Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Nathan Cobbs and Kevin Jakel vie for Republican nomination for open 4th District seat on Chesterton Town Council

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Kevin Jakel

By KEVIN NEVERS

Kevin Jakel recalls his surprise* his pleasant surprise* when, after moving his family to Chesterton from Albuquerque, N.M., he learned that his kids, aged 5 and 8, could sing Christmas songs in school.

“They do Christmas in the Duneland Schools,” Jakel says, with something like disbelief.

In the Albuquerque public schools? Not so much.

“When you think about the environment your kids are growing up in* that’s one of the reasons my wife and I moved to the Midwest: Americana,” Jakel says. “In Albuquerque everything’s vanilla.”

It is, in fact, the environment his kids are growing up in that prompted Jakel in the first place to run for the open 4th District seat on the Town Council. In the May 5 primary election, he’ll face Nathan Cobbs for the Republican nomination.

Jakel and Cobbs have much in common: both have young families; both, in their work, are responsible for other people’s money; and both waited until the last day to declare their candidacy. There is one obvious difference: Cobbs is a lifelong Chesterton resident.

Does Cobbs’ embeddedness in the town, in and of itself, make him a better candidate?

Jakel doesn’t think so.

Jakel as Manager

Jakel’s background is in food-service management. Now he manages the Tippecanoe Place restaurant in South Bend. In Albuquerque he was district manager of eight different stores. He’s managed not only multi-unit operations for a corporation but has overseen the growth of a single-unit business into a multi-unit company.

And after more than two decades of business-management experience, Jakel says, he’s acquired “the ability to work with others in an effort for common goals.”

“It’s all good experience,” he says. “It’s all about the people. The product is important and the service but it’s all about the people.”

“I believe I’m qualified for Town Council because I have over 25 years of management experience,” Jakel says. “I can collaborate for common goals and work productively on teams. I have fiscal experience with managing budgets in a business environment.”

Why Run?

The notion of running for office was originally put into Jakel’s head last December, at a GOP Christmas event, when he was approached by a party type who told him that Sharon Darnell’s 4th District seat was open, following her decision to step down at the end of her term this year.

Jakel thought about it and found the idea of municipal service appealing* although, like Cobbs, he didn’t jump until the last minute. “In your head, you’re more involved in big-government policies than little-government, because that’s what we see every day.” But it may be we’re looking at things through the wrong end of the telescope, Jakel says. “It’s important to stay grounded, to keep it simple and pay attention to the things that matter most to us. It’s all about family and kids.”

“Let me state: I’m not a politician,” Jakel says. “I’m just a father that wants a safe environment that my kids can grow up in and prosper. I feel this happens through effort and hard work and by me being a productive member of society. By running for Town Council, I feel I am investing in the future not only of my children but our whole community as well.”

“I want to continue to have Chesterton be a great family environment,” he adds. “I want to ensure our town has safe streets and quality parks that families enjoy throughout the year. I want to be a steward for the community by making sound and fiscally responsible decisions on the issues and needs of the town.”

The Issues

Two specific issues are on Jakel’s front-burner. Both concern economic development.

On the one hand, Jakel wants to see the town “promote larger, regional businesses along the Ind. 49 corridor, the kinds of companies that bring employment.”

“I’m surprised there’s not more development there,” he adds.

Not just any kind of big business, however. “Development along Ind. 49 is important but that in turn has to support the community,” he says. “Each decision should be made based on how it affects the financial standing, community values, and long-term vision of Chesterton.”

On the other hand, Jakel appreciates the “uniqueness of the Downtown” and believes that more could and should be done to position it as a hotspot in Northwest Indiana for “entertainment.” Fine and casual dining, “a mix” of shopping opportunities: small-business development along these lines would go a long way to keeping the Downtown healthy and attractive, he says.

To that end, the town, working with the Duneland Chamber of Commerce, would do well to “more actively promote the Downtown as a destination for regional events and tourism,” Jakel says.

Making a Home

in Chesterton

For Jakel, being a newcomer neither disqualifies nor disadvantages him for municipal service, no more than a lifetime in town automatically makes someone the ideal candidate.

For one thing, his is a “fresh eye,” Jakel says, and that could be a valuable asset to the Town Council.

For another thing, his stake* his family’s stake* in the well-being and future of Chesterton is hardly any less, he says, than that of someone whose people have been here for a century.

“Chesterton is a family- and community-based town,” Jakel says. “Upon re-locating from the Southwest, my wife and I chose to raise our family in Chesterton because of its reputation as a close-knit community and because of the public-school opportunities that are available. As a relatively new citizen of the community, I consider the future growth of businesses and promotion of community development vital to maintaining and improving the quality of life.”

“I would like the opportunity to serve the community that my family will be a part of for many years to come,” he adds. “I look forward to the prospect of working with the other council members to guide the direction of Chesterton.”

 

Nathan Cobbs

By KEVIN NEVERS

“When you come to a four-way stop in Chesterton, folks wave you through.”

