Not unlike a lot of young adults, Gina Giese-Hurst left Portage shortly after her graduation from Portage High School in 1985.
She and her husband, Jamie, pursued their careers across the country.
But there was something about home that called them back.
"Family brought us back and I'm thankful. The friends you have in the community are your family," said Giese-Hurst, the Portage City Council 1st District representative.
Initially, her family settled in her great-grandfather's home on County Line Road, but about 10 years ago, they moved to their present home on Dombey Road. It had been her parents' home where she grew up.
A radiology technician for 30 years, Giese-Hurst began to get involved, She volunteered with the Portage Resale Shop and worked with youth groups through her church.
Last year, she said, she knew she wanted to do more for her community and she decided to run for City Council.
"This side of town is my passion. I'm here to listen. This is my community," she said.
"My goal is to listen to my community. I've grown to appreciate the history of this area and I want to move it forward," said Giese-Hurst.
She has been working with city officials and volunteers to bring new life to the former Garyton school building on Central Avenue. Once slated for demolition, preliminary plans call for it to be resurrected into a community center and gathering place.
"So many things could happen. It would be a safe place for kids, a place for seniors. I want to see the youth and elders merge together," she said.
A consulting group is expected to present a preliminary vision and cost estimates on what the building could become to the city's Redevelopment Commission next month.
Another project in the 1st district she'd like to tackle is the installation of sidewalks to not only provide safe transit for residents but to provide community connections across the city.
Job development is also important to Giese-Hurst, offering youngsters, who once like her wanted to leave the city, a reason to stay and make Portage their forever home.
"Our town is our family, our family is our town," she said. "I want to make this a family town."