HAMMOND | Just moments after winning a contentious party battle Saturday to be named the new Lake County surveyor, Democrat Bill Emerson Jr. vowed to move forward.
"It's a new day in that office for everyone," he said, as well-wishers gathered around him on the floor of the Hammond Civic Center.
Emerson, a licensed engineering intern and attorney, faces the challenge of stepping into a seat vacated last month by George Van Til, who pleaded guilty in federal court to six counts of wire fraud alleging he ordered employees to do his campaign work on county time.
Emerson defeated challenger Gregory Sanchez by a vote of 201-122 among Lake County precinct committeemen.
Emerson played up his engineering and legal knowledge as key to the job. He also vowed to bring greater transparency to the office by posting bidding and contract information online.
Sanchez, a financial consultant schooled in public administration, focused on the surveyor's challenge of overseeing multiple departments and budgets. He referred to himself as the underdog in the race, amid claims that Emerson had backing from Hammond party leaders.
"I deserved a better fate from my own party I worked for for over 30 years," he said following his defeat. "They lumped me into being a George Van Til supporter."
Sanchez worked as chief deputy surveyor under Van Til for 17 months and had run the office since Van Til's departure Dec. 5.
"I worked to clean up government, but the party bosses want to shut me out," he said in a last-minute attempt to rally support.
Sanchez said he intends to continue working on behalf of the party.
"I'm not going to take my ball and go home," he said.
Emerson was sworn in Saturday as the new surveyor and will serve the final three years of Van Til's term.