Klimek faces young newcomer in Dist. 13 commissioner race

Published 4:43 am Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zach Perkins is facing a more experienced candidate in incumbent John Klimek in the District 13 Berrien County Commissioner race.

But he doesn’t see that as a disadvantage.

Perkins, a 28-year-old Republican newcomer, said his youth would be a positive on the board of commissioners.

“I’m a younger guy. I would bring passion and energy,” he said.

Klimek, a Democrat who is finishing his first term on the board, says his 30 years of community involvement speaks for itself.

As the owner of Klimek Enterprises, working as the electrical inspector for the City of Niles and being involved in several community groups, Klimek believes he has “touched all the bases in the community.”

“I know how people are feeling, being the electrical inspector and talking to people around the city,” he said.

Organizations he is involved with include St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Four Flags Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, the Jerry Tyler Memorial Airport Board, Masonic Lodge 68 and Niles Habitat for Humanity.

Klimek said the top issue in the county right now is creating jobs, especially in south county.

“The largest employer in Niles is the school system. That’s sad to see. The second largest is the hospital,” he sad. “We need more of a tax base, more jobs.”

Klimek also added he would like to see increased police protection in south county, so he is fighting for another two or three officers in the Niles area.

The development of high speed rail in the county and improving educational opportunities in the area are other priorities for Klimek.

Perkins said if he was elected, he would fight to change the plans to build a county campus in Benton Township and bring it to a more central location.

He says that is one of many issues in which the voice of south county is ignored.

“I feel like they think we’re kind of a suburb of South Bend in a lot of ways,” he said. “It seems like we’re seen from the north like we’re part of Indiana, like we don’t matter in the county.”

Perkins, who works as a computer programmer in South Bend and graduated from Notre Dame, said his experience as a “computer nerd” would help him as a commissioner.

“From my background, I’m a problem solver,” he said.

Perkins has lived in Niles for most of his life and said he has a passion for the area.

“I want to work toward making Niles the kind of home I’m proud of,” he said.

Perkins said he has a very flexible job that would allow him to make his duties for the board a priority.

“I will attend all the meetings and vote for the interest of Niles first,” he said.

The winner of the election will serve a two-year term, beginning Jan. 1.