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Emerson DeLaney and Tristan Ziska vie for nomination to Chesterton Town Council

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Tristan Ziska Candidate Profile


Candidate: Tristan Ziska.

Party: Republican.

Office sought: 5th District seat, Chesterton Town Council.

Salary: $4,835.

Term: Four years.

Age: 25.

Family: Single.

Occupation: IT systems coordinator, QSRSoft Inc.

For Tristan Ziska it all begins with grassroots democracy. “I’m very passionate about the idea that the people need to be heard,” he says. “I’d like to hear the voice of the people and do something with that. I’m sick of just seeing what happens in Washington where clearly what the American people want is not what the American people are getting. And I know this is the Chesterton Town Council, it’s not Congress. But it’s something. If everyone did what they could, we’d get somewhere.”

So Ziska’s taking a crack at politics himself. “I want to break into it and see how it goes,” he says. “Political office is always something I’ve kind of wanted to do and this seemed a good way to get into it. This is not one of those ‘I want to take this step and use that to run for mayor, governor.’ It’s not like I’ve gotten something mapped out.”

And it’s precisely his status as a novice, Ziska says, which makes him a good candidate. “What I’m bringing to the table is a fresh view, something new. The framers of the Constitution thought it was important enough that we get a fresh face in every four years. Why not the same thing here? Same idea, let’s try something new.”

If elected, would Ziska limit himself to a single term and give someone else new a shot?

“Yeah,” he says. “I would definitely do what I needed to do, let someone else bring in the same idea.”

Does Ziska have any opinion about his opponent, incumbent Emerson DeLaney, R-5th?

“He has more experience than I do,” Ziska says. “He’s the incumbent. I can’t argue with that. But in that he’s the incumbent, he’s been doing this for four years. The idea of doing the same thing over and over again, you become stuck in a rut.”

Ziska—who moved to Chesterton from Chicago in December 2010—does acknowledge that it would take him a few months to get up to speed. “In the first three months I would definitely just like to hear what the residents of Chesterton want, and based on that and on what is accomplishable—I can’t obviously go out there and say ‘Let’s hear what everyone wants’ and do exactly that—but take what the people want and implement what we can. Break what we can into small accomplishable goals and work towards that, really just start to do what we can.”

What has Ziska so far heard from residents?

“The fact that the street gets torn up every year,” he says. “It’s a major inconvenience to absolutely everyone. Now what the council could do to limit the impact of that, I’m not entirely sure. Day-to-day things like that, people just aren’t happy with the inconveniences. We’re a very small town and close-knit community. And for the most part things as usual are perfectly acceptable, except when it’s things as usual that are problems that happen every year.”

For Ziska a chief issue is economic development. “Part of Chesterton’s charm is it’s a bedroom community,” he says. “And that’s a definite strength. That said, I would definitely like to see some new business moving into town and generating some additional economic growth, some revenue. Just driving around you can see we’ve got quite a few For Rent or For Lease signs up. And I’d like to see some new business moving into the community, ideally business which is this sort of theme. I don’t want to see a Wal-Mart going up in the middle of Downtown Chesterton. We got a Kmart. And I really think that would drive out all of Main Street.”

On the other hand, Ziska does believe that there’s a place for big boxes, just not in the heart of a community. “If at the same time we could have the Wal-Mart out there and the Mom-and-Pops here, it would be kind of the best of both worlds,” he says. “The Wal-Mart far enough away where we still can get the bigger ticket items where it’s affordable yet keep the Mom-and-Pops here.”

And when it comes to economic development, Ziska says, the Town Council should take the bull by the horns. “The Town Council can make it very economically attractive for business to move in. And if we can make it economically attractive in terms of ‘Here’s what we’ll do for your business if you move here,’ that should drive property owners to be leasing out those locations.”

“It’s a completely fresh view point,” Ziska says of his candidacy. “I’m coming into this without the idea of four years of ‘This is how things have to be.’ This is something new. This is a chance for something new. ‘This is what works, this is what doesn’t work.’ Now let’s not get locked in to this idea of ‘This is what hasn’t worked, this is what we’ve been doing.’ This is time for a change. A lot of things are happening now. Let’s try something different.”

Emerson DeLaney Candidate Profile


Candidate: Emerson DeLaney.

