The City of Lake Station began to turn the page on the Keith Soderquist era this week with the Democratic caucus selection of former Mayor Dewey Lemley as interim mayor.
“I want to move the city on from a bad experience,” Lemley told the Post-Tribune. Voters will elect a new mayor in November between Democrat Christopher Anderson and Republican Ed Peralta.
I got the chance to cover the Lake Station City Council for a brief time, and as many Northwest Indiana reporters can tell you, there aren’t many cities like it when it comes to an engaged citizenry.
More often than not, municipal meetings are sparsely attended affairs with limited discussion. Councils and boards run through routine agenda items as reporters try to figure out the best angle for their story.
Lake Station has always been different. I got a sense of that the first time I covered a meeting. At the time, Soderquist was a mayoral candidate, and during the discussion portion of the meeting, a City Council candidate called for his resignation over electioneering charges. A spirited back-and-forth ensued with random comments interjected by citizens in the audience. It would be no problem pulling a good story together.
As I was gathering post-meeting quotes, a city official volunteered that a group of them were heading over to the Dairy Queen and asked if I wanted to come along. It’s not the kind of offer a reporter usually gets, but like I said, Lake Station is different. It’s a city where council meetings are as much a social event as they are an administrative task.
I covered several more meetings during the transition between the Shirley Wadding and Soderquist administrations. They were always well attended with plenty of discussion and council members who seemed to relish the sparring with citizen commenters.
I’ve spoken with others who covered Lake Station and had similar experiences. Despite the recent difficulties, the city has the asset of citizens who are engaged with their government and aren’t discouraged from voicing their displeasure. That energy will serve the city well in this transition.
And if you’re wondering, I did politely decline the Dairy Queen invitation -- the sacrifices we make in the name of deadlines.