The next mayor of embattled Portage must be ready to lead the city from the scandalous shadows of a former mayor who became a convicted felon while leading the Porter County municipality.
The good news for Portage voters is that four of the five mayoral primary candidates — three Democrats and one Republican — already are playing an active role in that healing process.
Portage residents already have a slate of candidates who hold great promise for the city's future.
In the Democratic primary, The Times Editorial Board endorses current Clerk-Treasurer Chris Stidham based on his specific plans for righting the city's ship.
But city Economic Development Director Andy Maletta and Councilwoman Sue Lynch also offer great choices for any Portage voter pulling a Democratic ballot next week.
Leo Hatch Jr., a local Realtor, also seeks the Democratic mayoral nod.
Republican John Cannon, who became mayor by caucus after former Mayor James Snyder was convicted in a federal felony bribery case, is running unopposed in his primary.
We're impressed that Cannon and Democratic candidates Stidham, Lynch and Maletta are all communicating and working in harmony to begin the healing process in Portage that's long overdue.
In the final years of Snyder's tenure, with a federal indictment hanging over his head, vitriol and lack of substantive communication characterized the interactions between the clerk-treasurer and mayor and the council and mayor.
Now, despite being on opposite political sides, Cannon and Stidham have regular meetings and are working together for the good of the city.
Lynch and Maletta also are meeting with each other and Cannon to devise pathways forward.
So despite Cannon essentially serving the current role of interim mayor, the existing city leaders vying for their parties' respective mayoral nominations already are working well together.
We're impressed by Clerk-Treasurer Stidham's fiscal sense and vision.
While Stidham, Maletta and Lynch all prioritized fixing or creating sidewalks for a more pedestrian-friendly city, Stidham has the most concrete plan for dealing with crumbling Portage roadways.
He's proposing a 45-miles-in-45-months plan, and he says he's done the math. The plan is attainable without additional tax money and by reprogramming existing spending.
Stidham also is thinking about quality schools.
He would like to "vastly expand" a grant program giving public schools proceeds from tax-increment financing districts. The city's Redevelopment Commission currently allocates funds to schools.
Stidham would like to see that expanded to assist with teacher retention and vocational education — things that position Portage residents for employment.
We also believe Portage would be in caring hands under the watch of either Maletta or Lynch. Maletta already has helped spearhead impressive economic development for the city, and Lynch is a passionate public servant who envisions a better, cornerstone downtown area.
After years of surviving under the heavy weight of criminal scandal involving the former mayor, Portage's government needle appears to be pointing up.