voters have one contested race this year for a County Commissioner.
general election, Republican Jim Biggs and Democrat Jeff Chidester are vying
for the Board of Commissioners’ north district seat.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.