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Caucus elects new East Chicago Council member

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EAST CHICAGO — Debra Bolaños has been selected as the newest member of the City Council.

She will serve out the slightly over two years that remain in the term of former Councilman Emiliano Perez, who resigned early last month.

Born and raised in East Chicago, Bolaños is a 1976 graduate of Bishop Noll.

Bolaños emerged victorious from a pool of four candidates that the city's Democratic precinct committee members had to choose from at a caucus Sept. 25.

Jesse Gomez, Vanessa Hernandez-Orange and Delainah Valdez-Medina were the other three candidates who applied for the position.

Out of 27 eligible committee members, 24 appeared in person or by proxy.

There was no clear cut choice, as no candidate received the required majority after the first two ballots, both after which the lowest votegetter was eliminated.

After the third, fourth and fifth ballots were taken, Bolaños and Hernandez-Orange remained tied at 12 votes apiece.

It then fell upon Lake County Democratic Central Committee Chairman James Wieser to break the tie.

Wieser said he thought Bolaños would be a good fit on the council because of her dedication to the community and her experience as a longtime business owner in the city.

Wieser said that in his time as chairman, he has always wanted to bring more people into the organization and provide a wider range of elected officials.

He pointed out that Hernandez-Orange currently serves as president of the East Chicago School Board.

"She already had a position where she was performing very, very well," Wieser said.

Bolaños recently retired after spending 40 years in the travel industry, including having owned Galaxy Travel in the city for 26 years.

The mother of three still runs a nonprofit cultural dance school for young children in East Chicago, as well as another nonprofit that raises money for scholarships for local students.

"I've just been involved with the community all my life and now being retired, I felt that now was the time," Bolaños said.

Although Bolaños resides in the city's 4th District, she will serve as one of the three at-large council members on the nine-member council.

Bolaños said crime and the city's youths are two areas to which she would like to give her focus.


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