“We are about to say good-bye to a legend,” Porter County Commissioner
President John Evans, R-North, stated at Tuesday’s commissioners meeting,
the last for county attorney Gwenn Rinkenberger.
Evans closed Tuesday’s meeting leading a farewell to Rinkenberger, who
became the county’s first full time county attorney starting in May 1995,
and wished her the best in her new role as Porter County Juvenile
“I hope you don’t hate me for taking her,” said County Circuit Court Judge
Mary R. Harper who appointed Rinkenberger as Magistrate on Feb. 22.
Rinkenberger was one of 16 applicants for the magistrate job, Harper said.
A small reception was held after the meeting attended by several other
county judges and members of the county prosecutor’s office.
Commissioner Carole Knoblock, D-South, said she knows Rinkenberger wanted
the juvenile magistrate job for a long time and was always there to give
good legal advice during Knoblock’s eight years as a county commissioner.
“Good luck on your journey. We’re going to miss you,” Knoblock told
The newest county commissioner Nancy Adams, R-Center, echoed those
sentiments saying she learned a lot from the short time she got to work with
“I appreciate all the help she gave me,” Adams said.
Evans further joked he and Rinkenberger disagreed on many things but more
often than not she was right. He said she was well-researched and defended
the county successfully on a number of lawsuits.
Council member Sylvia Graham, D-at large, said she appreciates
Rinkenberger’s “extremely helpful” effort to sort out troubles during the
time when the county was late on getting out the tax bills when Graham first
came onto the county council in 2009.
During her tenure, Rinkenberger, a Valparaiso University Law School
graduate, worked with a total of ten different commissioners.
March 15 will be her first day as county juvenile magistrate.
“I love my job. I’m going to miss it. But I’m still going to be with county
government so I can pop in and give you some good advice,” she told the
Replacing Rinkenberger on a temporary basis is Elizabeth “Betty” Knight who
has the experience of working closely with Rinkenberger during her time as
county attorney on civil litigation matters involving Porter County.
Knight, who has provided legal representation for government for 33 years in
Indiana and Illinois, joined in the raves for Rinkenberger by naming her
“the most proactive governmental defender” in all the governmental entities
she has worked with.
“The contribution is most unique,” said Knight. “She has watched out for
every single person (in county government) for the last 16 years.”
Knight is an attorney at Knight, Hoppe, Kurnik & Knight, Ltd. which has an
office in Schererville and another in Rosemont, Ill. She has served as
litigator for numerous federal and state courts in Indiana.
County Sheriff David Lain backed the commissioners’ decision to appoint
Knight as the interim county attorney saying he knows her to be a “competent
and competitive” attorney after having worked with her.
While bidding adieu to Rinkenberger, the commissioners on Tuesday officially
welcomed Jon Thomas as the new permanent director of the Porter County
Animal Shelter. Thomas has worked as the shelter’s interim director since
November, shortly after former director Kristina Montgomery resigned after
three months on the job.
A Valparaiso native, Thomas lived in Dallas, Texas, for 25 years where he
worked in insurance before moving back to Northwest Indiana.
Under Thomas’ direction, the shelter has changed its hours to make it easier
for residents to adopt animals.
Evans last week expressed his contentment with Thomas’ ability to turn
around the shelter and increase adoptions dramatically. Further
accomplishments include a rise in volunteerism and donations.
Thomas also led efforts to socialize and make adoptable dogs that were
seized by animal control officers in January from a hoarding situation in