In the primary
election Tuesday, June 2, Republican voters will have a choice between
incumbent North District County Commissioner Jim Biggs and Challenger Jeff
Larson, a current at-large member of the County Council.
Tribune invited Biggs and Larson to participate in a candidate
questionnaire. The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to
edit for length.
1) Age, place of
Biggs: I was
born in July of 1957. My home is in Chesterton. I serve as Porter County
Commissioner, North District. I also serve as a Security Analyst and the
Business Development Director of a local laboratory.
Lifelong Chesterton, Ind. resident, Councilman, Contractor, Former almost
20-year teacher at Chesterton High School.
2) For Biggs: Why
are you seeking re-election to the County Board of Commissioners? (75 words)
B: Iím a
seventh generation resident of Porter County. My family considers it an
obligation of citizenship to serve the citizens of Porter County. I am
following in that tradition and honoring our obligation.
For Larson: Why are
you seeking election to the County Board of Commissioners? (75 words)
L: To continue
my role of service to the community. To help others that donít have a voice
in local government. To control spending and make local government more
accessible to all by responsive leadership.
3) For Biggs:
Describe your achievements in office. (100 words)
B: a. Health
Insurance Cost Reduction. b. Renovation of our North County Court Annex. c.
Renovation of our Expo Center. d. Renovation of our County Courthouse. e.
Reorganization of Voters Registration. f. Reorganization of the Porter
County Stormwater Department.
For Larson: You
have entered the Commissioners race after serving one term on the County
Council. Describe your achievements in office. (100 words)
L: I have
improved communication with citizens, collaboration between council members
and commissioners, invested the hospital proceeds and generated 38 million
dollars in three years, reduced spending, voted to move the drug unit
reducing drug use, streamlined government and permitting processes, improved
roadways, created a storm water board, hired in-house engineers, brought the
911 center together, gave county employees three years of modest raises,
bonded $50 million to improve neglected County facilities with no cost to
tax payers, opened a second Veterans affairs office and started a program
honoring them at each council meeting, reduced operational inefficiencies.
4) For Biggs: As a
sitting Commissioner, what are two things you think the Board could have
handled better in the past four years? Explain. (125 words)
B: I would have
liked to accelerate the completion of the projects we embraced over the last
four years. I would have liked to expedite the completion of the Willowcreek
Road extension. I would have liked to explore the creation of a Level 1
trauma unit here in Porter County, given the closest such facility is in
For Larson: As a
citizen seeking election to the Board, what are two things you think the
Board of Commissioners has done a good job of the past four years? Explain.
L: The Board
has worked to control costs. The president of the commissioners has taken a
personal responsibility/role in reviewing all contracts associated with
County business. He, along with the County attorney, has found many areas
lacking oversight. His ability to work with others was improved by the
cross-party cooperation of Laura Blaney. Many of the previous commissionersí
agreements were streamlined or eliminated for new contracts with one-year
caps and no auto renewal features. Secondly, they showed insight and
leadership by improving facilities and investing in local infrastructure.
The bond approval with the Councilís oversight was a monumental correction
in the lack of attention to County facilities. Also, the infrastructure
projects were long overdue and are producing positive results for the
yourself from your opponent and indicate why in particular you believe
yourself to be the better candidate. (100 words)
Biggs: I have
served as both a County Council person and as County Commissioner totaling
16 years serving the citizens of Porter County. Iíll let my record speak for
differences are my responsiveness to all citizens and the ability to work
alongside or for them, a lifetime volunteer with thousands of projects in
the community, love of the area, consistent attendance at all meetings,
collaborative leadership style, successful classroom and business
management, fiscal conservatism, knowledge of the community/position, and
exemplary work ethic. I believe my devotion to others, my attentiveness,
work ethics, collaboration, desire to serve others, and the fact Iím not a
career politician makes me the correct choice.
6) What are the key
issues in this race? (125 words)
greatest, most immediate challenge is sustaining our level of success in the
wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Porter County is going to need trusted,
tested, and experienced leadership in the days ahead. Our present Board of
Commissioners is a proven team and is uniquely qualified to undertake the
challenge of returning our County government to fully operational status. I
hope to remain part of that team.
citizens navigate the COVID-19 crisis. Implementing strategies that help all
citizens feel confident in their return to normalcy. Providing pathways to
assist those most in need of employment, housing, food assistance and health
needs. Assuring the people of this great County that the leadership is
capable of leading. Give citizens a recognized voice in the activities of
County government. Providing safety to all citizens with increased drug
interdiction, support for policing agencies and expanded fire protection.
Expand mental health options. Creating a strategic County-wide plan,
including expanded pandemic resources. Implement key corridor plans with
enhanced design elements. Complete the long and drawn out process of the 911
center. Rework the UDO, hospital funds and conserve tax dollars.
7) What are your
priorities for use of the funds in the Porter County Non-profit Charitable
Foundation? (75 words)
decision may be largely driven by the Countyís financial condition resulting
from the COVID-19 pandemic. We are most certainly going to confront profound
financial challenges in the weeks and months ahead. We may very well be
forced to consider every source of revenue at the disposal of our County,
including our investment fund. This may be the very situation we have been
preparing for and saving for these past years without knowing it.
Finalize the community grant program. Obtain a knowledgeable group to seek
out, administer and qualify groups, organizations, and individuals in the
awarding of grants. Continue to monitor the growth and activity of the fund.
