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Valparaiso Fact Book 2019-2020

“ Valley of Paradise” Est. 1836

2 VALPARAISO FACT BOOK 2019 Excerpts from remarks by Jon Costas, Mayor of Valparaiso, to the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce at its annual meeting on Jan. 22, 2019. To the future mayor: I believe that one of the most important things the leader of an organization does is define and protect its culture. So you’ll need to do just that. I’d say that the work culture at city hall and through all our departments is very strong. Our culture is best described by words like trust, empowerment, respect, accountability, integrity and innovation. While our city culture is robust, all things can be improved. Its been said that you either manage the culture or it manages you. So when it comes to work culture: define it, live it promote it, and protect it. You’ll be glad you did. In many ways our work culture at city hall mirrors the culture of our entire community. We are a collaborative people who are deeply committed to excellence and to future generations. Our city is growing in a healthy way with investment occurring in all sectors. Valparaiso is about as safe as a city can be, and our police and fire departments are leaders throughout the state. Our downtown is red-hot and the envy of most other communities our size. All this has occurred through the coordinated efforts of a very talented team who understood that public service is a sacred trust. Our city leadership team did not show up to merely collect a paycheck , but to be part of something much bigger than themselves, and to make our citizens proud of their hometown. I feel lucky, and sometimes even like an imposter, to have been at the helm of this awesome team for 16 transformative years. It’s a privilege I’ll always treasure.

Table of Contents Collecting Dolls is passion for young and old . . . .4 Valpo City Government . . . . . . 5 City Parks . . . .8 Valpo Community Schools. . .10 Valpo Facts & Figures . . . . .11 Porter County Museum . . . . .12 Memorial Opera House . . . .13 Festivals & Events. . . . 14

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Collecting dolls is passion for young and old Valpo woman collects and shows dolls and bears By Cheri Shelhart Kankakee Valley Publishing

At 94 years young, Vera Johnson will happily talk about her doll collection, bears and her career as an interior designer. She is a member of the Valparaiso Doll Club and she is busy preparing for the annual Doll & Bear Show at the Porter County Expo Center in September. Johnson said she and her husband Earl, gave their daughter, Jacqueline, a doll every year for Christmas. The first doll they gave her was a “flirtyeyed” doll, whose eyes seem to follow you as you walk around the room. The doll, made in Italy, has a torso that twists and the hands are movable but the knees don’t bend. It was a unique doll in its day. As an interior designer, Johnson loved

to sew and she would sew an outfit for her daughter and make a matching outfit for her doll. She also made clothes for Jacqueline’s Barbie dolls. The dolls had accessories, including miniature furniture and props and the collection grew. Jacqueline passed suddenly in 2001, leaving her dolls to Vera. That was when she began a collection of her own, adding to those her daughter had already collected. r Six short e h s hold nson s saved weeks after h o J e ha Vera oll sh od. Jacqueline d n ow ho child died, she and Earl since lost their only son, who died of cancer. Three years later, Earl was gone

and Johnson was left with her memories and her collection. Johnson said this is the 25th year for the Valpo Doll & Friends Club, and the club has about 30 members. She said there are a couple men who attend on occasion. The meetings are informative and interesting. “It’s educational,” she said. “There’s so much to learn.” The club sponsors the Doll & Bear Show each year, and it has become the largest of its kind in northwest Indiana. The show features antique and vintage dolls and collectibles. It will be held Sunday, Sept. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Porter County Expo Center on the northeast corner of U.S. Hwy 49 and Division Rd. A special exhibit will be the “Dolls of the Past & Present.” After the show, the club decides where the money they raise from it will go in the form of grants. They have given money to the Hilltop organization, World Vision Club and the Boys & Girls Club. The club began lining up collectors and vendors for the doll

Continued on page 14

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City Government of Valparaiso

Jon Costas Mayor

Lenore Hoffman Dist. 4

Clerk/Treasurer Sharon Swihart

Trista Hudson At-Large

Diana Reed Dist. 1

Deb Porter At-Large

The City of Valparaiso is governed by the mayor and a seven member city council. Day to day operations are under the city administrator. Mayor Jon Costas has been the mayor of Valparaiso since 2004.

