Chesterton Tribune



North Commissioner race Biggs faces challenge from Lombardini

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In the general election Tuesday, Nov. 3, Republican Jim Biggs will defend his North district seat on the Porter County Board of Commissioners against Democrat challenger Becky Mateja Lombardini.

Early in-person voting began Tuesday in Porter County.

All Porter County voters vote in this race. The candidates are required to live in one of the five North County Townships.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both to participate in a candidate questionnaire. The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to edit for length.

1) Age, place of residence, occupation.

Biggs: Age: 62. Residence: Chesterton. Occupation: Director of Business, Great Lakes Labs.

Lombardini: I am 54. Iíve lived in Porter for 20 years. I am a small business owner, consultant, and instructor at Indiana University Northwest.

2) For Biggs: Why are you seeking re-election to the County Board of Commissioners? (75 words)

Biggs: I enjoy serving the public. I also believe that the majority of our residents appreciate the job that the current board of commissioners have been doing. Especially, during these difficult times.

For Lombardini: Why are you seeking election to the County Board of Commissioners? (75 words)

Lombardini: I was slated for commissioner because ďweĒ--myself, the Porter County Democrats, and other community members thought it would be good for our party, system, and most importantly country that we have an option. Especially after helping Frank Mrvan for Congress, I saw positive politics and developed strong relationships. Competition should bring out the best in people. Win or not, I will still help Porter County and our area thrive.

3) For Biggs: Describe your achievements in office. (100 words)

Biggs: Major achievements by the board of commissioners would be the renovation of the county courthouse, Expo Center, and North County Court Annex. In addition, we have restructured the county health insurance program and county employee policy manual, rebuilt the stormwater system in South Haven, which is the largest populated community located in an unincorporated area in our state, and took on the huge undertaking of extending Willowcreek Road out to State Route 130 for the purpose of creating another major north/south transportation route here in our county.

For Lombardini: What specific skill sets would you bring to the Board of Commissioners if elected? (100 words)

Lombardini: Certain skills are needed in any successful venture--for example listening, collaborating, and applying best practices. I am also fiscally responsible. I formulated that putting myself through college on a basketball scholarship where I learned about teamwork and leadership as well. Iím also a hard working individual from blue collar immigrant grandparents and parlayed that into my career while raising three children. I thank my parents for those lessons. And finally, I am a servant leader. I admire the teachings of Stephen Covey, the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that I strive to emulate every day.

4) For Biggs: As a sitting Commissioner, what are two things you think the Board could have handled better in the past four years? Explain. (100 words)

Biggs: Developing a better understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed is common. With that said, county government employs more than 1000 employees, manages an annual budget of more than $45 million dollars, maintains more than 900 miles of county roads, and operates and maintains 18 buildings that provide services for nearly 170,000 residents. Weíre good at what we do, but we are not perfect. Given all those responsibilities, itís probably fair to say that there are many things we could have handled better. This is exactly why we continuously look for smarter and better solutions.

For Lombardini: As a citizen seeking election to the Board, what are two things you think the Board of Commissioners has done a good job of the past four years? Explain. (100 words)

Lombardini: As an average citizen, I donít think folks know the term ďcommissionersĒ or what they do exactly. As a candidate, Iíve been learning quite a bit, gleaning everything I can in these past three months since taking on this honor. First, we have a beautiful county and good quality of life that many people who live here contribute to on a daily basis. Second, I would imagine overseeing a large, transparent, and fair budget is always a top task for an executive. And from what Iíve seen, the auditor and the council help round out the implementation of that duty.

5) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why in particular you believe yourself to be the better candidate. (100 words)

Biggs: Experience. Iíve been elected three different times to the Porter County Board of Commissioners, and twice to our county council. I hold a masterís degree in Public Safety Administration, served as a criminal fraud investigator for the Indiana Attorney Generalís Office, and have served on literally dozens of local and state government boards throughout the years. As a public official, I have helped other county officials manage our county through several difficult times throughout the years. Such as, fiscal challenges caused by various economic downturns in our economy, damaging storms, severe county jail overcrowding, and a pandemic.

