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County officials sworn in on New Year’s Eve

January 2, 2019

LA PORTE – La Porte County’s new and returning elected officials were sworn into office at a ceremony on New Year’s Eve, and some even made resolutions for their new terms.

Sworn in during a public ceremony were judges, the prosecuting attorney, sheriff, assessor, commissioners, county council members and township officials.

Kathy Chroback, Clerk of Circuit Court, welcomed the group, saying, “This is an exciting day for all the newly elected officials. Those being sworn in please come up to the podium, raise your right hand, and one of the judges will swear you in – congratulations, everyone.”

First up was Judge Thomas Alevizos, who ran unopposed in the last election. The Oath of Office, which was repeated by all, was as read:

“I ____ do solemnly swear, that I will support the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of _____, to the best of my abilities, so help me God.”

New La Porte County prosecutor John Lake called it exciting.

“It’s exciting to be elected. It is a lot of responsibility. I’m looking forward to serving La Porte County,” Lake said.

“One of the first pledges I made was that I would have a fully functioning office and a full staff the first day of office, which I do. Including me, there are 17 attorneys — 12 of which are full-time and five part-time. I brought in people based on their merit. Their philosophy must be for justice — not bias.”

Lake was born in La Porte County, went to school in Michigan City at Marquette, and attended Notre Dame, where he completed law school in 1991. He worked for Newby, Lewis, Kaminski & Jones until 1995, when he was offered a job by Cynthia Hedge to be deputy prosecutor. He and his wife, Mary, also an attorney, then opened their own firm. Mary Lake will be her husband’s chief of staff.

“My goals are first to form a child fatality review team, as we are one of four counties in Indiana that does not have one. This is priority number one,” Lake said.

“Next is forming a sexual assault response team. Third is a domestic violence team. Basically right now, we’re doing everything we’re not supposed to do. I’ve already had a conversation with Judge Greta Friedman. In 85 percent of cases the victim will retract – we need to look at the whole spectrum and to break the cycle of domestic violence. Sending someone to jail for a year as a felony is not going to solve the problem.”

Another priority for Lake is OWI cases.

“With things such as Uber and Lyft in this day and age, there is no reason for someone to drive under the influence,” Lake said. “I know nobody goes out to drink and intends on breaking the law, but they do, and we’re going to try to help put an end to that.”

County Council members Randy Novak and Michael Rosenbaum were next up. Terry Garner and Mark Yagelski were not present Monday’s swearing in, and will need to take their oath before starting their first day of service either with Kathy Chroback or with one of the Judges.

“I want to continue to be fiscally responsible, and continue the work that we started over the past four years,” said Novak, who is in his second term with the County Council.

Novak is fire chief and a 32-year veteran of the Michigan City Fire Department, and also served two terms on the town board of Michiana Shores.

″(I’m proud of) the fact that La Porte is only one of five counties with no bond debt. We’re being fiscally responsible as we go along,” he said. “My accessibility to the residents of La Porte County is freely open and I thank everybody for their support. I absolutely enjoy being on the council. I love being involved and have a long extensive lifetime of helping the community.”

County Council member Michael Rosenbaum will be serving his first term. As a CPA, he hopes to bring his knowledge of finances to the board. A native of New Jersey, he served on the town board in Mount Arlington, New Jersey, for eight years.

“The first thing for me is budgeting. I’d like to figure out long-term budgets,” Rosenbaum said. “It’s difficult to do the way we are funded, because we have the casino money and win tax, which is the income tax and casino’s tax, and because the way that funding is separate from our general funding.

“I plan to speak with all of the department heads and try to work on long-range planning, that way we can work on three to four years out, the idea being we get it down on paper. The second part of my thing is transparency with the public, to let people know more of what’s going on the best I can.

“You don’t realize how good some people are until you start meeting them,” Rosenbaum said of his fellow council members and commissioners. “I went to training in Indianapolis, which dealt with budgeting and affording requirements. We got a feel and understanding of compliance issues.”

Democrat Sheila Brillson is replacing Republican Commissioner Connie Gramarossa on the Board of Commissioners. Brillson served two terms as mayor of Michigan City and is a former school teacher.

As mayor, Brillson co-founded the Safe Harbor After School Enrichment program; created and led the EDCMC, an economic development corporation which encourages investment and job growth in northern Indiana. She is currently Executive Director of Leadership of the Society of Innovators at Purdue University Northwest.

“Economic development, community development and job growth are the things right in my laser focus,” she said. “Being a good listener and respectful commissioner is really important to me. The voters are our boss. We need to refocus county government on excellent customer service and efficiencies. I’m going to bring my business background into office and really start taking a focused view on efficiency and active government.”

To the public, she said, “make sure you are communicating well with me, my goal is to be accessible, to be careful with tax dollars and be efficient and effective. Those are my key words. I’ve had a lot of business experience and I want to bring those experiences to county government. Our employees are smart and resourceful – my goal is to help them to do their jobs.”

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