Jim Brainard is Carmel’s first seven-term mayor and is one of the longest serving mayors in the United States. Under his tenure, Carmel has experienced tremendous growth and prosperity. It is considered one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. The population has grown from 25,000 to more than 103,000 in the last 25 years. Park land, greenspace, and trails have increased from 40 acres to more than 800, including the linear Monon Greenway and Central Park. The development of an Arts & Design District, a new downtown called City Center and a new Midtown project joining the two together, has helped in the creation of a vibrant, thriving walkable city where companies want to locate, where employees want to live and where families want to raise their children. Mayor Brainard is frequently asked to speak around the world about city planning, climate change, redevelopment and transportation networks. As part of the City Center project to create a downtown for Carmel, Mayor Brainard incorporated world-class cultural and entertainment venues. The Center for the Performing Arts in City Center includes the Palladium, a state-of-the-art, 1,600-seat concert hall, The Tarkington, a 500-seat proscenium theater and the 200-seat black box Studio Theater. Mayor Brainard was also successful in gaining the talents of Emmy-nominated performer Michael Feinstein as the Artistic Director for the Center as well as integrating the Great American Songbook Foundation and Songbook Academy into the cultural options at the Center. All of these venues, including an outdoor amphitheater named Rotary Centennial Plaza, opened in 2011.
Mayor Brainard has implemented numerous environmental initiatives for the City of Carmel. He has encouraged the construction of roundabouts in place of traditional signaled intersections in Carmel, which reduces vehicle emissions. Accidents with injury were also reduced by almost 80 percent when contrasted to signalized intersections. The City now has more than 140 roundabout intersections, more than any other city in the United States. Mayor Brainard has signed executive orders mandating the use of hybrid or flex-fuel vehicles for city operations when available and recently enacted a “No Idling” policy for city employees. He also encouraged the City’s Utilities Department to develop the technology to use recaptured methane gas to power its wastewater treatment facility as well as repurpose its biosolid waste into high quality fertilizer (topsoil), eliminating the need for its transport to and disposal in a landfill. He has also initiated testing the feasibility of utilizing wind energy as a future power source for the plant.
Carmel has been honored with many awards for its high quality of life and environmental initiatives. Money Magazine named Carmel the No. 2 Best Place to Live in America for 2021-22 and Money placed Carmel at the top of their list of Best Places to Retire in 2022. Carmel has also been named the No. 1 Best Place to Raise a Family in 2020 and No. 1 Best Suburb in America in 2019 by Niche.com. In 2015, Carmel was recognized as Community of the Year by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The City was awarded first place in the Climate Protection Awards from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for its roundabout program and national runner-up of the Home Depot Awards of Excellence in Community Trees. Carmel has also been the recipient of the Sterling Tree City Award, honorable mention for Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities and has been designated a silver level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. Based on surveys using community statistics, Carmel is consistently ranked among the top places to live for families, singles, children, senior citizens and veterans based on low crime rates, low cost of living, excellent schools, availability of high paying jobs and appreciation of community amenities such as the arts, culture, parks and recreational opportunities. Mayor Brainard’s academic background includes a Bachelor of Arts in History from Butler University and Doctor of Jurisprudence from Ohio Northern University. He also received a diploma from the Oxford Institute on International and Comparative Law from the University of San Diego. His book, Carmel, ‘round about right shares the story of redevelopment in Carmel during his administration.
Mayor Brainard has served as a Trustee and Co-chair of the Energy Independence and Climate Protection Task Force for the U.S. Conference of Mayors since 2013. In November of 2013, he was appointed to the Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience by President Barack Obama. In 2015, he traveled to four cities in India to represent the United States as part of the U.S. State Department’s speaker’s bureau. Also, in 2015 he was asked to speak on energy and climate policy at the German-American Centers in five German cities. In 2016, he was asked to speak on climate change and urban design in Rome, Italy, at the International Making Cities Livable Conference. In 2021, the City of Carmel hosted the IMCL Conference. Additionally, he has been a guest lecturer for Georgetown University, Butler University, Indiana University and Purdue University among others. He often speaks to city councils and planning commissions across the United States about city design and development. The Mayor has served as President of the Butler University Alumni Association, was included in Butler’s “50 Under 50” in 2004 and has served as a Trustee of the university. He taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Indianapolis and was named one of the “Most Powerful Hoosiers in the World” by Indianapolis Monthly Magazine. He is a member of St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church and the Rotary Club of Carmel. He resides in Carmel and has four children: Jack, a physician; Will, an attorney; Marie, an occupational therapist; and Martha, a medical research assistant at Dana-Farber Cancer Research Institute.