ST. JOHN — The town has named Chris Salatas as its new town manager.
Salatas is the current Lowell Town Council president and the Northwest Indiana Regional Director for U.S. Sen. Todd Young, where he serves a 20-county district comprising 1.8 million people.
He plans to vacate both roles when he assumes the position of town manager between June 15 and 26.
"I'll be happy to downsize to the town of St. John and to be more local. My passion is local government. You can affect and improve people's lives a lot more substantially," Salatas said. "You can actually see some tangible changes, as opposed to the federal government."
The St. John Town Council approved an offer of employment for Salatas 4-1, with Councilman Wayne Pondinas, R-at large, voting no. Pondinas later told The Times the vote wasn't personal.
The council also unanimously approved an amendment to Salatas' contract, which includes an annual salary of $100,000, to reflect Salatas would receive annual raises consistent with and the same as the majority of other town employees.
A longtime Lowell resident and two-term councilman, Salatas began his tenure with the Lowell Town Council as the 4th Ward representative in 2014, where he has served as president for the majority of his terms.
Addressing the town of Lowell's historic water supply issue; bringing in private business investment; creating jobs; paving more than $1 million in roads annually; expanding the town's tax increment financing district; implementing a facade grant program; and beginning the redevelopment of downtown and Liberty Park are a few initiatives Salatas told The Times he was proud of.
Salatas is an Eagle Scout, as well as a Knight of St. John. He received his bachelor's degree in political science from Indiana University Northwest, and is currently working on his Master of Business Administration from the University of Arizona.
He also recently completed the McColly School of Real Estate with his wife, Jessica. Both enjoy gardening and are looking forward to starting a family in town, Salatas said to the council Wednesday.
"We're really excited. This is going to be great. St. John is one of the premier communities in not just Northwest Indiana, but the state of Indiana," he said. "I'm looking forward to all the exciting opportunities and projects you have going on and becoming a part of Team St. John and working with you."
The hiring of Salatas comes as former St. John Town Manager Craig Phillips resigned from the role in January after 10 months on the job. His resignation came following a meeting with Town Council President Gerald Swets, R-Ward 3, and Councilman Bryan Blazak, R-Ward 1, his resignation letter stated.
Of Salatas filling the town manager role, Swets said he thinks Salatas' experience as a councilman gives him an understanding of communicating with residents, while serving with Young has equipped him to "manage multiple departments and spearhead different tasks."