Chesterton Tribune



Vote for up to 3 in County Council atlarge race

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Voters may choose up to three candidates on their ballot from the six who are running for the at-large seats on the Porter County Council -- three Democrats and three Republicans.

All three of the Democrats -- Sylvia Graham, Bob Poparad and Dan Whitten -- are currently serving Council members hoping to get a shot at another term. Lined up to challenge them are three Republicans -- Travis Gearhart, Jeff Larson and Richard Parks.


Gearhart is a former Hebron Town Council member who currently lives in Duneland working as a commercial sales representative for Luke Oil. He says his skills in managing and sales are valuable to the Council, which serves as the fiscal body of county government.

His ambition to run for County Council is to help keep the county a desirable place to raise a family. Gearhart said he feels the County could have invested the sale principal from the County Hospital sooner to better address necessary infrastructure needs. He values public safety and says the County Council should work with municipal partners in funding the $9 million to $10 million required for upgrades to an 800 Megahertz emergency radio communication system.

Larson, a retired Chesterton High School vocational instructor and owner of Larson Contracting Services, is currently president of the Liberty Twp. Advisory Board and trustee of Chesterton Cemetery. He has been involved in community organizations in the past like the Porter Parks Foundation.

Larson said he would strive to improve the quality of life and maintain an open-door policy in County government. He wants to create high quality jobs and provide better infrastructure. He would like to see more reports from department heads and seek ways spending can be more efficient. As for the Porter County Government Foundation Endowment Fund, which holds in investment the hospital sale principal, projects should be rated on a scale of community benefit, he said.

Parks is a Valparaiso resident and president of White Peterman Properties who says he has in-depth knowledge of financial operations of business and government. Financial knowledge is the foundation of good fiscal operations, said Parks, and he would be willing to guide the County as it makes tough decisions.

Parks said he would like to see new energy and new ideas on the Council. The greatest opportunity in County government, according to Parks, is to convince departments to run themselves more efficiently. He supports the idea of all local governments working together to avoid a public safety tax. The County should evaluate its assets and keep in mind that upgrading facilities will bring a savings in operational costs.


Graham, a Center Twp. resident, has served two terms on the County Council having initially been elected in 2008. She has worked as a family nurse practitioner, is a retired professional bass fisherman and a 4-H leader. Graham said she is running for reelection because she believes there is more work to do.

The biggest challenge the County Council is facing is that the county is growing. Graham said. Safety of residents must be ensured and needs must be met for the County’s Highway Department. The interest money from the Foundation endowment fund should help create job-growth capital projects as well as community projects like the development of Aukiki Park in south Porter County.

Whitten is running for his fourth term on the Council and has been the president for several years. A Porter Twp. resident, he is a bankruptcy lawyer at Whitten and Whitten in Portage. Whitten boasts that the County’s tax rate has decreased over the last four years and with the Foundation generating an interest of up to $5 million per year or more, the County will be solvent.

With the Foundation in place, Whitten said there is much to do with planning what should be done with the interest earned. He said he would like to see projects for the parks department, Porter County Museum, Expo Center and the Memorial Opera House. He would also like to see an application for grants and possibly a scholarship fund. Whitten said he encourages the County to budget conservatively.

Poparad is finishing up his first term as an at-large Council member, and served multiple terms representing the Council’s first district seat. He is a Burns Harbor resident and owner of Pinkerton Oil in Porter. He said he is proud that the County’s tax rate has decreased in a number of consecutive years while maintaining quality services, as well as taking part in setting up the Foundation endowment fund.

For the future, Poparad said he would like to have the opportunity to continue to serve the County and see good things continue with the Foundation to enhance safety and prosperity. The biggest challenges for the Council are combating the increasing costs of healthcare and ensuring quality service while not raising taxes, Poparad said. He says the interest generated by the Foundation can be best used for capital projects like the Raise-the-Barn activity center at Sunset Hill Farm and community non-profits.

Straight ticket voting

Straight ticket voters should note that due to changes in Indiana law this year, choosing the straight ticket option will not automatically count for any individual candidate in at-large races, including this year’s County Council races. For straight ticket voters to select an at-large candidate, they will need to fill in the oval next to an at-large candidate’s name for their votes to count.


Posted 11/7/2016




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