Pelath to lead Kankakee River Basin Commission

Scott Pelath
Scott Pelath

PORTAGE — Scott Pelath, with two decades serving in the Indiana House of Representatives, will be the executive director to the Kankakee River Basin Commission beginning in January.

Jody Melton, who has held the position for 37 years, will retire at the end of the year.

“As impossible as it is to replace Jody Melton’s decades of outstanding service, we believe Scott’s own unique skill sets will serve our goals well,” Chris Knochel, the commission’s chairman and Newton County surveyor, said Monday.

The commission is charged with the planning and coordination of water resources through flood control and drainage management and initiatives in recreational and environmental areas in the eight counties of Northwest Indiana which lie in the watershed.

During his tenure downstate, Pelath led in fiscal and legislative initiatives and served five years as minority leader in the House, often focusing on natural resources. He sponsored the Great Lakes Compact, which is now law in every Great Lakes state and Canadian province. He authored the current structure of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

“I am elated by the opportunity to forge consensus for the future of the Kankakee River Basin. Throughout my years of public service, I always held a particular passion for natural resources and the careful stewardship of our waters,” Pelath said. “Our future economic prosperity, our food supply and our health and quality of life depend on careful water resource planning and a shared sense of purpose.”

Knochel said the commission looked for someone with public policy experience, a history of working with diverse stakeholders and proven communication leadership.

“The KRBC serves eight different counties, their local governments and stakeholders ranging from farmers, businesses, homeowners and conservations. Just about every citizen has an interest in improving our water, and it takes someone like Scott to be able to hear everyone while keeping an eye on the greater good,” Knochel said. “We could not be more optimistic about the future.”