La PORTE — New mayor-elect Tom Dermody wasn’t the only Republican celebrating victory on Election Day.
The GOP captured all but one of the city’s seven city council seats during Tuesday’s general election, according to results from the La Porte County Clerk’s Office. Of the victors, four are newcomers to the local political scene.
Republican Julie West-Schroeder captured the 1st Ward seat, defeating Democrat David Schmitt 182 to 129, capturing more than 58% of the vote. West-Schroeder will assume the seat held by incumbent Democrat Renee Scherer, who did not seek reelection.
A La Porte native, West-Schroeder currently teaches physical education at Olive Elementary School in New Carlisle. She is the founder of The Play for Jake Foundation, a nonprofit named after her late son that raises awareness of undetected heart conditions.
Though she is new to city politics, West-Schroeder is excited to get started, she said immediately following her victory Tuesday.
“I have a lot to learn, but I’m a quick learner,” she said.
Based on conversations with residents in her ward, the educator would like to tackle issues such as repairing and enhancing roads through La Porte, as well as improving code enforcement. She is also focused on supporting the mayor-elect’s focus on pushing back against the city’s drug problems, she said.
“I know one of [Dermody’s] main goals is to make the [drug dealers] coming into our city uncomfortable and unprofitable,” she said. “The safety of our city is very important to all of us.”
Joining West-Schroeder on the winner’s podium Tuesday was fellow Republican Sarah Brown, who soundly defeated incumbent Democrat Miles Fettinger 424 to 262 to win the 5th Ward seat, capturing more than 61% of the vote.
Brown, who moved to La Porte six years ago, is a financial advisor with Edward Jones who formerly worked as an education outreach coordinator with Chrysler. She has served as president of the Kiwanis Club of La Porte, is on the La Porte Chamber of Commerce board and is a member of Women in Leadership.
Like West-Schroeder, Brown said one of the main issues she heard on the campaign was about fixing up the city’s roads, a problem she would like to being working on once she assumes office. She would also like to attract high-paying, quality jobs to La Porte, as well as improve the city’s quality of life, she said.
“We have great resources here in La Porte we need to tap into,” Brown said.
The financial advisor also thinks that she and the other newcomers to the council will bring some positive change to the community, Brown said.
“We have a lot of momentum,” she said. “There’s a lot of diverse backgrounds in the group. I think that’s going to help us create a vision for where we want to go.”
New faces also claimed the council’s two at-large seats Tuesday.
Republicans Tim Franke and Paul Vincent edged out both Democrats in the race, incumbent Joe Mrozinske and newcomer Robert O’Donnell II, to win the spots. The two captured 1,641 and 1,339 votes respectively, compared to Mrozinske’s 1,137 votes and O’Donnell’s 706.
Vincent is the office manager of RQAW who moved to La Porte with his family in 2017. He currently serves as president of the La Porte Business Improvement District and is vice president of the La Porte Historic Preservation Commission.
Vincent is making the city’s infrastructure — roads, bridges, drainage — one his main priorities once he assumes office, he said.
“We got some challenges ahead of us, but I think we have a great team here that can pull some different resources from different parts of the state, whether it be grants or low-interest loans or whatever it may be,” he said. “We can help strategize and set up a vision on where our future will be when it comes to infrastructure.”
Strengthening code enforcement is another area he would like to focus his energy on, Vincent said.
“We have opportunities to improve and raise the level of pride we have in our community,” he said.
A La Porte native and business owner, Franke has over 20 years of experience in business management and operations. He is a member of the city's redevelopment commission as well as a member of the Rotary Club of La Porte and a founding board member of Big Comedy La Porte.
Though it will be several weeks before he and the other newcomers take office, Franke said he would like to begin work now on planning a clear vision for La Porte’s future. Among his goals are getting truck traffic off Lincoln Way, increasing code enforcement and getting good jobs and businesses back in La Porte, he said.
“I’m ecstatic for the future of the La Porte,” Franke said. “We’re all in this to make La Porte a better place. We’re not going to agree on everything, that’s for sure, but we all have the same end goal — grow La Porte and leave it a much better place than we found it.”
Third Ward Councilwoman Lisa Cutler was the sole La Porte Democrat to win on Tuesday, soundly defeating Republican challenger Cary Kirkham 395 to 223, capturing nearly 64% of the vote.
Cutler, a resident of La Porte since 2004, operates Thaddeus C. Gallery on Lincoln Way alongside her husband. She is currently serving her first term on the council, having won the seat over Republican incumbent Ron McAtee in 2015.
Despite the being lone member of her party represented on the council, Cutler said she is excited to see the direction the newcomers to the board will take the city. Like her Republican counterparts, the councilwoman believes that issues like roads or code enforcement are problems the city needs to take on. She would also like to continue bringing quality of life projects like the recent downtown mural to La Porte as well, she said.
“My husband and I have been positive advocates for this town, and we want to continue that,” she said.
Incumbent 2nd Ward Councilwoman Karyl Machek-Feikes will retain her seat, as the Republican ran unopposed Tuesday for the seat. Feikes has served on the council since 2014, when she took over the vacant seat from Kirkham following his election to the county council.
Republican Roger Galloway also recaptured his former seat on the council, as he ran unopposed as its 4th Ward representative. Galloway served as councilman for seven years before the county GOP selected him last December to serve as the city’s clerk-treasurer following the death of former office holder Teresa Ludlow.
Current 4th Ward Councilman Mike Cowgill, who local Republicans selected to replace Galloway’s seat, chose to not seek election for the position.
Taking Galloway’s place in the clerk-treasurer’s office is Republican Courtney Parthun, who ran unopposed for the position Tuesday. The La Porte High School graduate is a former manager with 1st Source Bank and Sterno Delivery who currently represents We Connect, a La Porte-based nonprofit that provides support for employers to “engage, empower and retain employees.”
Parthun captured the GOP nomination for the position over former city police officer and councilman Geoff Sellers in May’s primary.
The candidates will all assume their freshly-won terms in January.