Chesterton Tribune


Vote up to 3 for Porter County Council

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Two incumbents face some stiff competition on Tuesday as Porter County voters head to the polls to pick three candidates for the County Council at-large seats.

Current Council members Dan Whitten and Sylvia Graham are part of the Democratic ticket along with Robert Poparad, a former two-term 1st District Council representative.

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 growth.

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 units.

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 awards.

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 transparency.

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.


Posted 11/5/2012