In the upcoming May 8 primary election, 1st District County Councilman Jim
Biggs will vie for the Republican nomination for the North County
Commissioner seat against incumbent Commissioner John Evans.
Commissioner races are voted on countywide. Early voting began April 9.
Evans is running for his fourth consecutive term, having first been elected
to the office in 2000. He has served as president of the board of
commissioners since 2011.
Biggs served two previous terms as North County Commissioner starting in
1993. He returned to politics when he was elected to the county council in
The Chesterton Tribune invited both candidates to respond to a
The Tribune set word limits for each question and reserved the right to edit
(1) Age, place of residence, occupation
Biggs: 54, Chesterton, National Director of Accounts for SEB Security
Evans: 62, Chesterton, Edmonds and Evans Funeral Director and County
(2) Describe the legislative duties or responsibilities of a Porter County
Commissioner. (75 words)
Biggs: The County Commissioners are responsible for: providing traffic
control, granting vacation pay, sick leave, paid holidays to county
employees, administering elections with the county election board, auditing
and authorizing claims against the county, receiving bids, authorizing
contracts, maintaining county property including courthouses, jails, and
public offices, supervising the construction and maintenance of all county
roads and bridges, serve on the county board of finance, and enact
ordinances and resolutions as established by state law.
Evans: The commissioners are the executive branch of county government,
much like the mayors in cities. The Commissioners are responsible for roads,
drainage, and bridges (all bridges in the county, including those within
city or town limits). They are also responsible for all contracts entered
into by the county, planning and zoning, all ordinances, maintenance and
repair of all county owned buildings. The Commissioners oversee all county
departments; Highway, Information Technology, E 911, amongst others.
(3)To Biggs: What are your qualifications for this office? To Evans:
Describe your accomplishments in office. (75 words)
Biggs: I currently serve as the 1st District Representative on the
Porter County Council. I was also elected to the Porter County Board of
Commissioners in 1992, and again in 1996. As I promised to do when I
initially ran for this office, I did not run for a third consecutive term. I
hold a Master of Science Degree in Public Safety Administration, and a
Bachelors of Science Degree in Law Enforcement Management.
Evans: The Jobs Plan Cabinet is among my latest accomplishments. Working
with area mayors, we have enlisted the aid of community leaders to help
create clear policies to create infrastructure to bring good jobs. They will
advise us on the creation of infrastructure that will enable us to bring
good jobs. I have been instrumental in solving some issues with the animal
shelter by establishing boards. I have also established the E911 Policy and
(4) What are the key issues in this race? (125 words)
Biggs: County Commissioners establish priorities. They create the
policy, and they set the example. From my chair on the county council, I
have witnessed a county commissioner’s office which refuses to acknowledge
our county’s inability to take on any additional reoccurring debt. It should
be alarming to all of us that at the same time our county council is flat
lining county government’s general operations budget, the chairman of the
board of commissioners is suggesting a new animal shelter, a new police
garage, and requesting to purchase a building across the street.
Evans: The issues in this race involve positioning Porter County to take
full advantage of job growth by finalizing a comprehensive plan and
evaluating the creation of a north/south corridor, potentially in the
Portage area – extending Willowcreek Road south to US Hwy 30 or beyond to
Ind. 2. Other big issues include: funding E-911, maintaining an employee
insurance program that provides full coverage and stability, supporting
county offices to insure the tax bills go out on time, and planning and
funding support to assure our historic buildings are maintained.
(5)What would be your primary goal if elected to this term? (50 words)
Biggs: If elected, I will promote the creation of a comprehensive
strategic operations plan. Simply reacting to problems and then paying
consultants to resolve them is not responsible governing. The largest and
most expensive problems within county government can be directly attributed
to poor planning and even poorer communication.
