Party has slated two contested races in the Chesterton municipal primary
election on Tuesday, May 5.
Jim Ton (incumbent)
and Jeff Trout are seeking the nomination to the 1st District seat on the
Town Council; Nathan Cobbs and Kevin Jakel, the nomination to the open 4th
By some strange
quirk of political magnetic attraction, both races feature candidates who
are well paired to run against each other.
1st District, Town
Jim Ton vs. Jeff
The premier race
pits two highly accomplished, long-standing public servants--and until a few
months ago, colleagues--against each other. Only one is an incumbent. But
the other one used to be.
Jim Ton is
the incumbent. He’s had the 1st District seat since 2004, when elected to it
by caucus to fill a mid-term vacancy. Ton completed that term and won two
more, in 2007 and 2011.
Jeff Trout was
an incumbent. In 2007 he was elected to the 2nd District seat and was
re-elected to it in 2011. But in December 2014, Trout resigned his seat
after he and his wife, Bonnie, bought a house outside the 2nd District--and
in the 1st District.
Then, when the
filing season opened in January, Trout threw his hat in the ring to
challenge Ton for the 1st District nomination.
Ton and Trout
served seven collegial years together, both on the Town Council and on the
Redevelopment Commission. Indeed, Ton and Trout continue to serve
together on the Redevelopment Commission, to which Trout was appointed as
citizen-member after he resigned his 2nd District seat. They rarely, if
ever, split-voted, and whatever disagreements they might have had over
policy were never publicly broached. Each has run a campaign respectful of
the other. Each is seeking the Republican nomination based on his own
accomplishments and interests. And each has a quite distinctive appeal to
make to the voters.
Ton’s priority is
folks’ quality of life. His understanding of that term, however, is
expansive, what he calls a “global view of the quality of life.” According
to that view, not just the town’s recreational amenities but its
nuts-and-bolts infrastructure can enrich a resident’s life. With that in
mind, Ton has championed projects which would make living in Chesterton
safer, more productive, less sedentary, easier on the eye.
include Phase II of the Westchester-Liberty Trail, that section of the 1100N
sidewalk extending from the Rosehill Estates subdivision to Fifth Street.
Ton is also green
and was a member of the local group which in 2012 proposed a not-for-profit
approach to rehabilitating the Pavilion at the Indiana Dunes State Park
beach, and has publicly voiced his opposition to the for-profit venture
which includes the construction of a banquet facility next to the Pavilion.
Ton is an active
member as well of the Northwestern Regional Planning Commission’s Executive
Committee, serving this year as NIRPC Vice-Chair. During Ton’s tenure at
NIRPC, the commission has awarded nearly $1.3 million in grants to the Town
of Chesterton, by far the largest part of that sum for Phase II of the
Trout’s priority is
economic development. Trout is a businessman--the owner for 32 years of
Trout Glass & Mirror--and it was his experience in construction and land
development which first landed him a seat on the Advisory Plan Commission,
in 1998. The Plan Commission promptly appointed him to the Board of Zoning
Trout says that he
learned a lot on the job while serving on both. But he may have brought most
to the table as a planner, during those years especially when the Plan
Commission was gestating the various PUD ordinances for the Lake Erie Land
Company’s Coffee Creek Center.
Trout will probably
be best remembered, however, for two things. He was a driver in the creation
of the town’s first tax increment financing district, which has captured
millions of dollars in property taxes for use in infrastructure projects,
including two in particular: the South Calumet Business Distinct and the
Ind. 49 Utility Corridor.
And Trout played an
integral role in the successful effort to recruit Urschel Laboratories Inc.
to Coffee Creek Center. Worth noting: the town incentivized that move with a
kind of tax abatement which depends precisely on the TIF structure advocated
by Trout more than 15 years ago.
The Democrat Party
has not to this point slated a candidate to face the winner of the 1st
4th District, Town
Nathan Cobbs vs.
Nathan Cobbs and
Kevin Jakel have a great deal in common.
They both have
young families. And they both make a living in management.
Cobbs is a trust
officer with Harbor Trust & Investment Management, where he’s responsible
for administering his clients’ investment portfolios.
Jakel has spent a
quarter of a century in food-service management and currently manages the
Tippecanoe Place restaurant in South Bend.
Both believe that
their respective backgrounds have prepared them for the challenge of public
service. Cobbs vows to use his analytical skills “to make the optimal
financial decisions” for the town. Jakel says he’s learned a lot about
people, has learned that “it’s all about people.”
And in both
candidates’ campaigns economic development has become the chief issue.
Urschel’s re-location to Chesterton and cites it as an example of the sort
of development he favors, one in which a corporation’s values reflect the
community’s own. Other developers--whatever or whoever they might be--must
share those values as well, Cobbs says.
Jakel, on the other
hand, wants to see the Ind. 49 corridor, south of the Indiana Toll Road,
become home to “larger, regional businesses,” the “kinds of companies that
bring employment.” But Jakel has also cast his eye on the “uniqueness of the
Downtown” and sees opportunities there for more small-business development
of the sort likely to attract visitors from out of town.
In one material
way--or maybe it’s not material at all--Cobbs and Jakel differ. Cobbs was
born and raised in Chesterton and then returned here after college. Jakel
was born and raised in the Southwest and recently moved his family here from
Cobbs believes that
his lifetime in town would bring added value to his service on the Town
Council, that his knowledge of the community and its people would give him
an immediate leg-up, that as a policy-maker he would be guided by
Chesterton’s heritage as he looks to the future.
In response, Jakel
says that he and his wife chose Chesterton for its values, that they
found “its reputation as a close-knit community” appealing, that the Midwest
has a substance wholly lacking in the Southwest. In any case, Jakel says,
his very newness means that he would bring a fresh eye and perspective to
The winner of this
race will face Democrat Scott McCord in the general election.