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MARC CHASE: F-bombs didn't stop 'Good' government; leader calling it quits after strong tenure
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MARC CHASE: F-bombs didn't stop 'Good' government; leader calling it quits after strong tenure

Marc Chase column photo

Marc Chase

Passion, good business sense and flying F-bombs.

Those three things came to mind last week when Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good told me he wouldn't seek re-election in 2022.

Good's political career — and even heated exchanges like one he had directly with me during that tenure — are solid reminders that friction and strong personalities don't necessarily prevent exemplary government.

Jeff Good

Jeff Good

Good and I met over lunch Thursday to discuss his decision to finish out his current term and then hang up his political cleats.

The decision marks a loss of solid business sense in local government — but also is one of many promises kept to Good's constituents.

When Good first sought the office — one of three chief executives of Porter County government — he did so with a personal parameter of serving two terms and then getting out of the government game.

His second term expires at the end of 2022, and Good is making good on that promise.

As we discussed that impending decision last week, I immediately thought of the bipartisan coalition Good, a Republican, formed with the sole Democratic Porter County commissioner, Laura Blaney, and all of the taxpayer benefits that resulted.

I also remembered a heated exchange Good and I had nearly four years ago — one that we both laugh about now.

Good, a successful hotel owner and hospitality developer, combined his winning business sense with bipartisanship to accomplish a flurry of transformation in a county that, like many in Indiana, needed to push past the horse-and-buggy.

While keeping the county's tax rate flat, Good and his fellow commissioners brought more than $30 million in investments to the county through:

* preservation of the exterior of the historic Valpo courthouse while also modernizing the leaky windows and enhancing security.

* building a new structure to house the county health department, clerk, Portage Township assessor and veterans' services through a cost-sharing agreement with Portage Township.

* renovating and modernizing the once-antiquated county government complex in downtown Valparaiso, including complying with disability access laws.

* constructing a needed new county animal shelter.

* reducing employee health insurance costs by a whopping $6 million annually while actually increasing benefits to county employees.

* establishing a $7.5 million rainy day fund, an important piece of insurance in uncertain times.

* investing nearly $8 million in repair or replacement of 40 crumbling county road bridges.

The list goes on.

The shining jewel of Good's accomplishments came even as competing political interests sought to grab and spend the $150 million the county received from selling its old hospital.

Porter County Courthouse

Facilities Director Ray Cloyd, left, and Board of Commissioners President Jeff Good stand outside the newly refurbished Porter County Courthouse in 2020.

After the sale, a line formed of political players and interests, with hands extended, seeking a share of those proceeds.

And the money would have vanished quickly were it not for Good and Blaney digging in their heels and working with state legislators to establish a foundation to invest and safeguard the money.

Interest from the money created the important rainy day fund, which has provided $1.2 million annually to key community services and has funded other government operations. And nearly $25 million has been added back to the original principle.

In short, the responsible preservation of the hospital sale money has led to a self-sustaining and growing economic engine.

Seven years after he first ran for office, Good's impact on the county can be seen in nearly every corner, even though he was the commissioner for just one of three Porter County districts.

Jeff Good

Jeff Good, president of the Porter County Board of Commissioners, addresses a gathering for the groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation of the old jail building in 2019.

But many of his constituents may not know about the fiery passion Good incorporates in the business of governance.

Strong passions can sometimes rub folks the wrong way.

In fact, I began to chuckle to myself late last week when recalling how Good's passions collided with this sometimes hard-headed news editor a few years ago.

Region residents will recall the debacle of ballot-tabulating incompetence characterizing the 2018 election in Porter County.

I found myself on the phone with Good two or three times a day in the several days following the election when we still didn't know the election results — including for his race.

Political tensions were high because vitriol and incompetence by election officials delayed vote counts.

I don't recall all of the details of the disagreement I had with the commissioner, but one phone conversation between Good and myself regarding Times coverage of the election controversy devolved into a flurry of heated verbiage.

I remember it as a two-way barrage, resembling comedic actor Steve Martin's profane tirade in the rental car scene of the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles."

I'm pretty sure I slammed my receiver down first.

Within hours of the conversation, both of us were apologizing to the other and not fully remembering all of the details that sparked the argument.

Good ended up winning a very tight race and going on to his second term. Both of us now laugh about the episode.

And the entire county benefited from another four years of Good's leadership.

Porter County must hope that whomever replaces Good carries a similar level of passion, good business sense and bipartisanship when it's needed most.

Executive Editor Marc Chase can be reached at 219-933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

Executive Editor Marc Chase can be reached at 219-933-3327 or marc.chase@nwi.com. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marc.chase.9 or Twitter @nwi_MarcChase. The opinions are the writer's.

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