Evans: Implementing the Jobs Plan as it is released by the Cabinet. This
comprehensive plan will allow the county to be in the best position to
accept and direct new business and industrial growth. A Redevelopment
Commission empowered with the necessary statutory power will aid this
(6) Members of the Chesterton Town Council have asked Porter County to
partner with them on bringing utilities to the Ind. 49 corridor. Portage has
made similar proposals on collaborating with the county. How do you think
the county should respond to these requests? (75 words)
Biggs: Our Public Safety Dispatching System is operating at an annual
deficit of $2.5 million dollars. A commissioner’s consultant recently stated
that the animal shelter needs to increase 3 to 4 times its current size, and
the county health insurance program is literally costing more than we can
responsibly afford. Once we get our own house in order we will be able to
assist other local governments as we should.
Evans: Each proposal should be evaluated based on the common good for
citizens of Porter County. Partnering with the Town of Chesterton makes
sense. It will provide an infrastructure source from which development could
continue, bringing much needed jobs to our communities. The city of Portage
is working on a proposal to potentially share a building that could bring
services of the county and city together to share costs, rather than support
separate buildings and utilities.
(7) Do you feel that the county should impose a tax increment finance (TIF)
district as a way to increase development around the new hospital site
Biggs: It is important that TIFs are carefully managed since they have
the ability to divert property tax revenue from schools, libraries and other
much needed local public services. Not every circumstance is the same, which
is why county government needs to fully understand its own limitations as
well as other local units of government that may be affected by rushing into
a decision of this size and scope.
Evans: A TIF District is not necessarily just a means to increase
development but it could be a mechanism to make sure development that does
occur is orderly and a good “fit” for the area surrounding it. TIF Districts
can be very effective in assuring revenue generated from an area stays
within that area to be utilized by the citizens. I support considering a TIF
District based on the return of investment to the community.
(8)What measures should be taken to improve conditions at the Porter County
Animal Shelter? Do you favor building a new facility? (50 words)
Biggs: Yes. However, it must be within our county’s ability to operate
it, tactically planned out, and aggressively promoted. I do not understand
how something so meaningful in its intended purpose could have been allowed
to get in this dreadful condition in the first place.
Evans: The shelter has vastly improved in six months. The new leadership
team has worked closely with the dedicated employees and volunteers.
Currently the county is anxiously awaiting recommendations from a study by
the Shelter Planners of America and we should evaluate the scope and size of
a new facility.
(9) 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)
Biggs: A comprehensive facilities assessment of all county buildings
needs to be completed before a decision to simply grow government is made.
Building our way out of a problem of this type is a very expensive
alternative, which is what design architects typically recommend.
Evans: There is definitely a space issue. A new building would help but
we must be fiscally responsible and evaluate all potential solutions.
Valparaiso is currently purchasing the building across from the
administration center and is considering a partnership that may mutually
benefit the citizens of the city and Porter County.
(10) As a commissioner, would you make the effort to see funding be given to
preserve the Memorial Opera House? (50 words)
Biggs: I’m in favor of preserving the building as it has historically
significant to our county. However, last year our county spent over
$1,000,000 dollars toward its operations, and little to nothing toward its
serious structural needs.
Evans: I absolutely support the preservation. I wrote a CEDIT project
for $250,000 to begin the much needed restoration of this treasure which is
a source of arts and culture. My opponent voted against this project. It is
a Civil War Memorial, a memorial to those who fought for our freedom.
(11) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and tell why you are the best
candidate in this race. (75 words)
Biggs: The suffocating debt of our emergency dispatch system, the
wreckage of the animal shelter, and the dependency on consultants to fix
poor executive decisions are all the consequences of poor planning and
management practices. This more than anything defines the biggest
differences between me and my opponent. There are other differences which
can be read at www.jimbiggs2012.com.
Evans: I subscribe to the theory that a person should run for office to
do something, not to be something. I am in my second year as President of
the Board of Commissioners – I have the experience and am knowledgeable of
the role of the commissioners and the county council. A lifelong resident of
Porter County, I have the ability to negotiate and compromise firmly for the
common good and build trust among my fellow citizens.