Two incumbents face some stiff competition on Tuesday as Porter County
voters head to the polls to pick three candidates for the County Council
Current Council members Dan Whitten and Sylvia Graham are part of the
Democratic ticket along with Robert Poparad, a former two-term 1st District
On the GOP side are three candidates making their first attempt at a County
Council seat – Mark Hoffman, Ralph Neff and Joe Wszolek.
Graham is vying for a second term saying she wants to take part in solving
the challenges currently facing the County.
A retired nurse and Valparaiso resident, Graham during her four years as a
Council member has also served on boards for the Porter County Council on
Aging and Community Services, Emergency Management Authority, Northwest
Indiana Commuter Transportation District and currently the County Plan
Commission. She has opposed tax increases, is a proponent of preserving sale
proceeds from the sale of the County hospital, and hopes to encourage job
Whitten, a bankruptcy attorney in Portage, has served as Council president
for the past three years and says he has been instrumental in protecting
public health by expanding services like the Drug Task Force, the Health
Department and the Sherriff’s Department. He has also been vocal against new
taxes and prides himself on balancing the County’s budgets.
Earlier this year, Whitten argued that the County should not place a tax
increment finance (TIF) district on the Porter Regional Hospital property at
U.S. 6 and Ind. 49 purporting it would take tax dollars away from local tax
Poparad is a business owner and also served three terms on the Burns Harbor
Town Council. He said the current Council has too many members who want to
play politics rather than do their jobs. He said his public service
background has endowed him with knowledge about budgeting work which is the
primary function of the County Council.
Besides improving dialogues with officeholders and managing budgets, Poparad
said the hospital sale money should be put into a form of trust and keep
building interest over time. He said some of the interest should be used for
economic development and has suggested holding a referendum to let citizens
decide what they want to do with that money.
Recently retired athletic director, teacher and coach at Valparaiso High
School for nearly 40 years, Mark Hoffman said he is ready to bring his team
building skills to the County Council to take on challenges and get things
accomplished in Porter County. He has received numerous Coach of the Year
In order to keep the County’s budget balanced, Hoffman said a plan is needed
to prioritize expenses. He said hospital interest money could go to projects
that would better the lives of residents and has the merit to be explored.
Ralph Neff is the owner of Mechanical Concepts and if elected he wants to
rid the Council of “What’s in it for me?” government. He said he has
negotiated union contracts and is also a trustee of health and welfare for a
statewide union. He said the Council must have accountability and
To create better efficiency in County government, Neff said consolidations
should be made wherever possible. He is also looking to develop
infrastructure that could attract economic development. He said he supports
TIF districts as long as they don’t take away from education and safety.
Joe Wszolek of Portage works as an appraiser and said he knows what people
are looking for when they want to move to this county. He is also the
current president of the Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals. He
believes the Council has had a lack of civility recently and wants to see
business conducted in an orderly manner.
The Council should encourage efficiency in County departments and not be so
reliant on contractors, Wszolek said. If elected, Wszolek would encourage
joint planning sessions between the Council and the Commissioners to create
a sustainable strategic plan.