Pair vie for council seat
Two multi-term town councilmen from Lowell and St. John have both set their sights on the County Council seat representing the southern portion of Lake County.
Republican Christian Jorgensen, of St. John, is an attorney and member of the St. John Town Council. Jorgensen beat incumbent Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, in the May primary by two votes. Strong asked for a recount but conceded the election after a day of reviewing ballots in June.
South County Democrats in June chose Phillip Kuiper to fill a ballot vacancy for the seat. No Democratic candidate ran for the seat during the May primary.
Kuiper was a three-term Lowell town councilman, representative to the Lake County Solid Waste District, active in the Democratic Party and former state representa tive candi date. Kuiper said he’s also been active in a number of youth sports groups.
A Democrat hasn’t been elected to the 7th District County Council seat in more than 50 years, according to county records.
Jorgensen said he’s best suited for the County Council because he’s already handled the same issues facing South County.
Jorgensen said St. John was behind the eight ball on its plans for development and infrastructure improvements when he took office. Jorgensen said he and the other members of the Town Council had to come up with solutions for how to guide the ongoing development.
“I see the same thing occurring all over Lake County,” Jorgensen said.
South County is seeing a shift in population density as more people are moving into the area, Jorgensen said, and development is starting to outpace infrastructure work.
Jorgensen said his goal is to get more money for repairs and infrastructure maintenance in South County.
Jorgensen said the county needs to have a plan for how South County is going to look.
“That’s one of my biggest concerns,” Jorgensen said.
He said he’d bring a level of education, business acumen and legal experience to the County Council.
Jorgensen said he thinks St. John is an example of what can happen when people with new ideas, broader experience and education are elected. Jorgensen said he’d like to look at the surplus the county is accumulating from the income tax and personal property tax. He said he’d look at how to take that money and put it toward property tax relief.
If the county continues accumulating a surplus, something needs to go back to the taxpayers, Jorgensen said.
Jorgensen said he’s shown the voters in the 7th District that he wants the seat and went through the primary process before moving along to the general election. Jorgensen said the Democrats only put a candidate up after the primary.
Kuiper, a former Lowell town councilman, said he’s the only candidate that will truly represent the 7th District.
“There’s only one South County candidate,” Kuiper said. “That’s me.”
Kuiper said voters are less concerned about political affiliation but want a councilperson who they can talk to. Kuiper said that’s what South County residents have always had in people like Gerry Scheub, Rick Niemeyer and Eldon Strong.
“This is all about represent a t i o n ,” Kuiper said.
He said a major priority for residents is protecting the character of South County.
He said even new residents enjoy the small-town feel of the area.
“They’re moving here for a reason,” Kuiper said. “Evidently, they like what they’re seeing right now.”
Kuiper said people want to see new businesses come into the area, but that might not mean large commercial developments.
He said he’ll take time to talk to any business that’s interested in South County, whether it would create five jobs or 100.
“I will be willing to listen to anyone that wants to come into South County,” Kuiper said.
As development happens, Kuiper said he knows that roads and infrastructure are a big issue.
Lake County officials need to lobby the Legislature to get money to improve the roads and infrastructure, Kuiper said, and see if the state will take some of its surplus to aid that work.
Kuiper said if he’s elected to the council, he won’t support any new taxes. He said things have leveled out in Lake County and the council should give them some relief before adding to the burden.
Kuiper said he supports a new convention center in Lake County but is opposed to a food and beverage tax.
“I won’t vote for that,” Kuiper said. “I’m all for progress but go get private money.”