Greg Mance is the police chief in Griffith and a lifelong Region resident. Here are his comments on the progress of the Region.
QUESTION: Why do you enjoy living and working in the Region?
MANCE: The people and the area of the country we're in. I like being close to the beauty of the lakeshore and the culture we have and the closeness to Chicago and the easy access to the culture that they have. We’re Midwest people coming to the aid of people when they need it, and we have a strong can-do attitude. Griffith — I love calling it my home. It's a very diverse town that seems to have found a way to get along and progress. We do that by embracing each other's differences and working toward a common goal of making it a safe and productive community. I've lived in the Region my entire life (42 years).
QUESTION: Where do you think the Region excels?
MANCE: It's based on the strength of the past. We're a community that came to the mills. It's very industrial, and we came through that. We're got a great deal of strength because of that. We’re somewhat bullheaded and don’t embrace change the way we always should, but we seem to have success at the end of it. All the culture and ethnicities that came to the Region, we've maintained that while still melting into one another. We don’t have a lot of the issues a lot of other parts of the country seem to have as far as racial divides and things like that. I think our universities and colleges are great assets with all the programs they offer and skills they bring to our region and programs that reach into communities and the students who spread that talent throughout the country.
QUESTION: What is the Region in most need of and how can you help it attain that?
MANCE: Our region and country need to do better job of empathizing and listening. We need to take ideas and give them more thought than we do. We've become a social media society that shortchanges ourselves. We are not thinking things through so we get an idea of what a program is and how to make it work in our community and region. The Region continues to build and populations move and shift, but we need to figure out how to get from point A to B in a way that is efficient and economic to help people get around, especially the poor and the elderly, and be more open minded. We need transportation to the places in the Region and to Chicago. We could do better as a region caring for the vulnerable, people born into poverty and seniors, children who are being molested or abused and others. We fall short in addressing those needs. We need to step out of the silo where we work and live and help those people. Too often they find help only when they end up in a mental hospital or go through the correctional system.
QUESTION: How have you helped the Region improve in your current job?
MANCE: The Police Department is hiring a social worker who will work with the schools. She will be a home and school adviser working to identify the issues our youth are dealing with that could lead to crime and addiction issues. We’re trying to bridge the school environment, where we don’t communicate well now, and identify students who are at risk and help them and their families, whether it be drug issues or all those other things. I am trying to get to these people in need before they get put into the criminal justice system. Instead of helping people, we just give them a time-out. We must continue to work with community partners, whether it's the Y, property owners, church groups, to try to work with everyone to achieve a collective good for the community.
QUESTION: What do you think sets the Region apart from the rest of the state?
MANCE: Our proximity to Chicago has been a blessing and a curse. Our lakeshore is something those born and raised here take for granted all too often. You only have to go there during a summer day and see all the license plates from out of state or down state. More of us locally should take advantage of it and try to improve and expand on that asset.
QUESTION: Where do you see the Region heading?
MANCE: I think we will find ways to take better advantage of our proximity to Chicago. I see the many good things happening in communities like Whiting and Griffith. We've become a suburb of Chicago where people with high incomes come to live and raise families. We’re moving to that direction, but we haven’t unlocked the full potential. We have everything working for us. We just have to get out of our own way. All the Region law enforcement works together better than we ever have. That is going to be an asset for the Region, keeping crime low and making it a very good place to raise a family.
QUESTION: What progress or achievements do you believe happened for the Region in recent years?
MANCE: The Marquette Greenway program for pathways and trails shows the lakeshore is something we need to develop, and it is showing early success. The bike paths that cross our region are a definite success story. The examples of good government in the Region, including Griffith, with all the positive improvements ushered in in the past 10 years is another. Our downtown is 100 percent filled thanks to weekly festivals and events. We're a safe community showing what can be done when everyone is working for the same goals, and egos are left aside.