The upcoming May 2 primary election is the Municipal election. The Clerk-Treasurer, Town Council, and Town Judge positions are on the ballot. The Clerk and Judge run town-wide, while the Town Council seats are by a geographical council district or ward.
The Town Judge is unopposed, and with the courts scheduled to be closed the Judge and his staff is currently preparing court files to be transferred to the Lake County courts. With the courts still open, the position will remain on the ballot.
The Clerk-Treasurer’s race has two individuals running. You will see some of my campaign signs throughout Ward 5 next to the sign of Joe Petruch who is running for Clerk-Treasurer. Joe is a retired Merrillville Police Chief with over 30 years of police officer service. He has great experience in budgeting and living within the constraints of a town budget. He will also work the position full-time since he is retired and has the time to devote to the office. The position currently pays $60,000 per year. Working full-time is a win-win for residents of Merrillville. After all, the town at its size now and the complexities of paying vendors, etc. need attention. Joe will give the job that type of attention.
The Town Council positions are also very important. Since Merrillville is not a city, the Town Council serves as both the Legislative Branch and the Executive Branch of the town government. A dual role that is unique to Indiana towns. The Town Council President, appointed by the full council, serves as the executive of the town or in common terms as the CEO. The town is managed by the Town Manager who handles daily operations as directed by the Town Council with all department heads reporting to this position. Only the Town Manager reports directly to the Town Council.
The Council divides other duties and serves on various boards including the Plan Commission and the Redevelopment Commission. The Plan Commission also has town residents serving along with 3 members of the council. The Redevelopment commission includes 5 current members of the Town Council by Indiana code. Both boards have officers and currently, Margaret A. Uzelac is the President of the Plan Commission and Shawn Pettit is the President of the Redevelopment Commission.
With any election, and as it seems more and more in recent years, there always seems to be a great amount of misinformation or misdirection taking place as candidates seek attention for their campaigns. In my opinion voting this time should be easy and you may agree if you simply ask yourself a few simple questions…
- Have my property values increased in the past three years?
- Who on the Town Council has taken an active role in managing the town and making it better and safer for our community as a whole?
- Why have major companies like Amazon, Domino’s, Big Lots, and many others come to Merrillville to build, invest, and expand their businesses?
- Has the Council, and more specifically, who on the council has been instrumental in opening and operating the top-notch Dean and Barbara White Community Center, a first of its kind in Merrillville?
- Why would the White Family Foundation trust members of the current council with a $10 Million Dollar Donation for the operations of the Community Center?
- Why have developers been attracted to Merrillville to build both commercial and NEW residential neighborhoods in our great town?
- Have Merrillville roads been repaired, and paved, with special attention made to speeders in town?
- Is Merrillville a safe community to live in and has the current council kept the police department equipped with the latest technology, license plate readers, etc. so that they can do their jobs?
- Has this council just approved a 3-year contract with the Merrillville Fraternal Order of Police giving officers a 3% per year raise in salary compounded which is closer to a 12% raise?
- Has this council worked on its promise of inclusion, equality, and diversity in our great town?
- Was the first-ever Black History Celebration Dinner a success having over 350 attendees, a sold-out crowd, many participants, and raising funds to secure and offer college or trade-school scholarships to Merrillville and Andrean High School students?
These are just some of the pressing questions you can ask yourself. I know the answers to all of them and it is either YES, or Council members Hardaway, Minchuk, Uzelac, Bella & Pettit. It is this team that has collectively been keeping the MOMENTUM in Merrillville.
Please vote in this important municipal election. There are many ways to vote now… early voting, absentee ballots, or in-person at your polling location. See below for polling locations. Like always, May 2 voting is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Help us to keep the momentum! – Rick Bella, Town Council President, and Ward 5 Representative VOTE!