That, for Nathan Cobbs, nutshells the place. “It’s the people who live here who make this community great,” he says. “Chesterton is where Valparaiso used to be, before Valpo grew too big.”

Cobbs is seeking the Republican nomination for the 4th District seat on the Town Council, and as a lifelong Chesterton resident* but for his time at Purdue University* he vows to embrace the council’s cautious policy of “very controlled” growth, to keep Chesterton’s “values the way they are.”

“The chief issue is how we best move forward as a town,” Cobbs says. “How do we make the best decisions for the citizens, for the business owners, for our children and our children’s children? Make no mistake, everything we do today will have an effect tomorrow or someday. The key for us, and so many other towns, is preserving our history while planning for tomorrow.”

The Decision to Run

Cobbs, a trust officer with Harbor Trust & Investment Management Company, is no stranger to service. He’s had a seat on the board of Rebuilding Together Duneland, one as well on the board of the Purdue Alumni Association. Currently he’s president-elect of the Chesterton-Porter Rotary Club.

Even so, Cobbs says that he wouldn’t have run at all, had the 4th District seat been occupied by “an incumbent who was doing well.” But late last year Sharon Darnell announced that she wouldn’t seek re-election in 2015, leaving the seat open. And so Cobbs deliberated, floating the idea of his candidacy to family and friends, “who urged him to run.” And still he deliberated, waiting for other Republicans to “throw their hat in the ring”* and none did. Finally, on the last possible day to file, Cobbs concluded that “now is the right time for me to take the next step and serve the community by being a part of the Town Council.”

Turns out, Republican Kevin Jakel reached the same conclusion on the same day, making it a contested race for the GOP nomination.

Cobbs and Jakel have much in common: both have young families and both, in their work, are responsible for other people’s money. One obvious difference: Jakel is new to Chesterton, having moved here from Albuquerque, N.M.

Cobbs on his Qualifications

Cobbs believes he brings two things in particular to the table. The first is his skill set as a financial planner. Often, he says, a wealth management firm retains some other company to conduct its investment analyses. Cobbs prefers to do his own. “Clients have such a personal relationship with their money, they should know what they’re investing in. Therefore, I will spend countless hours researching and analyzing the specific companies and investments that end up in my clients’ portfolios.”

Cobbs pledges to use the same principles and expend the same energy on behalf of the town. “I have the skills to analyze situations and help people, including the town, make the optimal financial decisions,” he says.

The second thing Cobbs says he brings to the table is something only a lifelong Chesterton resident can bring to the table: his lifelong Chesterton residency. “My time living in and working with the Chesterton community helps me as a potential council member,” he says. “Since I am connected with many people in town, I believe I could do a better job, more easily seeking out opinions as well as valuable resources. It’s one thing to live in town but to know people is another. I know who to go to for different issues or as a resource and have good relationships, with trust and history.”

“With the changes that will likely be taking place in the next few years, it is my opinion that this town will benefit by having someone with these connections in place,” Cobbs adds.

Issues

For Cobbs the chief way of moving the town forward, as he puts it, is economic development. It’s a “necessity,” he says. “Any town that isn’t growing or evolving is likely dying.”

Yet economic development must be pursued tactfully, with an eye to the past as well as to the future. “The town that I grew up in was a safe, fun community with values,” he says. “As we grow, we must keep in mind what has made us great and seek people and businesses with those same goals.”

The re-location of Urschel Laboratories Inc. to Coffee Creek Center is a prime example of economic development in the right key, Cobbs says. “They don’t hire you, they adopt you. We need that kind of business, that cares for the community.”

On the verge, then, of the likely development of the Ind. 49 corridor, the Town Council needs to continue to exercise restraint and wisdom, he says. “We’ve said ‘No’ to big boxes, to projects that would have generated tons of tax revenue. That’s what’s kept Chesterton safe. We want people who think and act like us. And I don’t think we need to apologize for that. They need to have the right kind of values.”

There are two specific issues close to Cobbs’ heart. The first is parks. “Our parks are underfunded,” he says. “I want to make sure they’re getting all the support they need.”

Parks and recreation, he adds, perhaps mean more to a father with children aged 6 and 3 than they might do to an empty-nester. “I bring a little bit different feel to it.”

The second issue: the state of the facade on Broadway.

The immediate Downtown, Cobbs says, is a pretty nice place to visit and shop. The stretch of Broadway west of the European Market site, however, “could stand a makeover.”

“There are some landlord issues,” he notes, which at a minimum the Town Council “can bring awareness to.”

Bridging Past and Future

“I have a good understanding of what Chesterton has been in the past,” Cobbs says. “The kind of understanding that you can only obtain from living here for a long time. Chesterton is unique and it is a great place to grow up and, in my case, come back home to after college and start a career and family. I want to be part of the future of Chesterton, while not forgetting how we got here. My grandfather moved our family here in the 1950s and he would often tell me about the history of Chesterton. This has stuck with me and I will keep that history in mind as we continue to evolve.”

 

Posted 4/29/2015