Three political newcomers will take their place along side two seasoned
veterans on the Burns Harbor Town Council.
Returning councilman Repub-lican Robert “Mike” Perrine in Ward 1 garnered
139 votes and Democrat James McGee in Ward 2 received 152 votes. Both were
Joining them will be Jeffrey Freeze, a Republican, in the Ward 3 contest. He
topped Democratic challenger Eric Hull 123 votes to 101. The current Ward 3
representative, Democrat Cliff Fleming, didn’t seek re-election.
The remaining two council seats were elected At-Large in a four-way race.
Claiming victory were Gregory Miller with 142 votes and Gene Weibl, the
night’s top vote-getter, with 161; both are Democrats. They bested
Republicans Jack Given, 64 votes, and Rick Hummel with 63.
Incumbent At-Large representatives Democrat Louis Bain and Toni Biandardi, a
Republican, opted not to run again.
Voters easily returned Democratic Clerk-treasurer Jane Jordan to a third
term with 145 votes. Beverly Sutton, her Republican challenger, had 90
Perrine was unavailable for comment. McGee, who also serves as the town’s
Democratic precinct committeeman, said the overall Burns Harbor voter
turnout was great. As for the next four years with a new council, McGee
said, “We can accomplish things but we have to understand each other first.”
While Ward 3 and At-Large candidates called for faster implementation of the
town’s 2009 comprehensive plan, which includes creating a downtown district,
McGee said the council will have to balance what it wants and what it can
reasonably expect. He also said he hopes the current council’s
sometimes-inability to muster a quorum for meetings is overcome with new
Freeze believes his plan and vision for the town’s future resonated with
Burns Harbor voters. “I think people want to see tangible things get done.”
Happy to have won in a close race, “I’m thankful to the voters who entrusted
this position to me and I will work hard to represent them,” he added.
Freeze is current president of the town’s Advisory Plan Commission as a
citizen member but would be able to continue on the commission as a
Miller said he wants to hit the ground running Jan. 1. “I’m going to focus
on getting myself educated about the government process, and talk to
existing council members so we can have continuity. This is my first foray
into government and politics, and I see what there is to learn.”
As for his goals, Miller said the new council needs to look at the
comprehensive plan and how to lay the groundwork to implement it, including
forums for public input. “I will promote transparency. While people may not
always agree with us, people can follow our reasoning. You have a duty in
government to conduct the people’s business.”
Having lived in Burns Harbor for 19 years, Weibl said, “More than anything,
I’m the guy they know.” He previously served as town building commissioner
and is a current member of the town Board of Zoning Appeals, an appointment
by law he can’t keep as a sworn council member.
During the campaign there was a perception that the current Town Council too
often deferred action on items, even after studies and advice from
consultants were in hand. The council decided not to act on a request by
ArcelorMittal to extend its tax abatement, and opted not to actively pursue
an inquiry about locating a hotel and restaurants in town --- in both
instances saying the new council can decide what it wants to do.
Weibl believes his council likely needs to return to meeting twice a month
instead of once, the policy since 2001.
He also noted the goals and priorities outlined by the winning Ward
3/At-Large candidates are in line, which can lead to finding agreement and
consensus. “Taking steps to implement the master plan is a huge thing. All
we can do is begin, to start moving in the right direction and let business
Weibl added, “I’m humbled by (the voters’) show of confidence in me. My door
will always be open to them.”
Jordan gave a sigh of relief when her victory was posted on the huge screen
at the Porter County administration building in Valparaiso. “I’m very
excited and glad the voters think I’ve been doing a good job. I want to
thank the voters for coming out, my family and friends, and especially my
As she begins her third term, “Maybe with a new council and with a fresh,
new look we can work on ideas I haven’t seen or thought of, whatever
direction that takes us.”
Burns Harbor’s first clerk-treasurer, Betty Boo, served approximately 20
years in that office and former clerk-treasurer Esther Nickell three terms