CHICAGO (CBS) — Big changes in the works in Gary, Indiana.
Karen Freeman-Wilson, who has been the mayor of that city for eight years, is on her way out. She was defeated in Tuesday’s primary by Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince.
CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley looks at what’s behind the change.
When she was elected Gary’s mayor back in 2011, Karen Freeman-Wilson seemed to embody new hope. But among voters, that hope turned to frustration.
“It’s hard for someone who’s looking for a mayor or elected official or a leader to do something today to hear this is decades of decline you’re trying to recover from,” said Freeman-Wilson.
Lake County Assessor Jerome Prince pulled off the upset, focusing on his 19 years of government experience and budgetary management.
“We will immediately perform or get the permission from the state to perform an independent audit so that we could determine where we are financially,” said Prince.
A Harvard-trained attorney with state and national political connections, Freeman-Wilson did lure some new industries.
“At the same time, they weren’t addressing, in my opinion, the residential problem of abandoned homes and blight and being able to tear those down and move on with new development,” said Jim Wieser, Lake County Democratic Party Chairman.
And street violence jumped. Seventeen Gary murders in the year’s first quarter.
“We have had a horrible increase in violent crime this year. And that certainly did not help,” said Freeman-Wilson.
Because there is no Republican contender, Prince will become Gary’s new mayor. But not until December. Meantime, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed off on moving Gary’s Majestic Star Casino away from the lakefront. To develop the harbor as a cargo transfer site.
It’s a project Mayor Freeman-Wilson championed that could eventually produce thousands of Gary jobs.