Chesterton Tribune



Biggs and Chidester vie for Commissioner seat

Back To Front Page



Porter County voters have one contested race this year for a County Commissioner.

In Tuesday’s general election, Republican Jim Biggs and Democrat Jeff Chidester are vying for the Board of Commissioners’ north district seat.

Chidester is currently the chairperson for the Porter County Democrat Party and has 45 years of involvement with Ironworkers Local 395 union. For the last twenty years, he has been the union’s financial secretary and treasurer. He believes that his skills working with large budgets, negotiating contracts, and health insurance plans will be transferable to the duties of a County Commissioner.

Although he has not held office since moving to Porter County about 13 years ago, Chidester was previously a member of the Lake County Plan Commission and the City of Hobart’s Plan Commission and Board of Appeals. He was also Porter County’s representative for a time on the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority.

He is also the 1st District Chair for the State Democrat Committee and said he would be willing to retain his leadership for the Democrats while serving as a County Commissioner.

A former two-term North County Commissioner and current County Council representative, Biggs said he looks forward to adding to the skill sets of the other two Commissioners, Jeff Good, R-Center, and Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, on continuing progress made over the last few years. The Commissioners’ responsibility is to set the benchmark for how government operates, he said.

Biggs, a Chesterton resident who works as a director of loss prevention and safety at Fagen Pharmacy, said he has a passion for being involved government. His biggest objective would be a three to five-year comprehensive operations plan, addressing the needs of County Government and what the future holds.

Whoever is elected to the Commissioner seat, they would be one of the members on the trustee board for the Porter County Government Nonprofit Charitable Foundation with the other two Commissioners and seven County Council members. The Foundation is an endowment fund holding the sale proceeds of Porter Memorial Hospital and is expected to generate about $4 million a year. The trustees are able to determine how the interest is spent.

Chidester said he thinks the interest would be best used to bridge funding gaps in the County’s operating budget, particularly those for public safety and supporting the Sheriff’s Police pension fund.

For any remaining funds, Chidester said he would want the money to be used to attract businesses to Porter County.

Biggs said he would like the majority of the Foundation returns be used for quality of life enhancement in the county, to continue to support social services like Porter-Starke. He said that the County could lend money to schools and municipalities at low interest so they are able to perform their functions. Having properly funded schools is important to prospective residents and business, he said.

Porter County Government should manage the Foundation in a way that it will not have to raise taxes, he added.

One thing that Chidester and Biggs agree on is their view on tax increment finance (TIF) districts, which use tax revenues from new commercial development for infrastructure projects to encourage more business to develop. Both candidates see TIF districts as just one method for economic development and say that they should not divert funds away from schools.

Facility projects are another topic both Biggs and Chidester have addressed.

Chidester said he would like to see the courtyard outside the first floor of the County Administration Building be expanded to hold more offices and have a section dedicated to housing election equipment. He would like to find a place that would be convenient for early voting.

Biggs said he wishes to see improvements made to the main entrance of the Administration Building by replacing the concrete and making it less expensive to maintain. He also wants to find a new location for the County 911 center so there can be more room in the Jail facility.

For stormwater projects, Chidester said he would like to bond for all the County’s drainage problems. This would give more subcontracts to local contractors and build some economic activity for them. More prosperity will be seen if the roads are fixed sooner and farmers can have more manageable land to farm, he said.

Biggs said communication with conservancy districts is key to helping the County with drainage projects. For stormwater to properly flow from Lake Michigan to the Kankakee River, cooperation with the conservancy districts will be required. He plans to work with the Twin Creeks Conservancy district to fix problems in South Haven.

Chidester said his experience with managing the union has given him the ability to work with different viewpoints and to reach agreements and compromises with colleagues.

Biggs said his experience as a Commissioner and a Council member will not require a learning curve and he can be ready to serve the first day he is in office.



Posted 11/7/2016




Search This Site:

Custom Search