Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

Democratic candidates introduce themselves at forum

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By KEVIN NEVERS

Democratic candidates had the chance on Thursday to tout their qualifications and air their views at a forum sponsored by the Westchester Township Democratic Club at Hageman Library in Porter.

Candidates for the contested races of Porter County Sheriff, Porter County Recorder, Porter County Auditor, and Porter County Coroner all appeared.

Each was given approximately three minutes to speak.

Sheriff

•Sheriff David Lain: Despite the enormous growth of the county’s unincorporated population—from around 75 subdivisions in 1999 to around 230 in 2009—last year saw a 3-percent drop in crime, the incumbent Lain said. The PCSP is trying to keep pace with that growth and succeeded in expanding the Patrol Division by two officers without tapping the General Fund, using the revenues instead from sheriff’s sales. “I think the people of Porter County get a tremendous bang for their buck. We’ve got a good product, we’re considerate, we’re responsive, we’re respectful, and we’re effective. We want to keep Porter County the safe place that it is.” Lain added, “I’ve got the best job in the building. There are 150 people in the building who do nothing day and night but make me look good. I think we’re on a good path.”

•Chip Yanta: With 27 years of experience at the PCSP—in the jail, as a patrol officer, as an undercover narcotics officer, and with 20 years in the Detective Bureau—Yanta said that he would bring “a wealth of knowledge and experience” to the position. In addition, he’s attended 47 special courses and schools and was a senior instructor and then commander of the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Gary. And he’s a Vietnam veteran with a long military background, Yanta said. “Porter County has seen too many youthful drug overdose deaths and too many suicides. These need to be addressed. And I have some programs in mind to deal with this problem. I have the knowledge and the leadership abilities to combat this.”

Recorder

•Jon Voelz: Voelz, a resident of Beverly Shores, has worked most recently as a realtor and has a knowledge of liens, deeds, mortgages, and the other official documents which the Recorder preserves and maintains. In the past he has managed a staff of 35, Voelz said, and would be comfortable doing so with the six- to eight-person staff at the Recorder’s Office. He is a former member of the Beverly Shores Advisory Plan Commission and currently sits on the Park Board. “As Porter County grows, we need to grow smart and we need the county to stay technologically current,” Voelz said.

•Debby Dean Malik: Malik presently works in the Lake County Recorder’s Office as a certified deputy county recorder and—as a “floater” in the office—is cross-trained in five different functions. She also successfully owned her own business for eight years, Malik said.

Auditor

•Auditor Jim Kopp: Incumbent Kopp—with a degree from Marquette University in electrical engineering and industrial management—called the last four years of his tenure “interesting” but said that “finally a lot of problems have been solved,” even though “we have further to go.” The county’s three different computer systems remain to be integrated and should be in the next six to eight months, at which point they’ll “be able to speak in real time hopefully and people in all the offices will be looking at the same data.” Just this week the Auditor’s Office has begun to distribute money electronically—2,000 checks are mailed to vendors every month, at a cost of $1 per check in materials—for an eventual cost savings of $4,000 to $5,000 per month. Kopp also said that he administers the health insurance for county employees purchased by the Commissioners and is looking at ways to save money there as well, including membership in the Healthy Access program, which could save on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. “I’d like four more years to finish what we started,” Kopp said.

•Vicki Urbanik: For 25 years Urbanik has worked as a reporter for the Chesterton Tribune, specializing in the coverage of county government and in particular budgeting and taxes. “Local officials have many times asked me for my input or to explain tax policy,” Urbanik said. She has achieved her Level II assessor certification, has written a number of tax brochures and essays and has hosted tax workshops, and believes in “getting as much information out to the public in easy-to-understand terms to demystify the process, because the General Assembly keeps changing the laws.” Urbanik added, “I am a stickler for accuracy and detail and I’ve found many mistakes in county and state data. I want to improve the accuracy and timeliness of tax bills and there’s a tremendous need for public outreach on property taxes and county option income taxes. I want to maintain and improve the lines of communication with local government officials. I’m trained to see all sides of an issue and I work well with people. And this would be a full-time job for me.”

Coroner

•Acting Interim Corner Robert Schulte: Schulte has served as Coroner since Vicki Deppe’s resignation on Feb. 28 and since then, “unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of action.” The Coroner’s responsibility: to determine the cause and manner of death and to notify the families of the deceased. “It’s a very important job,” Schulte said. His particular interest: stemming the tide of suicides in the county—seven since he took office—and to that end he’s working with Porter-Starke Services Inc. “It’s a sticky situation. I want to do some education.” Schulte has served as a Valparaiso firefighter since 2003, has a background in criminal justice from Indiana University, and has worked for the family business. “Compassion and response is very important to me.”

•Norm Hudson: Hudson has 25 years’ experience as a medical scientist, with 15 years at Indiana University. He’s currently in real estate.

•Ronald Reed: Reed has been a licensed funeral director for 40 years and a volunteer firefighter and certified paramedic for many years and served as a deputy coroner in the 1970s. He has responded to several disaster scenes over the years, including the Roselawn plane crash and the South Shore crash. As Porter County grows, Reed said, the number of death scenes will increase. “We’ve got to get into the schools, teach them about drugs and gangs, and show them what could happen.” Reed noted that he’s worked “a couple of jobs all his life.”

Note: The fourth and fifth Democratic candidates for Coroner, Billy Coker and Nancy Satterlee were not in attendance.

Uncontested Races

The following candidates in uncontested races also appeared at the forum and spoke: State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary; Westchester Township Trustee Suzanne Philbrick; and Porter County Clerk Pam Fish.

A campaign representative for U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-1st—unable to attend due to a prior commitment—also spoke.

 

Posted 4/9/2010

 

 

 

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