Longtime coun­cil mem­ber bids farewell to Porter County panel

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Amy Laval­ley Post-Tri­bune

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.

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