Chesterton Tribune

Blaney and Puckett vie for Democrat South County Commissioner nomination

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Two Porter Twp. residents are competing for the Democratic nomination for South Distirct Porter County Commissioner in the 2012 elections.

Porter County 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.

Current South County Commissioner Carole Knoblock, the board’s only Democrat, decided not to seek reelection for a third term.

Primary elections will be held on May 8. Early voting began April 9.

Commissioner races are voted on countywide, not just in their respective districts.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both Blaney and Puckett to respond to a questionnaire.

The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) Age, place of residence, occupation

Blaney: 43, Porter Township, Porter County Council Person At-Large

Puckett: 38, Hebron (Porter Township), Real Estate

(2) Describe the legislative duties or responsibilities of a Porter County Commissioner. (75 words)

Blaney: The 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 their responsibility.

Puckett: The 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 county ordinances.

(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.

Puckett: I 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)

Blaney: My 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 home.

Puckett: I 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)

Blaney: 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 animal shelter.

Puckett: The 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? (50 words)

Blaney: The 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.

Puckett: I 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 dollars.

(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 words)

Blaney: Yes, 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.

Puckett: I 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? (50 words)

Blaney: We 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.

Puckett: I 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 opportunities.

(9) What measures should be taken to improve conditions at the Porter County Animal Shelter? Do you favor building a new facility? (50 words)

Blaney: The 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.

Puckett: I 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 ownership.

(10) The 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)

Blaney: This 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.

Puckett: 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? (25 words)

Blaney: Yes, I want to be able to hit the ground running. This will be my only job, and thus a full time job for me.

Puckett: I have not regularly attended county commissioner meetings due to schedule conflicts; however I keep informed through the published minutes of the meetings.

(12) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and tell why you are the best candidate in this race. (75 words)

Blaney: I 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.

Puckett: My 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.



Posted 4/11/2012