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092911_FREEMANWILSON Gary mayoral hopeful karen Freeman Wilson heads up presentation of mid-term findings by the Gary New Day Task Force

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GARY | The city's Democratic mayoral candidate wants Gary to be the next comeback story in the Rust Belt.

To get to that point, Karen Freeman-Wilson challenged people in Northwest Indiana on Tuesday morning to change their conversations about the Steel City as she pledged not to conduct business as usual.

Freeman-Wilson, 50, spoke to about 60 politicians and Democratic Party affiliates at Majestic Star Casino as the featured speaker at the Lake County party's breakfast series.

To improve conditions in the city, Freeman-Wilson said there has to be a plan first, and she pointed to her New Day Task Force that's helping to forge solutions to problems. She said the three pillars of the city are public safety, economic development and the city's appearance and image.

For pessimists, the city's challenges with infrastructure, funding city government and keeping crime low may seem insurmountable. Freeman-Wilson disagrees.

The task force's goal isn't to "reinvent the wheel," Freeman-Wilson said, but to operate with transparency, analyze existing plans and make recommendations. In addition to her task force, she called on Gary residents, businesses, the faith-based community, nonprofits and allies in other municipalities to play a role in moving the city forward.

"Government has to chart the course, but all hands must be on deck," said Freeman-Wilson, who graduated from Harvard University and served as Indiana's attorney general in 2000.

After beating a crowded field in the Democratic primary following Mayor Rudy Clay's withdrawal from the race, Freeman-Wilson supporters expect their candidate to best the field of candidates, which includes Republican Charles Smith Jr., Eddie Tarver and Lavetta Sparks-Wade. Election Day is Nov. 8.

"I can't imagine a better person to lead the city of Gary right now," said Thomas McDermott Jr., Hammond mayor and Lake County's Democratic Party chairman.

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