About Us


Board of Directors

The Starke County Economic Development Foundation is guided by policies determined by its Board of Directors. The Board of Directors consists of two types of membership; At-large and Representative. At-large members are those persons possessing experience in industry, economic development, or expertise which will assist the Foundation with its mission. Representative members serve by virtue of public office or as representatives of sectors of the business community. The County, all it’s Cities and Towns, zoning personnel, all utilities, banking institutions, and schools are represented on the Board.

Larry Wickert, President (lwickert6@hotmail.com)
At-Large Member since 2011

Larry is a lifelong resident of North Judson. He has a degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University. He and his wife, Marilyn, have two married daughters, Sarah and Julia. He is owner of Wickert Agronomy Service which provides agronomic consulting. His expertise includes fertilizer recommendations, field scouting, and crop insurance. He and Marilyn also operate Wickert Produce and Herb Farm raising chemical free vegetables and herbs.

Larry has been involved in the agriculture industry his entire career. He was previously a plant manager for a retail fertilizer plant, worked in feed sales, sold seed, and was engaged in farming.

As an active participant in community organizations, Larry serves on the North Judson-Wayne Township Library Board, North Judson United Methodist Church Administrative Council, North Judson Kiwanis, and Starke County 4-H Livestock Committee. Larry has served one term on the Starke County Board of Commissioners. He was also a Railroad Township Advisory Council member for two years.

Donald White, Vice-President (dwwhitecons@yahoo.com)
White Construction
At-Large Member since 2006

Originally from Starke County, Donald White went to work for Scott Foresman & Company immediately after high school graduation. He later took management courses at Purdue University North Central and completed a Dale Carnegie Course for Human Relations. In 1972, Donald and his brother started White Construction. In 1981, Donald took over sole ownership and became D.W. White Construction. Since 1972, he has been building homes and light commercial spaces in Starke, St. Joseph, Marshall, and Porter Counties. He also co-founded L.M.W. Investments LLC, and in 2005 became a land developer. Donald is currently developing Anchorage Town Homes at Bass Lake, Indiana.

James W. Wagner, Secretary (jwwagner@embarqmail.com)
Retired from CenturyLink
Representative Member from 1987-2010
At-Large Member since 2011

Jim Wagner worked for more than forty years in the communications business before retiring from CenturyLink in 2010. He is a graduate of Elkhart High School, Elkhart Indiana; Indiana State University, B.S. Marketing; Ball State, Economic Development Course; and University of Oklahoma, Economic Development Degree Program.

Carla Musial, Treasurer (cmusial@netdsb.com)
Representative Member, DeMotte State Bank, Since 2007

With over 30 years of experience in Community Banking, Carla Musial has served in the positions of Vice President and Knox Branch Manager at the DeMotte State Bank.

Connie Bailey
Representative Member - Hamlet Town Council
Since January 2017

Judy Caudill
Representative Member - 1st Source Bank-Knox Banking Center
Since January 2017

Judy has 38 years of experience with 1st Source Bank. Having held many different positions within the bank, Judy is currently Assistant Vice President and Manager at the Knox Banking Center.

Judy is involved in many community activities that promote Starke County.

Bill Crase
Representative Member - Starke County Plan Comission
Since 2016

Tim Cummins
At-Large Member Since 2016

Tim is a lifelong resident of Starke County. He retired in 2010 with over 38 years of service at Northern Indiana Public Service Company where he held various management positions in the areas of Substation and Tower Construction, Generating Station Planning and Maintenance, Safety and Training, and other operational and support related functions. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Supervision from Purdue University North Central. Tim completed Officers Candidate School at the Michigan Military Academy and was a member of the United States Army Reserve for twelve years. Previously he held the position of Chairman of the North Judson Planning and Zoning Board and was an elected member of the North Judson Town Council. Tim is currently an independent consultant under contract with Rudd Asset Management LLC, a utility consultant company. Tim lives in North Judson with his wife Kay (Shank) Cummins.

Nancy Dembowski (njdembowski@gmail.com)
At-Large Member since 1986

Nancy Dembowski is a life-long resident of Knox who was employed at WKVI Radio for 25 years. She also served as a member of the Starke County Council for seven years; Mayor of Knox for eleven years; two years in the Indiana Senate, District 5; and six years in the Indiana House, District 17. Nancy’s accomplishments also include the roles of VP of Starke County Economic Development Foundation; former President of the Knox Chamber of Commerce; former President of Starke County Junior Achievement; a Board member of Starke United; and a Board Member of the Starke County Community Foundation. She currently serves as Chair of Moving Starke County Forward.

