VALPARAISO | Duneland-area voters have a two-way race underway for the Republican nomination for the 1st District seat on the Porter County Council.
Incumbent Jim Biggs faces a challenge from newcomer Kyle Yelton.
Biggs, who served two terms as a county commissioner before honoring a campaign promise to step down after that amount of time in office, said he still believes in term limits and plans to make this second term on the council his last. He said a lot of the problems with local government stems from complacency of those who have stayed in office too long.
He is seeking a second term to continue pushing for the adoption of a comprehensive operations plan, which is a three to five year plan on how the county should approach its capital and financial needs. The lack of planning has stalled numerous efforts, such as the construction of a new animal shelter, a thorough response to building needs and a response to the county's growing deficit.
Yelton, who works as a financial representative for an insurance company, said he is running to represent the community that helped shape him.
"Be a voice for the district that gave me so much," he said.
Yelton, a former high school and college football player, said he will bring a fresh perspective and team approach to challenges such improving the council's main task of budgeting. He would like to see a zero-based approach taken, by which a couple council members and commissioner meet with individual department heads and build their budgets from the ground up based on provable needs.
He does not have a plan in mind for the $159 million in proceeds from the 2007 sale of the county hospital. He said he needs to research the options for earning the best rate of return on the money. He likes the idea of using part of the money to offer loans to other units of government around the county.
Biggs, who was in the minority in voting against the current underfunded county budget, does not share in the view that proceeds from the hospital money is a solution to the county's budget problems. He prefers investing most of the money to generate interest for emergency needs and using a lesser amount to loan to other units of government in the county for infrastructure and economic development efforts.
Biggs, who has a master's degree in public safety administration and works as an account manager for a national security company, said he intends to push for a more comprehensive approach to the local drug problem. This again will involve better planning by identifying how many resources are available, stopping the duplication of efforts, taking a regional approach and initiating efforts to measure success.
Yelton said he supports proposed projects such as a new animal shelter and educational facility for the county parks. When asked how the projects would be funded, he referred to a sizable donation that has been offered for a new shelter.
Biggs, who along with a couple other County Council members were mocked by a few of their peers for predicting the county's current financial woes, said another reason he wants a second term is that he believes the county is poised to take the steps needed to get back on track.
"I think we're close to finally realizing the damage that is being done by not being better prepared, not having a plan and not having set priorities," he said.