#1StudentNWI: An interview with Porter County Council member Sylvia Graham

#1StudentNWI: An interview with Porter County Council member Sylvia Graham
By: Nicholas Fortin Last Updated: September 14, 2019

The county council is the fiscal body of the county government, handling budget for each county department and how tax dollars are spent on everything from roadwork to parks. 

Porter County Council member Sylvia Graham is one of three at-Large council members. She graduated from Hobart High School. Her father was a union carpenter and her husband is a local 150 operator engineer. She is a retired hospital-based Family Nurse Practitioner, having worked 22 years for cardiologists in the area. She worked as a registered nurse for six years at Porter Memorial Hospital in ICU/CCU and was as a unit director of two years. Prior to her becoming a nurse, Graham worked as a nursing assistant for four years. She holds nursing degrees from Indiana University Northwest and Purdue University Northwest.

Graham said she started in politics after she became friends with former Porter County Commissioner Carole Knoblock. She started by helping Knoblock put up signs for her campaign, and by working as an inspector at the polls on Election Day as well. The first office she ran for was Indiana House of Representatives District 4.

“One day Commissioner Knoblock and Leon West came to my house and asked me to run for Indiana House of Representatives district #4. I agreed to run and that started my political involvement,” she said.

She lost her first election for that office back in 2006. Then, in 2008 she ran for Porter County Council and won. She has served for three terms on the Porter County Council and made a run for Porter County Commissioner but lost. 

Graham explained the differences between the responsibilities of the county council versus the county commission. Commissioners, she said, are the executive branch of the county government. They are in charge of all of the county buildings and they pass ordinances. The county council is basically the fiduciary body which means having control of budgets and money. 

The requirements to run for and hold the office of county council are that you are at least 18 years old and that you live in the county. There are four county council members from certain districts, and three at-large members who can live anywhere in the county. On their ballots, voters can choose from candidates in their districts, and all the at-large candidates. In 2020 the at-large county council seats are on the ballot.  

Graham said she believes democrats and republicans work well together on the council, and that the county council has a democrat majority and the county commissioners have a republican majority. 

Of being on the council, Graham said, “I like the challenge of balancing the county budget without raising taxes. I enjoy interacting with constituents, listening to their concerns and helping whenever I can.”