Chesterton Tribune

GOP race: Heinold and Polarek vie for South County Commissioner nomination

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Porter County Councilman Jim Polarek and newcomer Mike Heinold, both of Morgan Twp., are vying for the Republican nomination for the County Board of Commissioners south seat.

The Republican primary elections take place on May 8 and early voting began April 9. Commissioner races are voted on countywide.

Polarek is currently the 4th District representative on the council, elected to the seat in 2010. Although holding no public office currently, Heinold’s family name is not unfamiliar to politics. He is the son of former state senator Vic Heinold.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both candidates 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

Heinold: 44, Morgan Twp, co-owner and managing partner of Iddea Group

Polarek: 44, Morgan Twp, Owner of Polarek Engines

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

Heinold: The office of the County Commissioners was created in Indiana by state statute. Commissioners have both Legislative and Executive (administrative) responsibility. The legislative duties include the ability to adopt ordinances (typically in unincorporated areas of the county) related to traffic control, minimum housing standards, county employee benefits, administration of elections and the incorporation of new towns or altering of township boundaries. In addition there is a great deal of Executive/Administrative responsibility.

Polarek: The Board of Commissioners are charged with items such as maintaining county owned grounds and buildings, ensuring our county drainage is working properly, presenting the County Council with a yearly plan on how they intend to spend our county income tax (CEDIT) dollars, negotiate and sign contracts with vendors, ambulance service and county health insurance. They also need to insure the quality of our county roads.

(3) What are your qualifications for this office? (75 words)

Heinold: I have worked in a management role for most of my adult life. Initially working at Heinold Feeds, then with another local company with over 100 employees and a multimillion-dollar budget, I became a member of its board as Executive Vice-President and Division Manager. In addition, my Senior Consultant role with Franklin Covey Company and co-owner of Iddea have provided invaluable management, fiduciary experience and relationship skills that uniquely qualify me for this office.

Polarek: I currently serve on the County Council as the 4th District representative. I served on the Morgan Twp. Board for 4 years, one as President. I served in the US Army and started my own small business, Polarek Engines. I’m currently the secretary of St. Mary’s Pastoral Council in Kouts.

(4) Why have you decided to run for South District County Commissioner? (75 words)

Heinold: I have decided to run for South County Commissioner to serve the citizens of Porter County, a place that I have been proud to call home and a place that my oldest sons have specifically stated they “hope to return to, to work and raise their families.” We need to collaborate with business and local municipalities to create long-term desirable jobs.

Polarek: Commissioner’s office is suffering from a lack of planning and accountability. I could continue serving on the County Council and pointing out the short comings of the commissioner’s office, or step up to the challenge and do what is best for the citizens of Porter County. I choose to help Porter County.

(5) What are the key issues in this race? (125 words)

Heinold: Jobs, jobs, jobs! It may sound cliché, but this is THE issue and this is why this race is so important. There are many important issues our elected officials are expected to deal with and that is exactly the point. Figuring out how to deal with the shortfall with E911, or what we are going to do with animal shelter’s deteriorating facilities are things we are expected to do and will do by improving communication and collaboration within the county building, not through personal attacks and negativity in the newspaper. Our citizens should expect a unified approach and common sense solutions regardless of political affiliation or election cycle.

Polarek: We need fiscal responsibility in the commissioner’s office. We cannot continue to grow the size of county government, especially when we cannot afford to pay for the government we already have. The commissioner’s refusal to take the cost of our county health insurance program seriously, when it makes up over one-fourth of our general fund budget, is not acceptable. The main issue that must be addressed is the lack of funding for our county E911 budget. The commissioners and council must work together to figure out how this major necessity is going to be paid for. The funding solution for E911 must come from local government and not rely on the state for help.

(6) Do you think the county needs to change its current employee health insurance plan? (50 words)

Heinold: This is an issue that many of us in business deal with almost every year. I have already begun researching various options and I look forward to learning more about the nuances of health insurance for government entities. I am not yet ready to offer an opinion.

Polarek: The employee health plan must be rebuilt from the ground up. At a special meeting the council held we were told “you have a dinosaur policy”, and this was by a gentleman recommended to us by our current insurance agent.

(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)

Heinold: I absolutely agree with this decision. This is exactly the sort of opportunity that we need to be looking at countywide to enable the creation of desirable jobs. There are many ways these partnerships can be structured and it needs to be a strategic approach. Each community in Porter County offers unique value. Jobs that are created anywhere in Porter County benefit all of Porter County. We need to understand these unique values and perspectives.

Polarek: I believe we need to first get our fiscal house in order before we can commit county dollars to new projects. The county has several large ticket items on the table that have yet to be funded properly, which includes projects like the countywide drainage projects. Until our current obligations are met, and the newly created Jobs Council has a chance to do its job, we are not in a fiscal position to commit.

(8) In what other ways would you advocate growth and development throughout the county? (50 words)

Heinold: Each community and unincorporated area of Porter County offers unique value and perspective relative to intelligent growth. I do believe there are places in Porter County ready to develop. The infrastructure, including technology, must be present to attract many prospects.

Polarek: The extension of Willowcreek Road south of Portage to US 30 to improve traffic flow must proceed. Planning for the upcoming Illiana Expressway in relationship to commercial development in Hebron is also important. Also, planning for growth around the Porter Co. Airport must be done.

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

Heinold: It seems like the consensus and opinion of an experienced consultant is to build a new facility. I would like to get a deeper understanding. We need to have a long-term vision for the shelter; a building alone will not solve the problems.

Polarek: Yes. When it was made no-kill several years ago there was no planning on how to address the population explosion that was to follow. We must make sure that we can afford the increased operations cost of a larger building.

(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)

Heinold: Our main facility is beautiful and well organized. It is important that we efficiently and effectively serve every citizen. I would be inclined to look first at each facility, each department and each employee and develop a strategy around “cost effective and efficient public service.”

Polarek: With completion of the “Raise the Barn” project at Sunset Hill County Park, and the subsequent relocation of several offices out of the government building to that location, an additional building is not needed. This was not figured in to the needs assessment study that was performed.

(11) Do you regularly attend Porter County Commissioner meetings? Why or why not? (25 words)

Heinold: I have not I but have confidence in our current board and am learning the issues and studying solutions so I can join in January.

Polarek: I attend approximately 25 percent of the meetings because the meetings are in the middle of the day. They should be in the evenings.

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

Heinold: As a long time leader in business, sales, consulting and organizational development I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of organizations and thousands of amazing people. I believe the leadership experience, professional communication skills, fiscal responsibilities, organizational effectiveness and tough lessons that I have learned along the way will translate to efficient and effective public service. I have lived in Porter County for over 32 years and call many of our citizens friends.

Polarek: I have the necessary experience in county government, from being on the County Council, to perform the duties of South County Commissioner from Day 1. I’m also the only candidate with experience in township government. As a veteran of our military public service has been a cornerstone of my life, from serving as a County Councilman, to a Boy Scout leader, to the secretary of my church council.


Posted 4/16/2012