Party: Republican.

Incumbent: 5th District seat, Chesterton Town Council.

Salary: $4,835.

Term: Four years.

Age: 56.

Family: Wife, four children.

Occupation: Store manager, Hopkins Ace Hardware.

Emerson DeLaney is no stranger to public service. While still living in Hammond, he was appointed by the governor to sit on the Little Calumet River Basin Development Commission, on which he served three years as president. That seat he resigned, after moving to Chesterton, to serve a term on the Board of Zoning Appeals. Then, in 2007, he was elected to the 5th District seat on the Town Council. Now DeLaney is seeking re-election.

“This current Town Council has done a lot of good things for our community,” DeLaney says. “We meld well together. And with moneys we are entrusted with, we have been able to accomplish a lot, with parks, infrastructure, the future growth of our community. I want to continue to see that through.”

Among the council’s achievements this term, DeLaney counts these: the friendly annexation of around 140 acres on both sides of Ind. 49 south of the Indiana Toll Road; the creation of a new tax increment financing district to fund the installation of utilities along the Ind. 49 corridor; and the appointment of Fire Chief Mike Orlich, Police Chief Dave Cincoski, Building Commissioner Dave Novak, and Town Manager Bernie Doyle. “These are all things that are going to help us grow in the future and prosper.”

And then too there are the “beautification projects,” DeLaney adds. “The South Calumet District, that’s a wonderful project. A lot of sidewalks. The street signs. Those are CEDIT moneys. You put nice wrappers on things, people like that.”

DeLaney includes among his own achievements organizing the Chesterton Cruise Night in the Downtown, formerly in conjunction with the Duneland Business Initiative Group, this year with the Parks and Recreation Department; running “interference” for Kay and Joe Gersna, who only just purchased the fire damaged house at 616 S. Second St. with the idea of rehabbing it, making demolition unnecessary; and being involved in the appointment of both Orlich and Cincoski.

“There’s a lot of things I have done but I’m not one to toot my horn,” DeLaney says. “A lot of business people in town have come to me and residents too, asking for help in different things. Because I’m very tangible, I’m very tangible in the town. I feel that I have done a good job for the residents of our community and I want to continue to do that.”

Of the candidacy of his opponent in the primary, fellow Republican Tristan Ziska, DeLaney says this: “I welcome it. This is America. You can do what you want to do. There’s always somebody with a better idea. I welcome it.”

Economic development has been a priority of the current Town Council, DeLaney says. It will be the next one’s priority as well: “to maintain and/or enhance town services and infrastructure,” as he puts it. “When you put all those elements in place, you’re going to continue to have population growth in our bedroom community. But we’re also going to have retail, professional, and light manufacturing.”

And all signs, DeLaney says, are pointing in the right direction. For one thing, the few light manufacturing sites in town “are being looked at. In these economic times, for people to be looking is a great, great thing.”

“There’s also a lot of interest in our Downtown area,” DeLaney says.

“But the big thing is medical and I think people are finally getting the message,” he observes. Saint Anthony Memorial Health Center has begun construction of the 24-hour ER department on Indian Boundary Road; the Town Council granted a 10-year tax abatement to Long Term Care Investments to build a nursing home on Dickinson Road; and there is the medical campus, anchored by the Lakeshore Bone & Joint Institute, at Coffee Creek Center.

To those concerned about the possibility of a big box’s being developed in town, DeLaney would say this: if a Wal-Mart or similar corporation “wanted to come in and plop down on the Rossman property (south of the Toll Road), and if they jumped through every hoop, crossed every t, and dotted every i, we couldn’t stop them. It’s in the (planned unit development ordinance). But the PUD’s pretty tight, pretty restrictive.”

But given that Chesterton is located so close to Michigan City, Portage, and Valparaiso—with big box shopping near at hand—“for one of them to want to come here, it’s going to take a lot.”

“I’m 56, my father was a school teacher, there were seven kids, so I know what frugal is all about,” DeLaney concludes. “The American Dream back then was to live and work within your own community. I have achieved that. I look at it this way. I’ve got the Great American Dream. I live and work within the community. I also work for the community. You talk about personal achievements. It’s helping the residents within our community achieve what they want, that’s what a councilman does, is supposed to do.”


Posted 4/7/2011




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