Robert Cotton Dist. 2

Matt Murphy Dist. 3


George Douglas Dist. 5

Prior to becoming mayor, he was an at-large councilman for the city beginning in 1985. He is a long-term resident of Valparaiso, and is a 1975 graduate of Valparaiso High School. He received his BA from St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer and his law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law, specializing in Elder Law. He is an adjunct professor at the law school. The city council members are District 1: Diana Reed, District 2: Robert Cotton, District 3: Matt Murphy, District 4: Lenore Hoffman, District 5: George Douglas, and two at-large members: Trista Hudson and Deb Porter. The council meets the second and fourth Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in Valparaiso City Hall, located at 166 Lincolnway, downtown Valparaiso. (City Hall has been temporarily moved to the Hayes Leonard school building while renovations to the hall are done in 2019.)



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GOVERNMENT, continued from page 5 The city administrator is Bill Oeding. He reports directly to the mayor and is responsible for implementing policy directives of both the mayor and the city council. As administrator, he is also responsible for strategic planning, financial management and citywide communication. He coordinates daily operations in the following departments: engineering, human resources, information technology (IT), parks and recreation, planning, public works, project management and utilities. Oeding worked for the city as director of public works before attaining the position of city administrator. His office is at city hall. To reach city hall, call 219-4621161. The Valparaiso City Hall is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The mayor’s email is His executive assistant, Lori Good, can be reached at the city hall number or through email at The fax number for city hall is 219-462-4273. The city clerk/treasurer is Sharon Swihart ( She is the fiscal officer for the city. The city clerk/treasurer position is an elected office. Currently, there are five full time employees including Swihart, and two part time employees. The office can be reached at the city hall number and is open during regular city hall hours. Boards and Commissions

The City of Valparaiso has a number of boards and commissions that oversee separate areas of city business. • Board of Public Works and Safety meets

the second and fourth Friday of each month at city hall at 10 a.m. • Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meets the third Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. • Economic Development Commission meetings are held at city hall as required. • Plan Commission meets the second Tues-

day of each month at 7 p.m. at city hall. Commission members are • Redevelopment Commission meets the second Thursday at 4:05 p.m. immediately following an executive session, whichever occurs later, at city hall. • Park Board meets the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Forest Park Golf Course Clubhouse, Welter Room, at 1155 Sheffield Dr. • Valparaiso City Utility Board meets the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. at the Valparaiso Water Dept. board room, 205 Billings St. • Ethics Commission meetings are held as needed at city hall. The commission’s mission

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is to uphold the highest standards of integrity in city government. • Historic Preservation Commission meets on the third Thursday of each month or as needed. • Human Relations Council’s mission is to advance and support community inclusion. The purpose of the commission is to counsel and assist the mayor in the status of human relations in the city and identify special needs or opportunities to enhance relations. The commission is also charged with acting as a resource to the mayor when racially or ethnically motivated incidents occur, suggesting and promoting events designed to promote a better understanding of minorities and improve the human relations of residents of Valparaiso and serving as liaison between the mayor’s office and minority groups. The commission was established in 2008. • Mayor’s Advisory Council on Disability meetings are held as needed. The advisory council was established to foster public awareness and education of the needs and abilities of citizens with disabilities. It provides a forum for community issues and activities affecting the disabled. • Site Review meets at 9 a.m. as necessary at city hall. All city departments in development and permitting reviews process are represented at the meetings every Tuesday. • Traffic and Safety Committee meets the third Friday of each month at city hall at 10 a.m. The committee addresses traffic issues within the community including traffic control devices, parking concerns and street lights.

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Valpo boasts 17 parks for fun and relaxation Valparaiso has 17 parks and a golf course for fun, play and relaxation. The parks are 200 East, Banta Park, Berkley Park, Bicentennial Park, Central Park Plaza, Forest Park, Foundation Meadows, Glenrose Park, Jessee-Pifer Park, Kirchhoff Park, Ogden Gardens Park, Old Fairgrounds Park, Rogers-Lakewood Park, Tower Park, Valplayso, Westside Park and Will Park. The Forest Park Golf Course is described on the city’s web site as a “somewhat wide open traditional parkland front nine, and a very challenging back nine that has several elevation changes and relatively small greens, Forest Park awakes the senses and challenges your skills.” Ogden Gardens features a Japanese Garden, a gazebo, trails, streams and a pond with koi. It is an oasis of beauty within the city where visitors can relax and enjoy the views in a relaxing stroll through the park. It is located at Campbell St. and Harrison Blvd., about 3/4 mile north of Lincolnway. Central Park Plaza is located

in downtown Valparaiso and offers a skating rink in the winter and a splash pad in the summer. It also houses the Porter Health Amphitheater, the William E. Urschel Pavilion and a statue of the city’s famous popcorn maker, Orville Redenbacher.

