Former Jasper County Prosecutor Rick Kallenbach is running to reclaim the position in a three-person race split between incumbent Jasper County Prosecutor Christine (Haskell) Bogan and newcomer Jacob Taulman. Kallenbach is encouraging voters to choose him on the basis of his experience, his passion and his identification with the average citizen while handling cases.
Kallenbach grew up in Merrillville, where he graduated high school. He then went on to graduate from Purdue University with a degree in education.
“I had been out of school for a few years,” he said, “and when I went back I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. And, when I was growing up, my teachers were my heroes.”
It was also partly a fallback option. He was already planning on going to law school afterwards. In any case, he was able to attend law school on campus at the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. He said it was within the top 25 law schools in the United States at the time, though he admitted it is not necessarily within that range today.
While making his way through higher education, however, Kallenbach said he worked blue collar jobs such as steel mills, truck-driving and restaurant managing. During this period, Kallenbach said he saw crime first-hand, including an occasion where someone stole something from him.
“It wasn’t a big deal,” he said, “but it was the kind of thing that makes you think ‘Darn it. We can’t be letting people get away with this kind of stuff.’”
Kallenbach said he was able to take extra hours in order to complete the bar exam at the earliest possible time, after just two years and one summer. From there, he immediately went into practicing law. He began at what is now the Hodges & Davis law practice, which now has an office in the Rensselaer area.
He was eventually able to make a deal to practice law part-time in DeMotte in 1982. Four years later, he was caucused into the Jasper County Prosecutor’s Office. After six months in the office, he won election to a full four-year term.
Kallenbach ran for reelection four years later and lost. He admitted that his victory the first time was due, at least in part, to a geographic split of the vote between the other candidates.
“I always tell people I was the Harold Washington of Jasper County Politics,” he said with a smile, referencing the famous African-American Mayor of Chicago. “Only it wasn’t based on race, it was based on geography.”
Several years ago, Kallenbach retired from his law practice. But he soon became restless.
“While I was happy, I was bored,” he said. “And I had several police officers come and ask me to consider running.”
After brushing up on changes in the law, particularly in criminal law, he threw his hat in the ring to take back his old job. He said he would like to improve the office’s efficiency and its ability to stick with serious cases against uncertain odds.
“If you’re not given any more evidence, you let the jury decide,” he said. “...If you file that case and then just dismiss it, it doesn’t make any sense.”
He said one of his accomplishments during this period was assisting with an investigation known as Operation ‘Family Affair,’ an multi-state drug case tracing drug trafficking from wild marijuana left behind in the Rensselaer area. Kallenbach was partly-responsible for local information gathering, actual prosecuting of certain parties involved and determining who to charge with what crime.
“Professionally, that’s the thing I’m most proud of,” “because I think it made a big difference.”