Brothers sworn in as mayor, City Council member in Lake Station
December 31, 2015
December 31, 2015
More than 100 people packed Lake Station City Hall to see a new city administration take the oath of office Wednesday night.
Flanked by family members, new Mayor Christopher Anderson was sworn-in just minutes after his younger brother, Neil Anderson, took the oath of office to serve as one of the city's two at-large council members.
Also sworn-in Wednesday were Carlos Luna, D-1st; Fred Williams, D-3rd; Rick Long, D-5th; Clerk-Treasurer Joseph Castellanos and city court Judge Josh Matejczyk, also Democrats. Longtime Hobart city court Judge William Longer administered the oath. Long was the lone incumbent seeking re-election in the city to retain his seat.
The city's three other council members, Esther Rocha-Baldazo, D-at large; Jennifer Miller, I-2nd, and Erika Castillo, D-4th were sworn-in earlier this month at the Lake County Government Center in Crown Point.
"We have our work cut out for us," Christopher Anderson told the crowd.
The new mayor takes the city's helm in the wake of the conviction of former Lake Station Mayor Keith Soderquist. Soderquist and his wife, Deborah, were convicted in September of using money from his election fund and the city's food pantry to pay for dozens of gambling trips. They have filed a motion for a new trial.
Anderson credited interim Mayor Dewey Lemley, who has served since Soderquist's conviction, with spending the past couple months laying the groundwork to get the city back on track. Lemley was the city's mayor from 1992 to 1996,
"It's time to get to work," Anderson said.
He vowed the first changes in the cash-strapped city government would be quick and inexpensive. Anderson said the city will join the Shared Ethics Advisory Committee and work to improve the transparency of city operations.
"I have a lot of mixed emotions: excitement, a little nervousness about what I might find when I walk into the office," Anderson said after the ceremony.
Resident Dimitri Tsahas was among those in the gallery. He has been a longtime friend of the Anderson family and came out to support the new officials.
"There is a whole lot of work to do. I don't expect too much right away," Tsahas said.
Another resident, who declined to be identified, said she came out because she wanted to see the ceremony. She is looking forward to a having a new administration.
"I hope they straighten the city out, get us out of debt and get us on the right track," she said.
Anderson has spent the past few months in close contact with Lemley, and the past couple weeks working with him to ease the transition. Anderson said he does not necessarily expect any new surprises about the city's finances when he starts the job Monday, but "you never know."
A $500,000 unpaid paving bill, which Anderson said nobody was aware of, was among the problems discovered by Lemley.
"It was somewhat of a big surprise," Anderson said.
His work will begin with getting an understanding of where the city stands financially. Much work must be done, but it will cost money, so that means it may take time, he said. Anderson said residents have so far been understanding and know time is needed to get the city turned around.
"They are well aware of what happened here," he said.
Attracting new business and increasing the property tax base will be crucial to changing the financial situation, he said.
Anderson said he was glad to see his younger brother win a seat on the council and is looking forward to working with him and the rest of the panel. He said council members must speak their mind and ask questions, and not just vote for every measure that comes before them. He expects his brother to speak his mind and said he may do so "more so than anybody else" because of their relationship.
He knows that may not always go smoothly.
"We are going to disagree," Anderson said. "I welcome the council's opinions."