Starke County Economic Development Foundation, Inc.

Board of Directors

Donald White



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.

Janice Hernandez



At-Large Member Since January, 2015

Owner of Professional Employment Partners

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.  Janice also serves as a member of the Board of the Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning, Inc. (SCILL).

James W.
James W. Wagner



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



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.

Jeff Berg

Representative Member - Knox City Council since January 2018


Jeff Berg is a 1973 graduate of Knox High School who went on to serve in the United States Marine Corps and the United States Army Reserve Program.  Upon Retirement from the military, Jeff served as an emergency medical services professional and certified medical equipment delivery technician until his retirement in 2015.

Jeff's public service includes 15 years on the Knox Plan Commission, he has served on the Knox Common Council since 2003 and has also been a member of the Knox Redevelopment Commission and as a representative on the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission..He is also a member of the Starke County Historical Society and a County Precinct Committeeman.


Judy Caudill

Representative Member - 1st Source Bank-Knox 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.

Bryan Cavender

Starke County Board of Commissioners Representative member since June 2019.
Adam Collins

At-Large Member since March 2018


Adam is Vice President of Operations at Kruz, Inc., Knox, Indiana

Adam brings 25 years experience in manufacturing to Starke County.  Serving roles in a variety of aspects of manufacturing including tool and die, engineering and manufacturing management, Adam provides a diversified background with eleven years experience at MPI Indiana Fineblanking, three years in the Aero Space Industry with Howmet of LaPorte, and having served as Vice President of Operations for Kruz, Inc, in Knox since 2007.

Adam holds an Associates of Science Degree in Machine Trades from Vincennes University and is a Journeyman Tool and Die Maker.  He also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering Technology with an emphasis in Organization Leadership from Purdue University.

Adam is past chair and a sitting member of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board.  The NWIWB is a board of business, education, labor, community, faith-based and economic development leaders responsible for the strategic vision of workforce development and governance of WorkOne in Northwest Indiana. They are also responsible for managing connections to key resources in the workforce and education arena as well as supporting efforts on programming that plan and nurture the seed of entrepreneurship. The board works to determine current and future skill needs together with economic developers, employers, and economists.

Adam and his wife Jill reside in Winamac and have three children.


Bill Crase

Representative Member - Starke County Plan Commission 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

At-Large Member since 1986; Director Emeritus since 2018

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.

Brian Earnest

Representative Member - Hamlet Town Council - January 2013 and January 2018


Brian is a lifetime resident of Hamlet, Indiana.  He is a 1997 graduate of Oregon-Davis High School and received a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education from Indiana University.  After earning his college degree Brian began teaching at Westville High School.  He later left the teaching profession to enter a career in business at Hamlet Golf Course where he serves as the Manager.  Brian is also active in the coaching profession where he serves as the Boys 5th grade Basketball Coach at Oregon Davis.  When he's not busy with work, Brian enjoys spending time with his wife, Kassandra Earnest, and their children.  Brian looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Starke County to the best of his ability.

Mayor Dennis
Mayor Dennis Estok

Representative Member - Mayor of City of Knox since January 2016

Formerly: 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

Representative Member - School Superintendents from May 2011 to July 2017; At-Large Member since July 2017


A.J. Gappa previously served as Superintendent of the Knox Community School Corporation and as President of the Starke County Initiative for Lifelong Learning, Inc. (SCILL).  He has been an at-large member since 2017.

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 - Starke County Council since January 2017


Brad is a lifelong resident of Hamlet, Indiana.  He is married to Jana.  He has three children, Harper (10), Hudson (6), and Henry (3).  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 22 years.  He has been a member of the Hamlet Fire Department for 16 years, presently serving as Chief.  He is a member of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, presently serving as President.  He was President of the Starke County Council and now serves as its Vice-President after having just been reelected to another term.

Wendy Hoppe

At-Large Member since 2018
Representative Member - North Judson Town Council (2011 - 2017)

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  over 25 years and has been in the hardware industry for more than 40 years. She has lived in Starke County her entire life.

Dave Howell

Representative Member – Kankakee Valley REMC since 2014


Dave is the Director of Membership Services/Key Accounts at Kankakee Valley REMC. He is a past member of the South Central Community School Board of Directors, and he currently serves on the Noble Township Fire Board of Directors. He is also on the Board of Directors of The South Central Educational Foundation. Dave is a graduate of Gary Methodist Paramedic School and the Ball State Economic Development Course.

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.

Jim Long

At-Large Member Since January 2018



ITT Technical Institute – Associate Degree – Electronic Engineering

Indiana University – BS Degree – Accounting/Finance

Work Experience

Price Waterhouse Accounting Firm – Audit

American Oak Preserving Company – Vice President – Sales, National Accounts – 39 years – Recently retired

RE/MAX Reality Broker

ATP Pilot Licenses

Kathy Norem

Representative Member - Starke County Board of Commissioners - Since 2019


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

At-Large Member since 1996


Co-Owner of Osinski Auction Service


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.

David Pearman

Representative Member - Starke County Council District 3 - Since 2019


David is a graduate of St. Thomas, Knox, Indiana, and a 1987 Knox High School graduate, Knox, Indiana. Undergraduate Indiana University, BA, Biology/Chemistry 1992; post graduate studies Notre Dame; 27 years business development, scientist, sales/marketing management; 21 years Washington Township Fire/EMS (Assistant Chief and Treasurer); 8 years Starke County Council; numerous boards, committee, and leadership appointments over the last 27+ years.

Andrew Rowe

Representative Member - North Judson Clerk-Treasurer since 2019


A native of North Judson and life-long Bluejay, Andrew earned his bachelor's degree at Purdue University Northwest and then took a position which afforded him the opportunity to work with some of the regions larger municipalities, corporations, and civic and economic organizations in communities across Lake, Porter, and La Porte Counties.

When the Clerk-Treasurer position opened up in North Judson in late 2017, Andrew decided to take what he had learned working in these communities to try and have a positive impact on his hometown.

Andrew served on the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission (KIRPC) Board of Directors in 2018 and now serves as Board Member of the Starke County Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of the Stellar Communities Executive Team.

Benjamin E.
Benjamin E. Schaller

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.
William J. Sonnemaker

Past President


At-Large Member since 2003

Retired - Lockheed Martin Corporation

William J. Sonnemaker is retired from Lockheed Missile & Space Company with over 40 years experience in Facilities Management. He previously served for 7 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

Representative Member since 2006

Economic Development Manager, NIPSCO
Past President of Starke County Economic Development Foundation

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.

Brian Triska

At-Large Member since 2019

Alex Weisheit

At-Large Member since 2011
Retired from MPI International

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.

Dr. Annette
Dr. Annette Zupin

Representative Member since July 2017


Dr. Zupin currently serves as Superintendent of the North Judson-San Pierre Community School Corporation, after serving several years as High School Principal there.

Her experience with the North Judson-San Pierre School Corporation for 16 years includes 8 years as middle school principal, 6 years as high school principal, and she recently finished her second year as Superintendent.

Bachelors:  Ball State University in Business Education

Masters:  Ball State University in Educational Leadership

PhD:  Indiana State University in Educational Leadership

She is passionate about education and the opportunity it provides our students.  Education is one of the fundamental factors of development.  She looks forward to working with community leaders to help create a community where students can secure quality jobs, escape poverty, support their families, and develop their society.