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NIRPC starts 2020 with new officers & exec

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) entered the new decade with the election of new officers and Executive Board members, and bestowed its award for meritorious service to one of its long-standing members who has had nationwide impact.

At Thursday’s meeting, the Norman Tufford Award “for exceptional dedication and service to NIRPC” was presented to Geof Benson, Town Councilman from Beverly Shores. Benson has served as a NIRPC Commissioner since 2008, and served as Chair of the Commission in 2012 and again in 2018. He recently served as President of the National Association of Regional Councils, where he is extremely active on the national level.

“There was no hesitation or debate in selecting Geof for this award,” said Ty Warner, NIRPC’s Executive Director. “It was obvious to the selection committee that Geof has been an example of regional service, and espouses the ideals this award seeks to encourage.”

Norman Tufford was the first Executive Director of NIRPC from 1966 to 1985. The award named in his honor recognizes NIRPC Commissioners and staff who have demonstrated outstanding leadership and service to the region.

Warner noted during his comments that Geof’s role as Executive Director of the Dunes Learning Center is further evidence of his commitment to Northwest Indiana, helping young people come to appreciate the region’s natural assets and environment.

Also during the meeting, Michael Griffin, Clerk-Treasure of the Town of Highland, was elected as Chair of the Commission for 2020. Griffin served in this capacity previously in 2017.

Elected as Vice-Chair for 2020 was George Topoll, Union Township Trustee. Justin Kiel, Town Council President of La Crosse, was elected as Secretary, and Richard Hardaway, Councilman from Merrillville, was elected Treasurer.

Members elected to the Executive Board included Councilman Will Farrellbegg (Lowell) and Mayor Tom McDermott (Hammond), representing Lake County; County Commissioner Sheila Matias and Mayor Tom Dermody (LaPorte), representing LaPorte County; and Councilman James Ton (Chesterton) and Councilman Greg Stinson (Porter), representing Porter County.

State Representative Ed Soliday (Indiana House of Representatives, 4th District) continues as the Governor’s Appointee to the Commission. Diane Noll, Clerk-Treasurer of Wanatah, will serve as Immediate Past President.

Welcomed onto the Commission as newly-appointed representatives of their respective jurisdictions were Mayor Bill Carroll (Lake Station), Mayor Sue Lynch (Portage), Councilwoman Janet Beck (Pottawattomie Park), Councilman Eric Hull (Burns Harbor), Clerk-Treasurer Wendy Mis (Munster), Councilman David Peeler (Hebron), and Councilwoman Daina Dumbrys (Michiana Shores). Councilwoman Mary Tanis was re-appointed to the Commission from Dyer.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, NIRPC’s 2019 Annual Report was presented in a new, graphically-designed format. The report, highlighting NIRPC’s activities over the past year, is available online at

The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, marital status, familial status, parental status, sexual orientation, genetic information, political beliefs, reprisal, or because all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program.6100 Southport RoadPortage, IN 46368

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