Review yearly the benefits received by the groups/individuals and expand or
downsize accordingly. Look for healthy community investment options. Limit
supporting the County general funds with proceeds. Maintain the three-year
rainy day fund.
8) What important
Duneland-specific experience or insight do you bring to the Board of
Commissioners? (75 words)
Biggs: Being a
seventh generation Duneland resident, Iíve been involved in our schools, our
local businesses, and our civic organizations. As a county official, Iíve
always made myself available to Duneland residents and been willing to work
with all units of local government. My recent interest and concern has
centered on preserving our Lake Michigan shoreline, protecting the Pavilion,
and ridding communities of abandoned houses that are hazardous to public
health and property values.
worked with thousands of Duneland volunteers on hundreds of projects.
Teaching and coaching provided thousands of opportunities to hear about the
Duneland community. When building in and around Duneland, I meet citizens
where they live, work, and eat. Serving on various boards in Duneland,
including being a Chesterton Cemetery Trustee for 17 years, has improved my
service. Being a multi-generational product of this area has given me
foresight on evolving needs and answers.
9) In the midst of
the COVID-19 pandemic, local government meetings, like many services, have
suddenly gone virtual. This presents both an opportunity for local
government to reach more of its citizens with the convenience of
live-streaming and the potential for elected officials to suppress public
input on and press coverage of local government actions. Explain what
government transparency means to you and how you plan to ensure continued or
improved transparency in our current time of uncertainty. (150 words)
Transparency in County government is most certainly going to center upon the
use of technology. Digital media, video conferencing, use of electronic
mail, and social media will play important parts in assuring our citizens
are informed while protecting their right to voice their concerns and
actively participate in the governing process. That notwithstanding, it is
important that we ensure that those citizens who are not ďconnectedĒ remain
informed and are welcome to participate. Print media, telephone, and postal
mail must remain viable components of our County
communications. So too, we must reopen our government facilities as safely
and swiftly as possible to satisfy the needs of those who choose to handle
their County business in person. This is an absolute need of our courts and
criminal justice system where personal contact is imperative.
meetings and the opportunity for public input at meetings have always been
at the forefront of where I stand. The current conditions do not afford
individuals with no legitimate internet access the ability to communicate
effectively. I feel that most of the time these are the people most affected
by the decisions made in their absence. I would like to see satellite access
areas set up during these unusual times or crisis. I would like to see more
media publicizing the meetings with an emphasis on reaching those who often
donít have the ability to connect. Work closely with the schools and
libraries to do additional informational and interactive sites. Find ways to
stream to phone-only users with interactive software. Maybe provide
resources to equipment and additional free internet. Donít hold any meetings
without complete access.
10) For Biggs:
Valparaiso-based Great Lakes Labs, a company you have a financial interest
in as their director of business development, is processing the COVID-19
tests mandated for all County employees. Explain why your company was chosen
to process the tests, the extent of your involvement in that process, and
why you havenít publicly disclosed your interest in the company since the
testing started. (150 words)
B: Great Lakes
Labs has been serving Porter County government for nearly four decades. I
have no financial interest of any kind in the company with the exception of
serving as an employee. A condition of my employment is that I cannot have
anything to do with businesses transactions involving Porter County
Government. As Commissioner, I have purposely and intentionally refrained
from participating in any discussion or casting any vote for anything having
to do with Great Lakes Labs. The public record will clearly support this
For Larson: You are
a businessman in addition to an elected official. Explain the steps that you
take, have taken, or will take to ensure that your business interests in the
Porter County community donít interfere with your elected position. (150
L: I personally
wonít and have never conducted business with the County or any entity that I
serve. My thoughts are that elected officials are held to a higher ethical
standard and should avoid employing family, promoting family or any other
individuals that could possibly be linked to them financially. They should
avoid conducting business with the entity they serve. The opportunities for
corruption and impropriety exponentially grow when politicians and
government officials combine their personal, business, and outside interests
into their government controlled revenue producing responsibilities. Even if
there is no other immediate option, elected officials and their businesses
should avoid working for the entity they serve. It is not illegal for them
to do so, as long as they declare a non-conflict clause, but it still looks
unethical. Too often it becomes an illegal venture. You are not in political
office to profit; you are there to serve.
11) Explain to what
extent you believe that a candidateís behavior in his or her personal life
is a reflection of the quality of work he or she will do as an elected
official. Would trouble in a candidateís personal life affect your level of
trust in that candidate, for example? Why or why not? (150 words)
voting citizens of Porter County decide the measure of a personís character.
This includes both personal and professional behavior. Trust is something
which is earned. I believe I have demonstrated in my 16 years of public
service to the citizens of Porter County that I am worthy of their trust,
and I have conducted myself in a moral, respectful, forthright manner, both
publicly and privately. I have been happily married to my wife Carol for 32
years. We have raised our son Hayden in our home in Chesterton where weíve
been good friends, good neighbors, and good citizens of Porter County.
Individualís integrity is based on the ethical standards they hold
themselves to. Personal life should never be brought to any form of work or
political life. Many people function at all levels of employment without
personal interference. All of us will experience personal strife in our
lives. Death of a loved one, loss of a friend, divorce, financial ruin,
infidelity, children with varying degrees of complications, etc. Most donít
allow that to affect their occupations. Careers and personal life should
rarely cross. If the individual had committed a crime or was involved in an
unethical issue, that will affect their candidacy. Morals and ethics are
similar but not the same. Someoneís morals are a personal issue. Their
ethics are a public one.