Three familiar names and one newcomer are on the Democratic primary ballot seeking the three nominations for the at-large positions on the Porter County Council.
Incumbents Dan Whitten and Sylvia Graham are seeking another term, and former Councilman Bob Poparad is back after being defeated two years ago in his re-election bid.
The fourth candidate is Ned Kovachevich, who will be seeking office for the first time in the May 8 primary.
"I'm at the stage in my life where we've raised our children and I got a small window of opportunity," Kovachevich said. "And it's work that I'm familiar with. I've represented the taxpayers for 33 years, and I know the system and the budgetary process. I'd like to retire in the next four to eight years, and I'd like to help out."
Kovachevich, a Valparaiso resident, is executive director of the Lake County Planning and Building Department. He said Porter County needs to fund things that serve the whole county, like the Enhanced 911 system, and set priorities for other needs that arise. He said the proceeds from the sale of Porter hospital should be returned to taxpayers rather than kept as a pot of money.
"I'm not really excited about the government having a surplus available to them. There's not enough transparency," Kovachevich said. "If it's my money, I want my share back. It's all about trying to apply it fairly. I have new and novel ideas I would like to push for."
Graham, a retired nurse, said she wants a second term because she believes the county is on the cusp of expansion, and she wants to ensure it is smart, controlled growth. She said the council has balanced the budget the last four years without raising taxes, and she continues to have a lot to offer.
In addition to funding for E911, Graham said the county needs to find a way to fund improvements to County Road 100 South, extend Willowcreek Road to U.S. 30, build a new Sunset Hill Park, complete drainage projects and build a new animal shelter.
Officials also need to figure out the best way to spend the hospital proceeds and interest, Graham said.
"There's a lot of things I can think of for that," she said. "We have to be smart about how we spend the money and how it will help advance the county, and doing it so we don't have to raise taxes."
Poparad, of Burns Harbor, is president of Pinkerton Oil. He said he entered the race at the urging of people from both parties who think he "can bring both sides together." During his first stint on the council, he brought common sense and business aspects to the job, he said.
"Some were successful and some were not," he said.
Poparad said he would "save the hospital proceeds and spend the interest only for economic development to create jobs and infrastructure." He also would work with cities and towns to attract businesses because "what's good for them is good for the county." He said the county needs a person out looking for businesses interested in relocating rather than waiting for them to contact the county.
"Porter County needs to assume a lead role, and we need a salesman on an airplane to go find a factory that can locate in Porter," he said. "I know budgets and numbers. I have the most experience. Some haven't even held office. I know all the little secrets. I've been beat up a lot, and I've learned."
Whitten, a lawyer, is seeking his third term and has served as council president for six years. The Porter Township resident said he wants to ensure projects such as drainage, development of the hospital corridor and fixing 911 funding problems are done right.
"I want to continue the fiscally conservative budgeting we've been doing while enhancing some county services," Whitten said. "We funded the drug task force and increased services in the health department. Each year I've encouraged the council to come up with and prioritize capital and service projects we can do.
"I've got a proven track record of being conservative. We've been able to live within our means and not get into (the hospital principal). Since it requires a unanimous vote to tap it, we ain't going to tap it if I'm re-elected. We can use the interest for capital projects and improvements, not the least of which could be the animal shelter."