(Michigan City, IN) - The campaign for mayor in Michigan City pits an incumbent against a member of the city council in a race viewed by many as too close to call.
Republican Duane Parry is running for a second term against Angie Nelson Deuitch, a democrat, who would be the first African American mayor in the city’s history.
Parry, 74, also previously served one term on the city council.
Among his biggest successes he cited as mayor include the police department being much closer to full strength again with help from significant pay increases.
Parry said officer morale was also boosted after he named a new police chief about a year ago.
“Our police force is stabilized now. It’s a young police force. I’m very excited about it,” he said.
Parry also pointed to the recent purchase and installation of technology alerting police immediately to the sound and location of gunfire to catch more individuals firing weapons and curb their growing use in the community.
The technology works with flock cameras to obtain the license plate numbers of fleeing vehicles linked to the gunfire and their location.
“We’ve already had several arrests using this equipment. It’s really a game changer. It truly is,” he said.
Since the technology is proving very effective, Parry said his goal is to have every person setting off alerts with gunfire arrested within 24 hours to enhance the aggressive approach to reduce shootings
“That will keep us at the forefront of public safety,” he said.
Parry also expressed a desire to maintain the small town charm of the community as much as possible during a period of major growth anticipated from quicker travel to and from Chicago on the South Shore commuter line.
Trains are expected to start rolling in May on the double track from Michigan City to Gary.
Groundbreaking has occurred on three high rises containing hotel rooms, condominiums and apartments to meet demand from an expected increase in Chicago area residents coming here to visit because of much quicker rail travel.
Thousands of new residents are also projected because of reduced travel times making it more convenient to live here and work in Chicago.
“We’re taking off,” he said.
If reelected, Parry said a top priority will be to aggressively pursue new housing construction to meet demand and build upon recently unveiled plans for the first construction of new single family homes in the city in decades.
He also wants to restore the city’s manufacturing base, which he believes holds the real key to providing more good paying jobs.
“I want Michigan City to be a working community with an extremely low unemployment rate and people having productive jobs. White collar, blue collar, service, manufacturing. That’s what I’m looking for,” he said.
Deuitch, 52, owns Diversity Square, a business focusing on connecting high school students not going to college with employers, workforce development and obtaining grants for things like food assistance in the community.
Previously, she was employed by NiSource, the parent company of NIPSCO, to make sure anyone working on their pipelines was qualified to perform the work.
She served previously on the city council from 2008 through 2011.
Deuitch said much of her campaign has focused on improving municipal services like trash pick-up and addressing other needs expressed by citizens by having an administration that communicates effectively and is more accessible to the public.
For example, opening the lines of communication between city department heads and their employees is one way to get better public service results out in the community.
“There’s no cohesion in city government right now. We have a lot of broken systems that are not working,” she said.
Deuitch said next on her priority list is partnering with schools and other groups like Ivy Tech to create more opportunity for people by improving their job skills so they can still live here and earn a livable wage.
“I think we’ve missed some opportunities to do that,” she said.
Deuitch said she also wants to develop a capital improvement plan for replacing vehicles and other equipment before they unexpectedly start breaking down or become no longer usable.
To curb rising gun violence, Deutich said her workforce development plan is part of the equation but she also wants programs aimed at changing behavior so the first reaction to conflict is not shooting a firearm.
Deuitch also placed an emphasis on better access to mental health to help address problems with violence and homelessness stemming from poverty and opioid addiction.
Her other priorities include guiding citizens to benefit as much as possible from the significant growth anticipated when construction of the double track for the South Shore commuter line is completed next year.
Deuitch viewed the possibility of being first African American mayor in the city’s history as progress but one she earned.
“It’s great. It’s historic, but I’m the most qualified to be mayor. That’s number one. I’m qualified,”she said.