La PORTE — The La Porte County Board of Commissioners is shaking up its leadership for the the New Year.

During its first meeting of 2020 last week, members voted unanimously to elect Commissioner Sheila Matias as board president. The Purdue University Northwest official took the reins from previous president Vidya Kora, who was voted in as vice president.

Matias is currently serving her second year as a commissioner. The Democrat previously served as Michigan City mayor from 1996 to 2003, after eight years on the Michigan City Common Council.

Matias served as vice president of the board during her freshman year. Over the past 12 months, she spearheaded several notable initiatives, including leading the charge to overhaul the aging La Porte County website, and helping create a task force to expand high-speed internet access to more households.

The new board president thanked her fellow commissioners, adding she is excited to work closely with them to "make 2020 the best year yet," she said.

It's a particularly exciting time for the county, with Duane Parry and Tom Dermody taking over as mayors of Michigan City and La Porte, respectively, Matias said. The commissioner hopes county officials can regularly meet and plan joint projects with the mayors, who she described as energetic cheerleaders for their respective communities.

"It's really in everyone's best interests," Matias said. "When citizens drive through La Porte County, they really don't care which jurisdiction they're in. They presume that we're all working together, so we want to make that happen."

The commissioners will also continue to make economic development a priority this year, in particular building up the Kingsbury Industrial Park, Matias said.

Kora also touched on the ongoing efforts at KIP, which the county has sought to connect to a pair of Class I rail lines in recent years, among other improvements. Enhancing the county's infrastructure — both physical and digital — is another of Kora's goals, he said.

Like Matias, the commissioner would like to continue fostering an environment of collaboration with other governing bodies.

"We would like to continue to work with our other local governmental agencies and the cities so that we can all work together and do whatever we can to make La Porte County a place to live, a place where people want to move, start a business and raise their families," Kora said. 

Commissioner Richard Mrozinski shared similar sentiments, mentioning the commissioners have accomplished a lot over the past several years, and have more on their plate in the months ahead.

"We all work together to do what is best for the county, and plan on continuing to do that this year," he said. "Hopefully, we'll have another good year." 

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