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Janet Venecz tapped for vacant Hammond council seat

Janet Venecz was elected Saturday at a caucus to fill an at-large City Council vacancy.

Vanessa Renderman | The Times

HAMMOND | Hammond Democratic leaders on Saturday chose Janet Venecz to finish the remainder of an at-large term and be added to the November ballot.

Venecz will complete the term of Councilwoman Kathleen Pucalik, who died in July after suffering a brain aneurysm in June.

Venecz, who lost in the 2011 Democratic primary in the 4th District, was elected to Pucalik's seat with more than half the votes from the 80 Democratic precinct committeemen who attended the caucus. Carolyn Jackson received the second highest amount of votes, and Phil Golden finished third.

The first step as a new councilwoman is to gain greater knowledge of the issues facing the city, Venecz said.

"It's a quick learning curve," she said.

Venecz said her visibility in the community helped her receive the support of fellow Democrats at the caucus.

"I am out in the city, and people know who I am and some of the things I've done," she said.

Each candidate was allowed three minutes to speak before the votes were cast.

Jackson emphasized her community involvement and work experience, Venecz talked about her attendance at meetings and Edison Crime Watch leadership and Golden explained his lifelong connection to Hammond and ability to bring fresh ideas to the council.

Of the 88 Hammond Democratic precinct committeemen, 80 showed up at Saturday's caucus.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., who also serves as chair of the Lake County Democratic Party, said he was happy with the results. The goal now is to get Venecz out in the community more and help her get elected in November, he said.

"The fact is, we can walk out of this election cycle all Democrat," he told the crowd.

McDermott said he'd hate to see Pucalik's former at-large seat go to a Republican in November's general election.