Historic inauguration coming up: Michigan City’s first Black mayor
MICHIGAN CITY — About 200 of Democrat Angie Nelson Deuitch‘s supporters, Black and white, chanted “Angie, Angle, Angie” before she addressed the crowd on Election Night at the Uptown Social banquet hall at Ninth and Franklin streets.
“There was a reporter that said it was ‘a toss-up,'” Michigan City’s mayor-elect said. “‘It’s tightening.’ Did you all see anything tightening? We knew from the beginning, didn’t we? We understood the assignment, and we did it.”
And in beating Republican incumbent Duane Parry, Deuitch made history: She’ll become Michigan City’s first Black mayor when she’s sworn in Jan. 1.
She said being the first-ever Black mayor in the city is progress in terms of racial equality, but, more importantly, her victory reflects her abilities as an individual.
“It’s great. It’s historic, but I’m the most qualified to be mayor. That’s number one. I’m qualified,” she said.
Deuitch, 52, is wrapping up her second term on the city council after serving on the council from 2008 through 2011.
She received 64% of the vote in the Nov. 7 election to Parry’s 33%, while libertarian Mike Walker gathered about 3% of the more than 4,300 votes cast in the race.
Deuitch described her campaign as a “labor of love” dedicated to rooting out negativity and thinking only positively about the city’s future.
“It’s about how we’re going to lift up Michigan City,” she said above the cheers of the crowd. “We are about to elevate Michigan City to the next level.”
A community leader
Former Michigan City Redevelopment Commission President Don Babcock said Deuitch resonates with a diverse population base from a long history of proving herself to be an effective community leader in areas such as neighborhoods and schools.
Babcock said voters from a wide spectrum also seem to like the big heart she has for the community and her being genuine as a person no matter what the occasion or setting.
He said Deuitch also brings a respected, no nonsense approach to whatever she is trying to achieve.
“You might not always get your way, but something is going to happen, and it’s going to be good. People get excited about that,” said Babcock, who once played a role in economic development for the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and is now director of economic development and community relations for Purdue University Northwest.
According to U.S. census figures, nearly 30% of the city’s population of about 32,000 is Black.
Parry’s chances for reelection could have been hurt not just by what voters felt Deuitch brought to the table.
He was also later charged with Class B misdemeanor leaving the scene of an accident involving his city-owned vehicle being damaged in a collision with an above ground water line at Washington Park.
Capitalizing on coming economic growth
Babcock also said he believes Deuitch is the perfect fit to make sure everyone benefits from the economic growth anticipated from the nearly completed South Shore Line commuter rail’s double track.
High rise hotels, condominiums and apartments are expected to start going up soon because of the projected increase in visitors and new residents from the double track providing much quicker rail travel to and from Chicago.
Currently, Deuitch is owner of Diversity Squared, a business that focuses on connecting high school students not going to college with employers along with workforce development and obtaining grants for things such as food assistance in the community.
Previously, she was employed by NiSource, the parent company of NIPSCO, to make sure anyone working on their pipelines was qualified to perform the work.
Deuitch said high on her priority list is improving municipal services such as trash pick-up and addressing other needs expressed by citizens by creating an administration that communicates effectively and is more accessible to the public.
For example, she said, opening the lines of communication between city department heads and their employees is one way to achieve better public service results out in the community.
“There’s no cohesion in city government right now,” she said. “We have a lot of broken systems that are not working.”
Deuitch said next on her priority list is partnering with schools and other groups such as Ivy Tech to create more opportunity for people by improving their job skills so they can live here and still earn a livable wage.
“I think we’ve missed some opportunities to do that,” she said.
Deuitch said upgrading the job skills of existing residents is especially important now with major new employment opportunities coming from sources like the electrical vehicle battery making plant going up outside New Carlisle.
Her plan is to include the contacts she already has in workforce development outside of local government to generate results.
“We need to bring everybody to the table, and that hasn’t happened yet,” she said.
Deuitch said she also wants programs designed to change behavior in youth and other citizens so that their first reaction to stress is not using guns and drugs to help combat the rise in shootings and homelessness.