HEBRON | Keith Cunningham, a 29-year-old employee of Republic Services in Crown Point, won the Republican caucus vote Monday to replace Travis Gearhart as the town's third district councilman.
Cunningham, who lives on West Jackson Street, was opposed by Howard O'Connor, who ran for a council seat in the last election. This was Cunningham's first attempt at public office, though he has served on the town's Drainage Board and is a vice chairman of the Porter County Young Republicans.
The vote by the four precinct committeemen was not revealed by county GOP Chairman Mike Simpson, and Gearhart, who voted as his last official act as a town resident, declined to say which candidate he favored to replace him.
"Both guys were more than qualified," Gearhart said. "I hope this doesn't discourage Howard down the road."
Gearhart resigned his council seat effective Oct. 31 because he received a job promotion that required him to move to Wisconsin. He said he had to drive back from Wisconsin to cast his vote.
Cunningham said he's known Gearhart for quite a while and Gearhart was the one who got him involved with the Young Republicans and helped get him a seat on the drainage board. Gearhart was the only Republican on the council, and his term expires at the end of 2015.
"I want to try to promote business in the town," Cunningham said. "I also want to keep the water bills the same and the drainage rates the same or cut them, especially for businesses."
He said he plans to seek a full term in 2015.
Simpson said he knew the vote would result in some hurt feelings but promised both candidates would still be included in the party activities. O'Connor is a member of the plan commission and told the committeemen, "I'm very passionate about getting things done in town."