Two women compete for Lake County assessor vacancy

2013-10-28T17:15:00Z 2013-10-29T13:20:05Z Two women compete for Lake County assessor vacancyBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
October 28, 2013 5:15 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Two south county women are competing to become the first female Lake County assessor.

Jolie Covaciu, 46, of Cedar Lake, and Debra M. Johnson, 54, of Crown Point, have filed their candidacies for the countywide office with Republican officials. It is unclear whether anyone else will file for the office before Tuesday's 6 p.m. deadline.

Johnson is receiving the GOP's blessing to run for the job despite most recently voting in a Democrat primary and having to buy an empty lot in Lake Station last week to qualify for the position. 

The county's Republican precinct committeemen will caucus at 6 p.m. Friday to chose the next assessor to serve the remaining 14 months of the late Hank Adams' term as county assessor. He died earlier this month.

Both women have the highest state certification required for the office -- Level III assessor/appraise. Both also have on-the-job experience.

Covaciu worked 18 years as a deputy Cedar Creek Township assessor and in the private sector with Nexus Group. Johnson has 14 years as a deputy Center Township and most recently as a compliance and hearing officer in the county assessor's office.

However, Johnson required the intervention of GOP party leaders to run as a Republican because she has voted as a Democrat in past years when she worked under former county assessor Paul Karras, a Democrat. 

Lake County GOP Chairman Dan Dernulc said Monday that, although Johnson voted as a Democrat in a previous county primary, she has a solid history of voting as a Republican previously. He said her candidacy has the blessing of the region’s Republican legislators and state party leadership.

Dernulc said he is endorsing Johnson because she worked closely with the Adams and vowed to finish his work.

Johnson also had to quickly purchase real estate last week to meet the statutory qualification of being a Lake County property owner. Covaciu said she has been a Cedar Lake homeowner for more than a decade.

Johnson said Monday she had been a homeowner for many years in the Crown Point area but sold the residence in 2010 and currently lives in rental property.

After deciding to run for county assessor, she said she found a small vacant lot in the 2700 block of South Vigo Street in Lake Station.

The lot was listed on last month's county treasurer's tax sale because its property taxes hadn't been paid in two years. Nobody bid on the property during the sale.

Johnson said she purchased it Friday after the owner, Ile Suleski, of Lake Station, paid back taxes, interest and penalties of nearly $2,400 on the parcel. She declined to name her purchase price, except to say it was less than its assessed value of $18,100.

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