Primary election: McCauslin, Skalla to face off for Niles mayor

Published 10:50 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Niles voters turned to experience in the mayoral primary election Tuesday. Incumbent Mike McCauslin and 4th Ward city councilman Tim Skalla were the top two vote-getters and will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.
McCauslin, who works in risk management at Notre Dame and has held the city mayor post for three terms, received 296 votes. Skalla, who works for French Paper Co., had 194 votes. Former city fire marshal Bruce Leach had 51 votes, while 25-year-old write-in candidate Michael Squier received 17.
Skalla and McCauslin don’t always seen eye-to-eye in council business. One area of debate between the two has been the revenue the city gains from its utilities department. The city currently gets 7 percent of the department’s electricity sales each year. Skalla believes the utility deserves to keep more of its revenue, while McCauslin is in favor of keeping it as is.
They also disagree on Niles’ council-city administrator form of government, as evidenced by their comments in the mayoral election community forum that took place before the election.
During the forum, Skalla said the current system was “forced down the citizens’ throats” in 1980 and argued the city could save money by not paying for a city administrator. He said that in his talks with residents, one of their most common questions has been “why do we have a full-time administrator?”
McCauslin, on the other hand, said it’s the “best system we can possibly have.”
“It takes politics out of local government. It sets policy and direction,” he said.
McCauslin also has emphasized his experience and pointed to the need for continuity in the city government with City Administrator Terry Eull and Public Works Director Neil Coulston retiring in September.
Skalla has made emphasizing tourism and capitalizing on the city’s rich history his platform.
Tuesday’s primary election was the city’s first in 12 years.