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Life in the Spotlight

A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Elizabeth Modesto


With over 23 years at the City Council of Portage, Elizabeth Modesto demonstrates how hard work, unwavering determination, and a love for the community can make all the difference. From childhood, Modesto had a close look at the remarkable effect that dedication and a strong work ethic can have on a family. Alongside her seven sisters and one brother, Modesto grew up watching her parents work hard to raise their nine children and to make a living doing honest, good work.

“They are the ones who influenced me the most,” Modesto said of her parents. “They’ve given me the drive and the dedication to succeed.”

Modesto describes her parents as consistently hard-working. She recounts stories of her father, a businessowner and boilermaker, going to work with broken fingers or broken toes and not letting these injuries slow him down for a moment.

“My dad was a war hero, and we really didn’t know it until recently,” Modesto said. “He was very humble and was just a good man. He had nine children, so he had to work hard at everything he did. He never missed a day of work.”

Modesto also recognizes her mother’s diligence in working hard to make their house into a home, inviting the children to take active roles in home repair projects.

“My mom did a lot of work on our house, and she would be out there helping my dad reroof the house,” Modesto said. “She’d get us kids involved. My sister and I would get up on the roof and help them.”

Except for a brief 18-month stay in Germany when her husband was drafted into service for the Army, Modesto has lived in Portage all her life. Her family’s history in Portage and Portage’s broad amenities made it the perfect place for Modesto to plant her own roots as she began her own family.

“It’s location, location, location,” Modesto said. “There’s a lot to offer. We have a lot of thriving businesses, and we have a lot of businesses that are looking to locate to the city of Portage. We have the waterfront, we have the lake right there in our backyard, we have our own little beach, and we have a marina. The school system is excellent. I had three children, and all three of them have gone through the school system. There is so much to do in the city of Portage in the summertime and even in the wintertime. I think the future is bright for the city of Portage.”

Modesto, like her parents, understood the importance of hard work in creating a thriving family unit and a positive contribution to the community. Throughout her working years, Modesto has demonstrated an unparalleled work ethic and a willingness to work hard. Modesto contributed over 30 years of service at US Steel and 10 years of service at Calumet Township Trustee’s Office.

“I’ve basically always worked two jobs,” Modesto said.

As Modesto raised her three children in Portage, she began to see opportunities for improvement within the community. With the support of her husband and children, Modesto became an active member of the City Council of Portage. “I grew up in the district I represent. My parents lived in the district I represent. I started out because I wanted to see some changes done in the district that I lived in,” Modesto said.

Demonstrating her outstanding dedication and an incredible ability to balance her commitments, Modesto worked full-time jobs in addition to her contributions to the City Council for over 16 years. Today, Modesto has been a member of the City Council for over two decades.

“I’ve held almost every position that you can hold on the City Council, including chairman of every committee and Council President,” Modesto said.

Modesto’s work has spread to nearly every corner of the City Council. From Ordinance Committee to Strategic Planning, Modesto has served for 23 years to create a better life for the residents of Portage. Today, Modesto is the First District City Councilperson and the Budget Committee Chairman. She serves as the Assistant Chairman of the USB (Utility Service Board), as a member of the RDC (Redevelopment Commission), and as a liaison for the Fire Department.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot,” Modesto said. “We’ve got a lot of things done on the westside, and there’s a lot more to do. It’s a never-ending battle on the City Council with streetlights, sidewalks, roads being paved, and drainage projects. There’s always something that needs to be done.”

Because of the dedication and enthusiasm of people like Elizabeth Modesto, the landscape of Portage continues to evolve. As a long-time resident of Portage, Modesto enjoys seeing the improvements made to the community and knowing that she is involved in continuing to make the community stronger.

“I lived in Portage when we had nothing but farmland, and Route 6 wasn’t even completely developed,” Modesto said. “Willowcreek Road quit at Lute Road. I went to the old high school, and there were farmlands across the street. I used to watch the cows while I was in science class and math class. It’s changed a lot in the 23 years I’ve been on the City Council.”

Modesto’s work in the City Council exemplifies how one person can get involved, make changes, and improve their community, all while balancing their own family, career, and hobbies. Modesto urges members of the community to get involved. “If there weren’t people like me, we wouldn’t have dedicated civil servants,” Modesto said. “I think it’s very important that if you have a cause or a reason to get involved in public office or an opportunity to volunteer on different committees that the city has, you should do it. If we didn’t have enough dedicated people like that, we wouldn’t have a good city government, and we wouldn’t be seeing any progress being done throughout the city.”

Modesto shows great appreciation for her family who have helped her and supported her throughout her journey.

“I have to give credit to my husband and children because they’ve supported me in everything I’ve done. Without their help throughout the years, I wouldn’t be the person I am today,” Modesto said. “Without a support system, you can’t succeed.”

As someone who has worked hard for her family, for her community, and for herself, Elizabeth Modesto offers simple advice to the town of Portage: Never give up.

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