By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Democrats have filled out a full slate of candidates for the three available seats for Kosciusko County Council and it comes with a historical note.
All three Democrats are people of color and are vying for three council seats that have most assuredly been historically dominated by whites.
Itanya Coon-Kauffman filed paperwork Tuesday to run for one of three at-large seats on the council in the Nov. 3 election.
She joins fellow Democrats Noemi Ponce and Paul Morales in facing Republicans Kathy Groninger, Joni Truex and Sue Ann Mitchell. A fourth Democrat, Travis McConnell has filed to run against incumbent Republican County Commissioner Cary Groninger.
Ponce and Morales are the first Hispanics to run for the county council and Coon-Kauffman is most likely the first African American to ever run for county council.
She said she considers it personally significant to be the first Black person in a county-level race because it’s a chance to provide representation for those who, she said, don’t look like everyone else.
She said she’d like to see more diversity in the decision-making process.
“I want to be part of the process of making Kosciusko County a great place for everyone,” Coon-Kauffman said minutes after filing at the Justice Building in Warsaw.
She’s the mother of five sons and is married to Kyle Kauffman.
Coon-Kauffman, 48, said she’s encouraged her children to get involved, but has never done so herself directly in government and wants to give it a try.
She’s lived in Warsaw for 26 years and worked in the Warsaw Community Schools system for 17 years. Much of that time was spent as a middle school science teacher. During her tenure, she coached volleyball and basketball and was the sponsor for the student council.
She now works in the Elkhart school district.
She recently attended two of the local Black Lives Matter rallies and spoke at one of them.
She said she’s felt inspired by the protests and was happily surprised that it has gained the support of many white people.
“Now is the moment people are deciding, you know, I can be a part of this and bring a different perspective to the table,” she said.
Coon-Kauffman said she does not have any concerns herself with local law enforcement, but said one of her sons had an incident with an officer in which she felt he was being profiled.
The deadline to slate candidates for the fall election is June 30.