MICHIGAN CITY — Two seats on the Michigan City Common Council are vacant after the president of the governing body resigned effective immediately.
Chris Schwanke said he’s moving to Arkansas for personal reasons and to grow his home improvement construction firm in an area "that’s underserved."
Schwanke, 49, said he explored the prospects of such a move for close to four months before making his decision.
"I have been contemplating making the move, and things are in place now where I’m ready to make that move," he said.
Schwanke was 6th ward councilman for six years and president of the council in 2015 and 2017.
LaPorte County Democratic Party chairman Jim Kimmel said both Schwanke's seat and the one vacated by the unexpected passing of Al Whitlow will be filled Dec. 20 during separate caucuses of Democratic precinct committee members.
Each seat has just over two years remaining on its terms.
The caucuses, starting at 7 p.m., will be in the community room of the Michigan City Police Station.
Kimmel said he was informed several weeks ago by Schwanke about his possible move.
"He had mentioned to me it was something he was thinking about doing. He wasn’t sure if and when it was going to happen," Kimmel said.
Schwanke said he did a lot to help bring new development and attention to what he felt was an often forgotten area of his district.
Silver Birch of Michigan City, a 100-plus unit assisted-living facility along U.S. 35 near the airport, is scheduled to be completed early in 2018.
There’s also been some industrial expansion stemming from creation of a tax increment financing district in the area of Ind. 212 and Tryon Road, and a trucking firm has plans to go to that same general area.
"I think there’s a lot of opportunity for continued growth there. That’s something I’m really proud of," Schwanke said.
Councilman at-large Tim Bietry said Schwanke was also instrumental in bringing water to previously unserved areas and getting the old Chuck’s 212 Bargain Center occupied again.
Schwanke was known for being outspoken at times and having occasional disagreements with the mayor.
Bietry said he and Schwanke didn’t always see eye to eye either, but Schwanke made a real difference.
"A lot of things have happened in the 6th ward to make it a better place to live," Bietry said.