Valplayso is located on the south side of Glendale Blvd., east of Roosevelt Rd. It was designed and built in 1994 by the Valparaiso community in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Valparaiso Department of Parks and Recreation.

Community participation was incorporated into all phases of the designing and building of Valplayso; more than 2,600 children and adult volunteers shared in the experience. Energetic foundation members and committed park staff coordinated the community project. Valplayso was updated on its 20th anniversary in 2014 with more fun for children to enjoy. Old Fairgrounds Park is located at 704 McCord Rd. at Evans and Calumet Ave. It features the Butterfield Family Pavilion, a 5,000 sq. ft. building that was originally the 4-H Building when the park was once the Porter County Fairgrounds. It is available for rental. Softball fields can be found at Bicentennial Park, which also features a multi-purpose area with a basketball backstop and newly refurbished playground equipment and tennis courts. Visit the Parks Dept. web site at to learn about all the city’s parks and programs



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Valparaiso home to 11 community schools Valparaiso Community Schools include eight elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school. School board members are appointed by the Valparaiso City Council, with one seat on the board up for renewal every June 30. In May, the council seeks applicants from citizens interested in serving on the school board. The school corporation office is located at 3801 N. Campbell St., 219-531-3000. Dr. Julie Lauck is the Superintendent of Schools. Dr. Jim McCall is the Asst. Superintendent. Nick Allison is the Director of Secondary Education and Brandie Mula is the Director of Elementary Education. The elementary schools are: Central Elementary at 305 Franklin St. It is a 4-Star School. Mrs. Calli Dado is principal. Contact the school at 219-531-3030. Cooks Corner Elementary is located at 358 Bullseye Lake Rd. Mrs. Elaina Miller is principal. The phone number is 219-531-3040. Flint Lake Elementary can be found at 4106 Calumet Ave. Principal Mrs. Erin Hawkins can be emailed at

and the phone number is 219-531-3160. Dr. Bonnie Stephens is the principal at the new Heavilin Elementary School, which opened Aug. 13, 2017. The school is located at 2450 Heavilin Rd. The school can be reached at 219-476-8820. Memorial Elementary is located at 1052 Park Ave. Mrs. Debra Misecko is the principal. The school can be reached at 219-5313090. Northview Elementary is located at 257 Northview Dr. The principal is Mr. Loren Hershberger. Phone 219-531-3100. Parkview Elementary is found at 1405 Wood St., and the phone number is 219-531-3110. Anne Wodetzki is the principal. Thomas Jefferson Elementary’s principal is David Muniz. The school is located at 1700

Roosevelt Rd., 219-531-3130. Middle Schools Benjamin Franklin Middle School is at 605 Campbell St. Mrs. Jeanie Sienkowski is the principal and Mr. Nick Slater is the assistant principal. The number is 219-531-3020. Thomas Jefferson Middle School is located at 1600 Roosevelt Rd., 219-531-3140. Mr. Nick Eccles is the interim principal and Mr. Brett Wartman is the assistant principal. High School Valparaiso High School has an average enrollment of 2,082 students in 9th through 12th grades. It was designated a 4-Star School, four years in a row. Dr. eronica Tobon is the principal. Assistant Principals are Aron Borowiak, Elizabeth Krutz and John Miller. Associate Principal is Ashley Moore. Dean of Students is Michelle Bush and Dean of Attendance is Barak Coolman. The high school is located at 2727 N. Campbell St. The main office number is 219-531-3070, athletics is 219-531-3080 and attendance is 219-531-3079.

