#1StudentNWI: An interview with Jim Biggs: North Porter County Commissioner
County government can be confusing at times, as it is set up differently than our state and national government. It is even structurally organized quite differently from city or town governments. Trying to understand what different county elected positions do within the community can be hard to discern.
Most systems of government have a clearly defined executive role, for example the president on the national level, governor on the state level, or mayor at the local level.
Instead of one individual serving in an executive role, the Porter County government includes a County Council and Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners provides different functions than the County Council, but both are equally important.
In Porter County, there are three County Commissioners. Each Commissioner represents one third of Porter County. The county is split into three districts, which are labeled north, center and south.
Jim Biggs is the current County Commissioner for North Porter County. This district includes the Jackson, Liberty, Pine, Portage and Westchester Townships.
County Commissioner Biggs has served in this position since January of 2017. Previously, he also held this position from January 1992 to December 1999.
As an experienced North Porter County Commissioner, Biggs can easily clear up the confusion on what functions the Board of Commissioners serve.
“County Commissioners are the executive body of county government. As such, we develop all county ordinances, maintain all county properties and county roads, as well as develop and enforce all county personnel, policies and employee benefits, and approve all operational costs generated by county departments.” said Biggs.
Additionally, when asked about the difference between the Porter County Council and County Commissioners, he clarified that the county council is responsible for the finances and the commissioners are in charge of how the money is spent within the county.
When asked why he serves as a Porter County Commissioner, he stated that he enjoys helping to improve the quality of life for the residents of the county. He is proud to help transition Porter County from simply existing to being able to plan for the future.
In regard to working with elected officials from both political parties, Biggs feels that “Most locally elected officials are easy to work with. Those that are not, typically don’t stay in public office long.”
County Commissioner Biggs has proven his commitment to Porter County by continually working with other sections of the county government, such as Sylvia Graham of the Porter County Council. Biggs believes that this is crucial to the county government functioning properly.
When asked what his current areas of focus are as a Porter County Commissioner, Biggs shared that they are working diligently on the Willowcreek road extension and the renovations of several county buildings.
As a County Commissioner, there are several projects that Biggs is most proud of completing during his tenure. Such projects include, but are not limited to, the opening of the third pod in the county jail, which relieved overcrowding conditions, and an overhaul of the county health insurance program, which has saved county taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in just the last three years.
Additionally, county commissioners and county council have renovated county buildings which were in dire need of repairs without subjecting residents to raises in their taxes.
“I believe I have brought into the North County Commissioner’s office a more honest, professional, and harder working approach to serving our residents, which I believe the public has appreciated.” Biggs said.
From road and bridge repairs, to local elections, and the county 911 emergency response system, all lives are affected by the county government.