Longtime council member bids farewell to Porter County panel
With words of bipartisan gratitude, the Porter County Council lauded Councilwoman Karen Conover, R-3rd, as she attended her final meeting on the council.
Conover, of Valparaiso, served two terms at-large before taking a break for a few years and being appointed to represent District 3 when Matt Murphy resigned. She went on to serve two full terms for that district. In all, she was in office for 18 of the last 21 years.
Fighting back tears after state Rep Ed. Soliday, RValparaiso, presented her with a Distinguished Hoosier Award from Gov. Eric Holcomb, Conover joked that Jim Biggs was a commissioner when she was first sworn into office in 1997, and is one now as well.
“Some things change, some things stay the same,” Conover said.
She said she held tight words of wisdom from her father and her father-inlaw about putting politics aside to do what was best for the people she served.
“We are a board of seven and can do nothing without a simple majority vote,” Conover said.
Conover said some votes are unanimous and others are contentious, but council members always agree to disagree and manage to stay focused.
The county faced many challenges during her time of service, Conover said, including two steel mill bankruptcies, as well as better financial times, including the creation of a foundation with proceeds from the 2007 sale of the county hospital, made possible through legislation sponsored by Soliday.
The funds generated by the foundation allowed commissioners to embark on a $30 million capital upgrade plan for county facilities without raising taxes, she said.
“A lot of good can and will happen if this board works with commissioners and puts politics and personalities aside,” she said. “It’s truly been an honor to sit here in the service of the citizens of the county.”
Councilman Dan Whitten, D-at large, said when he started his first term 14 years ago, he didn’t know how county government was supposed to work.
“I was looking for help, advice and mentoring, and everyone I asked, the first person they gave me to was you,” he said.
Noting that he and Conover have “been through some very interesting times,” Whitten said he’s always looked to Conover for guidance.
“We’ve seen this county through some dark times and some light times,” he said.
Whitten said he took her decision not to seek another term in office hard, “because you’ve always been the one whispering in my ear, even if I didn’t listen to change direction.”
Other council members said Conover has served as a moderator and offered sound, nonpartisan advice, and they will likely call her to ask for that advice after she’s off the council.
Councilman Mike Jessen, R-4th, said Conover has been “a breath of fresh air” in politics.
“There’s oftentimes too much partisanship in politics that drags down the good that can come from government, and you’re quite the opposite,” he said.
Conover, a deputy in the Valparaiso Clerk-Treasurer’s Office, said she and her husband, Chuck, the former longtime Center Township trustee, will be remaining in the communit y. Vot er s selected Democrat Greg Simms to fill Conover’s seat on the council.
The council also offered well wishes to President Andy Bozak, R-1st, who lost to Democrat Bob Poparad by 15 votes in November.
Bozak was selected by caucus two years ago to finish the term of Biggs when Biggs was again elected as the North District commissioner.
Amy Lavalley is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.