VALPARAISO | There is an even mix of familiar and new faces among the six candidates seeking three seats on the Porter County Council.
The list includes incumbent Democrats Dan Whitten and Sylvia Graham; one-time Democratic Councilman Bob Poparad; along with newcomer Republicans Mark Hoffman, Ralph Neff and Joe Wszolek.
The council job pays $13,895 a year and $15,895 for its president
Hoffman, 62, is a retired teacher and football coach from Valparaiso High School who said he decided to make this his first run for elected office to give something back to the community.
He said he believes in a team concept and as councilman, would work closely with the Board of Commissioners and others regardless of political affiliation.
Hoffman said he would extend this cooperation to a regional level and would be willing to work with officials in Lake County.
"What I bring to the table is 100 percent commitment," he said.
Graham, 72, who is a retired family nurse practitioner and member of the county plan commission, said she is seeking a second term in order to continue work on projects such as the large, multiuse development just west of the new hospital at U.S. 6 and Ind. 49.
She would also like to help find the funding to open the third pod at the county jail; continue working on behalf of seniors, the homeless and confronting the county's drug problem; and work closely with the county commissioners.
"I still got fire in my belly and I'd like to serve one more term," Graham said.
Neff, 53, a contractor and taking his first shot at elected office, said he is approaching the council's financial responsibilities with the experience of having built a $12 million company from the ground up and running the operations for the past 24 years.
Neff said he is troubled by the lack of continuity among the current council members.
"There needs to be some cooperation," he said.
As councilman, Neff said he would rely on others to do their jobs and would not micromanage.
Poparad, 54, who owns the Pinkerton Oil Company, said he offers the experience he gained while serving on the council between 2003 and 2010.
Poparad said the council's main function is to come up with a county budget and he would like to see the group return to the days of spending more time going through each line of the budgets proposed by the various department heads.
He believes his experience running a business will also help in carrying out the council's financial responsibilities.
"I understand big math," he said. "Big numbers don't scare me."
Wszolek, 58, who is a self-employed real estate appraiser, said he offers his experience serving on the Highland Town Council between 2004 and 2008.
"We just need people on the council who can work together," he said.
His goal is to develop a strategic plan on how to fund the essentials of county government and other needs such as those at the jail, E911 and animal shelter.
Whitten, 46, said he is seeking a third term because there is a need for strong leadership on the council.
Whitten, who serves as council president, said he understands county government and has proven his willingness to work with others, despite their party affiliation.
He supports efforts to revamp the animal shelter and opposes the use of a tax increment financing district at the site of the new hospital. TIFs capture new revenue to be used in that area alone.
"It's a money grab," he said.