Mayor Dennis Estok (mayor@cityofknox.net), Representative Member - Mayor of City of Knox since January 2016
Representative Member - Mayor of Knox 2004-2007
Representative Member – Starke County Plan Commission
August 2009-December 2015

Dennis currently serves as Mayor of the City of Knox after having spent several years as the Starke County Surveyor and as a member of the Starke County Plan Commission.

A.J. Gappa (ajgappa@knox.12.in.us), Superintendent
Representative Member – Knox Community School Corporation
Since May 2011
Ted Hayes
At-Large Member, Since January, 2015

After an almost 50 year career in broadcasting Ted Hayes retired from local radio station WKVI. In his career he had been an announcer (WRIN and WKVI) and a talk show producer at WMBD in Peoria, Ill. In his final 15 years at WKVI he had been the manager. Following retirement Ted accepted part time employment at Indiana University Health Starke Hospital in Knox. Because of his experience Ted became part of the media/marketing team during a time when hospital and county officials were discussing the building of a new facility. As part of his duties Ted has been active on many community boards and organizations and has been honored as the Starke County Person of the Year and as a recipient of the Henry F. Schricker Award from the Starke County Chamber of Commerce.

Brad Hazelton
Representative Member, Since January, 2017

Brad is a lifelong resident of Hamlet, Indiana. He is married to Jana. He has three children, Harper (8), Hudson (4), and Henry (1). He is a 1996 graduate of Oregon-Davis High School. He earned an Associate Degree in agribusiness from Vincennes University. He has been employed at Farm Fertilizers & Seeds, Inc., for 20 years. He has been a member of the Hamlet Fire Department for 15 years, presently serving as Assistant Chief. He is a member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, presently serving as President. He is a Starke County Councilman.

Janice Hernandez (jhernandez@proepartners.com)
At-Large Member, Since January, 2015

Janice Hernandez is involved in many different boards and organization in the Starke County community. She has been in the staffing business since 2006. She owns Professional Employment Partners. Her service works with companies to help them find the best employees to work at the facilities. Janice is currently serving on the Foundation’s Workforce Development Committee and is serving her initial term on the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

Wendy Hoppe
North Judson Town Council
Since January 2011

Wendy is a member of the North Judson Town Council and currently serves as President. She also serves on the Board for Habitat for Humanity.

Wendy has owned Hoppe Hardware, Inc. of North Judson for the past four years. She has been an Indiana Licensed Contractor Plumber for 25 years and has been in the hardware industry for more than 40 years. She has lived in Starke County her entire life.
David Howell (dhowell@kvremc.com)

Director of Membership Services / Key Accounts
Representative Member – Kankakee Valley REMC since 2014

  • Co-coordinator for Scripps National Spelling Bee for Lake, Porter and La Porte Counties
  • Member of South Central Community School Board of Directors
  • Graduate of South Central High School; Gary Methodist Paramedic School; Ball State Economic Development Course
  • Lifelong resident of Union Mills with wife Jamie and two children, Alicia and Austin
Sandra Kersting-Rudd
Representative Member – Starke County Chamber of Commerce
Since January 2017

Sandy is a lifelong resident of Starke County. She graduated from North Judson-San Pierre High School and International Business College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Sandy began her career with Weninger Insurance Agency in Knox, where she worked her way from Secretary to Insurance Agent in her eight years there. She then joined in the family business, Kersting’s Cycle Center, Inc, located just south of North Judson and continues there as General Manager and President of the Corporation.

Sandy serves on several boards, including Starke United, serving as Co-Chair; Starke County Tourism Board, Starke County Chamber of Commerce as Vice President; Harry L. Keller Post #92 American Legion Auxiliary Treasurer.
Sandy is married to Jansen Rudd and has three grown daughters and two beautiful grandchildren. She loves Starke County and hopes that she can assist in some way to help our county grow and show everyone what a great place Starke County is to live, work, play, and raise a family.

Donald Kring
Representative Member – Knox County Council
Since 2016

Donald Kring is a lifelong resident of Knox, Indiana. He graduated from Knox Community High School in 1985, and attended Ivy Tech to further his education. Donald is the owner and operator of Arctic Air Heating & Cooling and has been since 1990. He has three children and one granddaughter. Donald has been on the Knox City Council since 2012, and is currently serving a second four-year term. He has been the Knox City Council President for three years.

Joan Ludwig (joan.ludwig@centurylink.com)
Representative Member – CenturyLink
Since January 12, 2015

Joan is Administrative Assistant at CenturyLink to four District Supervisors and Regional Marketing Development Manager; Chairperson of their Community Relations Team for two districts.