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Valparaiso Facts & Figures

• Valparaiso is the county seat of Porter County in Northwest Indiana. • According to the US Census Bureau, the estimated population in 2018 was 33,729, an increase of 1,103 people since 2015. • Median household income 2013-2017 was $52,507. • Persons in poverty is 13.6 percent according to the US Census Bureau, 2013-2017. • Valparaiso was included in a purchase of land by the United States Government from the Potowatami Indians in 1832. • Valparaiso means “Valley of Paradise” in old Spanish. It was once called Portersville, established in 1836, and was renamed in 1837, after David Porter, the county’s namesake, fought in the Battle of Valparaiso during the War of 1812. It is named after the city of the same name in Chile. • Valparaiso sits on the site of

the Sauk Trail, which ran from Rock Island, Illinois, through northwest Indiana to Detroit, Michigan. • Valparaiso has a mayor and a seven person city council representing five districts with two atlarge seats. • Valparaiso is home to Valparaiso foundUniversity, ed in 1859. It is also home to a branch of Ivy Tech State College. • Valparaiso is a transportation hub, located midway between Chicago and South Bend with access to the South Shore rail line, ChicaGo Dash and its own V-Line bus system. It is situated

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along US Hwy. 30, State Road 49 and State Road 2. • Lincoln Highway, US 30, was the first coast to coast roadway in the country. Valparaiso became part of that route. A marker designating such (pictured) sits in front of the city hall. • The median value of owner-occupied housing units (2013-2017) is $175,000. The median selected monthly owner costs – with mortgage (20102014) is $1,325. • Number of households, 2013-2017, are 12,632 with 2.31 persons per household.


• Per capita income in 2017 dollars is $29,067. • Education in Valparaiso, according to the US Census Bureau of Education: High school graduate or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, (2013-2017) is 94.7 percent, Bachelor’s Degree or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+ (2013-2017) is 39.5 percent. • In civilian labor force, total, percent of population age 16 years+, (2013-2017) is 60.8 percent. In civilian labor force, female, percent of population age 16 years+, (2010-2014) is 55 percent. • Total accommodation and food service sales 2012 $107,638. • Total health care and social assistance receipts/revenue, 2012 is $313,333 Total retail sales per capita, 2012 is $26,695. • Veterans living in Valparaiso in 2017 were 1,557.

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Preserving local history: Porter County Museum The Porter County Museum is located at 153 Franklin St., just off the courthouse square in downtown Valparaiso. During 2016, the museum celebrated its 100th year, dusting off some old exhibits and bringing them out for display. The museum was begun after an exhibition of historical artifacts from the county were part of Indiana’s 100th year of statehood celebration. Owners of the artifacts neglected to pick up their items after the exhibition closed, and the museum collection was begun. There is always something exciting to learn and experience at the Porter County Museum. The PoCo Muse has a collection of artifacts spanning centuries and has been actively acquiring objects, histories, and

stories for more than a century. Museum staff hope that when you visit, you leave

with a better understanding the unique character of Porter County, along with its

diversity, vibrancy, and beauty,

There is something for everyone at the Porter County Museum. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy our unique collection. Adults are invited

to examine artifacts from our nation’s past. Children are invited to learn the history of the community through our hands-on, interactive displays. The exhibit includes the museum building itself, once the county jail and sheriff ’s residence. Take a walk around the west side of the building, and it is obvious it was once a prison. Inside, archeological displays now fill the small jail cell openings with the bones of a mastodon found in a field outside of Valparaiso. The museum is free and open Wednesday - Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For all the museum’s exhibits and programs, see the museum’s website at

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Memorial Opera House entertains for over 120 years

The Memorial Opera House was built in 1893 as a memorial to Civil War Veterans. It seats 364 people. The Memorial Opera House was added to the National Register of Historic places in 1984 and

was restored in 1998. It is located at 104 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso. The Grand Army of the Republic wanted to build an auditorium that would be useful for Valparaiso and the

county. The entrance states, “The Soldiers and Sailors of 1861-5.” The opera house is located at 104 E. Indiana Ave., next to the Porter County Museum. July 12 -28, “Mama Mia” will

be presented followed by Agatha Christie’s “The Mouse Trap,” Sept. 27 to Oct. 13. For a full listing of its current and upcoming productions, visit the website at

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Valparaiso’s Famous Popcorn Festival

