.

Additionally, they'll host a town hall with candidates on April 18 from 6-8 p.m. at the David Hefner Pavilion, 1903 St. Mary’s Avenue.

Councilwoman Michelle Chambers and Democratic Precinct Committeeman Jorge Fernandez have both announced their mayoral candidacy. All candidates must file a CEB-5 form with the Allen County Democratic Party by 10:30 a.m. on April 17.

Candidates will be reviewed by the ACDP Central Committee to guarantee all candidates meet the requirements.

At the caucus on April 20, only Democratic Precinct Chairs will participate in the vote. Candidates will be given time to speak and must receive 50 percent or more of the vote, plus one, to win.

Updated April 2, 2024, to include new details about the caucus.
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