She is a Board member on the Starke County Chamber of Commerce Board and just finished a term as President of that Board.

Susan McCormack (susan.mccormack@ffbt.com)
Representative Member, First Farmers Bank & Trust
Since March 9, 2015
  • Thirty (30) years in banking – Joined First Farmers Bank & Trust as a loan officer in March of 2014. Relocated from La Porte County; married in 2014.
  • Starke County Leadership Class of 2015
  • La Porte County Purdue Extension Board Member
  • Unity Foundation/Lilly Scholarship Committee Member
Kathy Norem (knorem.starke@gmail.com)
Representative Member - Starke County Board of Commissioners
2009 -2014; 2016
  • Undergraduate Degrees in Nursing (ASN – Purdue University and BSN – Valparaiso University)
  • MSA – University of Notre Dame, School of Business
  • Past CEO for Starke Memorial Hospital
  • Developed and implemented Ancilla College School of Nursing
  • Past Director for the Starke County Community Foundation
Ben Osinski (ben@osinskiauction.com)
Osinski Auction Service
At-Large Member since 1996

Ben Osinski, a Professional Auctioneer, is co-owner of Osinski Auction Service, Inc. along with his wife, Dorothy. A first generation auction company since 1983, Ben conducts over 50 real estate and personal property auctions per year in Starke and surrounding counties. In addition to the Starke County Economic Development Foundation Board, he is also a State Director for the Indiana Auctioneers Association. Ben has previously served as President of the Foundation, and was recently elected to the Indiana Auctioneers Hall of Fame.

Benjamin E. Schaller (bschaller@fnbmonterey.com)
Representative Member, The First National Bank of Monterey, Since 2008

Benjamin Schaller received his Associate’s Degree from Ancilla College and his Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture Finance from Purdue University. He is employed as a Commercial/Agriculture Lender at The First National Bank of Monterey.

William J. Sonnemaker, (billsonn1@embarqmail.com)
Retired - Lockheed Martin Corporation
At-Large Member since 2003

William J. Sonnemaker is retired from Lockheed Missile & Space Company with over 40 years experience in Facilities Management. He previously served for 6 years as President of the Starke County Economic Development Foundation. He is also a former Director and Treasurer of Starke United, the local United Way organization; a former Director of the Bass Lake Property Owners Association for six years, and continues as Director of the Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning (SCILL). Bill also served as a Director of the Sunnyvale, California Chamber of Commerce.

Bill’s education includes a BSIE from Bradley University, 1954; United States Air Force Contracting Officers School, 1955; Sanford Sloan Executive Fellow, 1968-1969. Bill’s affiliations include: Registered Professional Engineer, California; American Institute of Industrial Engineers; Society of Automotive Engineers; National Management Association; Industrial Development Research Council (Core Net); International Facility Management Association; and California Society of Professional Engineers.

Diane Thalmann, Past President (dlthalmann@nisource.com)
Economic Development Manager, NIPSCO
Representative Member since 2006

Since 1998, Diane Thalmann has been the Economic Development Manager for NIPSCO, with a focus on prospective businesses, local economic development organizations, and industrial realtors. She also assists with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to help facilitate economic growth in NIPSCO’s service territory. Diane has spent seventeen years in manufacturing, including positions in marketing, engineering and business development. She holds an MBA from the University of Notre Dame; an EET from Purdue University North Central; and a BSPE from Valparaiso University.

Alex Weisheit (acwisdom@embarqmail.com)
Retired from MPI International
At-Large Member since 2011

Alex Weisheit came from Switzerland to this country in 1970. He started his professional career in Chicago where he acquired extensive international business experience by providing engineering support to licensees and customers in Europe and Japan. In 1988 Alex was assigned the task to start up the MPI plant in Knox and managed its operation for almost 20 years until his retirement in 2007.

Alex holds a BSME (Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering) from the Technical University in Biel, Switzerland.


Creating Opportunities ... Delivering On Promises

With the combined expertise of the Managing Board of the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, which includes representatives from all the agencies, utilities, banks, educators, and the business sector, SCEDF can quickly and efficiently assist your company in its needs. The members of the Board not only apply their knowledge, but have available to them their individual networks from which to obtain additional resources.
"With the combined expertise of the Managing Board of the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, which includes representatives from all the agencies, utilities, banks, educators, and the business sector, SCEDF can quickly and efficiently assist your company in its needs. The members of the Board not only apply their knowledge, but have available to them their individual networks from which to obtain additional resources."
Charles W. Weaver, JD
Executive Director
Starke County Economic Development Foundation

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