Six candidates are running for the three at-large seats on the Porter County Council. Ignore the party labels — factions in Porter County government don't line up that way anyway — and look at the candidates themselves.
What you'll find are some excellent choices. This is the most impressive crop of County Council candidates we have seen in some time. Our choice was difficult.
Democrat Sylvia Graham is very knowledgeable about the issues and has been working for solutions to a number of challenges facing the county, everything from animal control to easing crowding at the Porter County Jail.
Democrat Bob Poparad isn't on the council now, but he has been a member in the past. Poparad has great experience in dealing with crises. He was on the Burns Harbor Town Council when Bethlehem Steel went bankrupt, suddenly erasing more than 75 percent of the town's tax base. Poparad guided the town through the necessary cuts. He learned both frugality and the wisdom of making smart investments through this process.
Democrat Dan Whitten drove the debate over animal control by stopping in, unannounced, at the animal shelter and seeing conditions, then complaining loudly. He's clearly passionate about county government.
Republican Mark Hoffman said one of his selling points is that he hasn't been involved in county government, so he would being a fresh perspective. His biggest selling point, however, is his ability to build teamwork.
Republican Ralph Neff has strong ideas on budgets and hospital money, and he spoke passionately about consolidation, transparency and the county’s website when we met with him. Neff might be well advised to run for commissioner or some other executive position rather than the County Council.
Republican Joe Wszolek hasn't been involved in Porter County government before but is knowledgeable nonetheless. Not only does he have local government experience from his days on the Highland Town Council, but he also has done his homework on Porter County issues.
With so many good candidates, it's hard for the voters to go wrong in this race. We picked these three for the following reasons:
- Poparad is gruff but tough, which is what the county needs to focus on keeping spending in control. Poparad wants outside advice on revamping health insurance benefits for employees, for example.
- Hoffman, a retired Valparaiso High School football coach, knows how to build strong teams. Considering the dysfunction on the council lately, his leadership would be invaluable.
- Wszolek is a strong proponent of planning, then doing. Rather than react to problems, Wszolek would help the county get to where it can prevent problems.
We endorse Poparad, Hoffman and Wszolek.