Lombardini: Aside from the obvious, Iím very qualified; I just havenít had a ďformalĒ government title. I have been involved in many endeavors and led them to their goals, from a Wellness Center Manager at Ford Motor Company with Johnson & Johnson to a Community Relations Coordinator for Community Health Care Systems. But, I believe what really differentiates me is my fresh perspective, and I hope that the voters will embrace that with me. Also, not having a ďfull-time positionĒ elsewhere will allow me to devote more to this role and remain involved in the community as I have been.

6) What are the key issues in this race? (75 words)

Biggs: The proven experience to help successfully manage county government through these difficult times.

Lombardini: Like most, I am pensive about my familyís health, our economy, and education. As for the commissionerís race, one is fair contracting--getting three bids from local contractors with planned labor agreements. Another is good decision making--weighing options especially regarding the interest on the investment of the hospital sale. A third is caring for our resources--like our beaches and parks where visitors should pay, follow the rules, and clean up after themselves. Namaste.

7) What are your priorities for use of the funds in the Porter County Non-profit Charitable Foundation? (75 words)

Biggs: The only priority I have for the $170 million in our foundation is to see that itís not spent foolishly. I will continue to support using a portion of the interest derived from its principle investments, as weíve done, to repair and improve county buildings without raising taxes. Because county officials have not squandered these funds away, it all but guarantees that weíre uniquely positioned to handle almost any unforeseen problem that might hinder operations.

Lombardini: I believe that our officials should be able to contemplate various ideas presented and decide how to best utilize the funds based on our citizens here. Of special interest to me, are actions that build strong bonds like recreation and keeping our children safe, especially from temptations.

8) National issues often dominate political conversations, and some would say tensions are running especially high due to the upcoming presidential election. Explain why local government is where youíve chosen to serve and why itís important to you. (100 words)

Biggs: As a lifelong resident of our county, as well as a county government official, I have learned firsthand over the years that all levels of local government can have an immediate and profound effect on the quality of life for our residents who live here. Itís local units of governments that manage our schools, libraries, parks, roads, utilities, bridges, courts, jails, and our local income taxes and property taxes. All of these things are important to me, and this is why I have chosen to serve within county government.

Lombardini: Iím a family values-driven individual. I believe itís really important to start there--teaching, motivating, and providing with love, honor, and compassion. I have dedicated my life to helping others, and now is a good time to utilize what Iíve learned to help in an official political, although I feel ďpublic serviceĒ capacity. Local is the heart of community and working with those at different levels is an integral part of the success. With energy, support, an open mind, savvy, respect, and tolerance, we can make a huge difference in our communities where we spend most of our time.

9) Describe an experience you have had outside of serving in/campaigning for local government office that elevated your understanding of how local government affects everyday people. (125 words)

Biggs: Like most of our residents, I pay property taxes, and income taxes. I own a home, and I have raised a family here in our county. I am also a small business owner here in our county.

Lombardini: I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout the world taking in best practices. Itís a good barometer to see how others live and view society. Politics--our policies, our beliefs, and our behavior is intricately linked to our results. As Margaret Mead said, ďNever underestimate the power of one voice.Ē Because our opinions directly impact local issues and decisions, it affects each of us. For example, I was very proud of the students, including mine, at Chesterton High School, taking on ďMarch for Our LivesĒ, the beginnings of impact makers in ďlocalĒ government.

10) The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis the likes of which our nation hasnít seen in over a century--since the 1918 influenza epidemic. What are your specific plans for leading Porter County through this crisis? (125 words)

Biggs: Firstly, the commissioners should continue to work closely with our county health department and the Indiana State Department of Health until the pandemic subsides, and it will. We should also continue to provide important and useful information to our residents to assist them in becoming more informed as the issues surrounding the pandemic continue to evolve. Lastly, as a county commissioner, I believe it is important to understand that this pandemic has had and will continue to have an effect on our county finances. As such, it will be important to understand and smartly manage that effect moving forward.

Lombardini: Iíve always been diligent, done good, and had faith. When you have an issue, as Pete Visclosky said, you gather the facts. If you have a problem, you isolate and care for it until itís better and can reenter the group that continues to engage so they can remain mentally sharp, productive, and calm. Specifically, Iíd work with the county health department and the governor to mitigate the situation, following all prescribed mandates until weíre confident that our statistics are nearing normal readings so we can function within accepted parameters. As I learned in my masterís program in Public Affairs, ďAll decisions are economic.Ē We are constantly weighing the risk to benefit ratio. I would like to help make those wise and caring decisions.


Posted 10/7/2020




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