Two Porter Twp.
residents are competing for the Democratic nomination for South Distirct
Porter County Commissioner in the 2012 elections.
Council at-large member Laura Shurr Blaney is one of a three councilpersons
this year attempting to win a seat on the county board of commissioners. She
faces a contest with political newcomer Jerry A. Puckett.
County Commissioner Carole Knoblock, the board’s only Democrat, decided not
to seek reelection for a third term.
elections will be held on May 8. Early voting began April 9.
races are voted on countywide, not just in their respective districts.
Chesterton Tribune invited both Blaney and Puckett to respond to a
The Tribune set
word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) Age, place
of residence, occupation
Porter Township, Porter County Council Person At-Large
Hebron (Porter Township), Real Estate
(2) Describe the
legislative duties or responsibilities of a Porter County Commissioner.
County Commissioners “transact the business of the county.” Responsibilities
are numerous. Primary duties include the control, maintenance and
supervision of county property (county buildings, parks, libraries and
jail). They supervise construction and maintenance of bridges and roads.
Commissioners serve on and make appointments to county boards such as the
county drainage board. Animal control and the establishment of animal
shelters are under the commissioners’ watch. Economic development is also
duties and responsibilities of the county commissioner are numerous
including the oversight of the county buildings, county property and roads,
establishment of animal shelters and transacting the business of the county.
In addition to the administrative responsibilities, the Board of
Commissioners carry legislative responsibilities including approval of
(3) What are
your qualifications for this office? (75 words)
Blaney: I am
currently an at-large member of the Porter County Council. I understand how
county business works. I’m serving on various boards including NICTD, YMCA,
Family and Youth Services Bureau, and Animal Shelter Advisory Board. I
graduated from Purdue with highest distinction, hold a Master of Science
from Purdue, and taught there as well. My family and I owned and operated
Kelsey’s Steak Houses in Portage and Valparaiso for many years.
am a resident of Porter County, and hold a masters degree in public
administration. My background in business, serving as a volunteer, knowledge
of the operations of government combined with a willingness to listen to the
concerns of the citizens of our county.
(4) Why have you
decided to run for South District County Commissioner? (75 words)
ancestors were among the first to settle in Porter Township, and now my
husband, Ken, and I are raising our four children here. I love Porter County
and the people who live here. I want to give back to the community that has
given me so much. I want Porter County to remain a place where many
generations can succeed, government is honest, and people are proud to call
have decided to run for South District County Commissioner because we have
many issues facing Porter County, and I strongly believe that our officials
must work together against grid-lock in governance in order to achieve great
things for each citizen of our county. I favor transparency in government
and keeping our citizens informed on the issues and decisions affecting the
operation of our government.
(5) What are the
key issues in this race? (125 words)
First and foremost is job creation. The commissioners need to attract new
business and industry. A highlight Porter County can use to attract new
business is our low tax rate. I will work to keep our taxes low, and find
ways to do more with less. Porter County has excellent school systems, and I
will make sure educational needs are considered in all decision making. We
have a large nest egg from the hospital sale. With fiscally responsible
planning, we can ensure the principal is protected, while we invest in our
community. Investments like improved and well maintained infrastructure,
public safety including E911, orderly growth and development, and quality of
life benefits - including the arts, parks and sports’ fields, and a new
key issues of this race include the Ind. 49 corridor expansion project,
Willowcreek Road expansion to provide access between the City of Portage
(I-80) and US 30, construction of a new animal shelter, drainage issues
within the county in addition to employee health insurance plans.
(6) Do you think
the county needs to change its current employee health insurance plan?
Commissioners need to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate health benefits.
The costs are enormous, and it needs to be looked at closely each year.
Those costs need to be balanced with the needs of the employees. I believe
some type of change is coming to the insurance plan.
am strongly in favor of maintaining health insurance for our county
employees. However, before rendering a decision to change the current health
insurance plan, I believe that all options must be explored to provide
health insurance coverage for county employees while saving county tax
(7) Would you
agree with Commissioner Evans’ and Commissioner Adams’ vote to partner with
the Town of Chesterton in helping bring development to the Ind. 49 corridor?
Should the county partner with municipalities on projects like this? (75
I agree that the county should partner with Chesterton on this project as
well as similar projects with other municipalities. It keeps growth near the
cities and towns where it should be, and collaboration of resources allows
for everyone to accomplish more than they could on their own. It also
promotes more well-planned and orderly growth. We all live in this county
together, and stand to benefit by working with each other.
concur with Commissioner Evans’ and Commissioner Adams’ vote to partner with
the Town of Chesterton to bring development to the 49 corridor. This project
has the potential to bring employment opportunities to the county, increase
capital investments and generate additional property tax revenues, a win-win
for our county. I believe that these partnerships can translate into
positive investments for the county and our cities and towns.
(8) In what
other ways would you advocate growth and development throughout the county?
need to actively recruit new businesses to Porter County. I’d like to see
the county hire someone to target specific businesses and industries that
have been identified by our economic task force. Maintaining a high quality
of life will ensure we can attract the high-end jobs we want.
am in favor of supporting economic development and job creation. I believe
that growth and development are best accomplished through projects that are
thoughtfully designed. Working in tandem with municipalities and businesses
in a friendly environment drives economic growth and employment
measures should be taken to improve conditions at the Porter County Animal
Shelter? Do you favor building a new facility? (50 words)
County needs a new animal shelter. The one we have is horribly outdated and
inadequate. We need to make sure, however, that we can fund the ongoing
operational costs associated with a new building. Also of primary importance
will be the implementation of a spay/neuter program.
am in favor of constructing a new facility. The size of the current facility
calls for a shelter to be built to accommodate the population of pets.
Conditions of the shelter can be improved through spaying and neutering,
effective adoption campaigns and educating the public on responsible pet
original architect of the county administration building recently told the
commissioners that the center is running out of space for government to
perform even its basic duties. Do you think the county should purchase a new
building to accommodate its growing departments or would you recommend
another way to solve space issues? (50 words)
is the type of problem that requires “outside of the box” thinking. Can we
use modern technology to help us? Is all of the space being well utilized?
Can we remodel and shuffle to achieve necessary space needs? Every new
expense must be carefully scrutinized.
Constructing a new county administration building is a major project. We
need to make certain that taxpayers will not bear the burden of a new
building in the form of higher taxes. While I realize that we must continue
to facilitate growth, it is imperative that all options are explored.
(11) Do you
regularly attend Porter County Commissioner meetings? Why or why not?
I want to be able to hit the ground running. This will be my only job, and
thus a full time job for me.
have not regularly attended county commissioner meetings due to schedule
conflicts; however I keep informed through the published minutes of the
Differentiate yourself from your opponent and tell why you are the best
candidate in this race. (75 words)
don’t know my opponent well. I do know I have six years experience in Porter
County Government on the County Council, and my opponent has none. My
experience will allow me to conquer the learning curve much faster. I also
think my strength is the ability to bring various groups together and
achieve compromise. I don’t worry about who gets credit, just that jobs get
done – which is more important now than ever.
view that we must not be a roadblock to economic development in our county.
My education in public administration differentiates me from my opponent. I
philosophize that we must be good stewards with the tax dollars of citizens.
I strongly believe the duties of a commissioner require full time service.
Therefore, I intend to work as a county commissioner on a full time basis.