September 5-7, 2019 For the 41st year, the Popcorn Festival in downtown Valparaiso offers familyfun every year, the Saturday after Labor Day. The parade is the highlight of the day featuring floats with a popcorn theme, marching bands and local organizations. The festival is held in honor of the late Orville Redenbacher, popcorn mogul and former Valparaiso resident.Craft, food and fine arts booths line the streets and the kids can enjoy the Kid’s Poppin Play Place. Live entertainment can also be heard in the afternoon and early evening. The week leading up to the event features city hosted activities including the Cutest Baby Contest and the Hot Wheels Contest. Also available during that week are daily lunch and dinner events held under the Orville Redenbacher tent in Central Park Plaza hosted by different charities and businesses.For more information on other events happening in downtown Valparaiso, visit www.valparaisoevents. com or call 219.464.8332.

DOLLS, continued from page 4 show in January and the booths fill up fast, she said. Johnson enjoys these shows and attends doll and bear conventions across the country. She explained some of the conventions require a certain kind of doll. She will enter one or more of her dolls that fit in the correct category and she has won some awards. She said there are also doll vendors who sell items and give her new ideas on how to make dolls and accessories for them. For Johnson, collecting dolls, creating clothes and accessories is an enjoyable way to spend time. She still does some interior design as well, usually she said, she directs people to the places they can go to get the best deals. She began her career in interior design in 1962. She took courses after she and her husband moved from Ohio to Indiana, although she’d been doing interior design before that. She had three locations in Valparaiso over the years, one on Lincolnway, another on Joliet and her

• Thursday, Sept. 5: in the William E. Urschel PavilionLunch catered by

Pesto’s Italian Restaurant, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.Dinner catered by Semento’s Napoli Café 5 to 7 p.m., hosted by Valparaiso Band, Choir & Orchestra Parents Association in support of the Valparaiso High School Music Program. Entertainment will include the Valparaiso High School Band, Orchestra, and Varsity Singers. Tickets are $11 pre-sale and $12 at the door, available in person at Valparaiso Events, 150 W

Lincolnway Suite 1006. • Friday, Sept. 6 at Central Park Plaza: Lunch catered by Kelsey’s Steakhouse, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.An all-new Dinner feature: Food Truck Rally, 5 to 8 p.m. featuring 10 fantastic food trucks, including Cheesy Food Truck, Coco Bangos, Cookout on Wheels, Da Portable Rican, Designer Desserts, Ding Ding Chicken Wing, King of the Road, Sizzle Box, The Tamale Spaceship, and Valpo Velvet.Hot Wheels Race of Champions at 5 p.m. Bring your Hot Wheels or purchase one on site and enter to win. Registration begins at 5 p.m. ($1 per car) with the race to follow.Entertainment 6:30 to 8 p.m. featuring Mike & Joe at the Porter Health Amphitheater. • Saturday, Sept. 7: Festival day booths open at 7 a.m.Valpo Parks Popcorn Panic 5M Run Start, 7:30 a.m.Valpo Parks 5K Run/Walk Start, 7:45 a.m.Valpo Parks Lit’l Kernel Puff Race, 8:45 a.m.Popcorn Parade, 10 a.m.Beer Garden Open, 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.Free Musical Entertainment at the Michigan Street Musical Stage and Festival Main Stage, noon to 6:30 p.m.

the sets, and that was where she shined. Her teachers told her she’d be a designer or a hair stylist one day. Vera met Earl in Chicago while she was in high school. She went with a friend to pick him up. He was in the Air Force during World War II. She said they all went bowling together and she said she Jacqueline’s first doll sits on the right next to a picture of went straight up to him and Jacqueline with the doll. The doll on the left Vera Johnson asked him about airplanes, bought because it looked like her neighbor’s daughter (in and they became instant the picture to the left). CHERI SHELHART/KVPUBLISHING friends. After marrying in Ohio and last location was on Calumet St. “Now I moving to Indiana, a friend of theirs, a just help people using my brain,” she said. homebuilder from Kouts, was talking “I don’t sell things any more but I enjoy about his need for help with a model being around people.” home. She said Earl “blurted out” that she In high school, she became interested in could help with that. “It’s funny how life set design for the plays. She had hoped works, ” she said. After that, she took up to be on the stage, but she said she had a her career and hasn’t really left it since. “quiet voice” so they put her to work on



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Valparaiso Fact Book 2019  

Valparaiso Fact Book 2019