Two Democrats and four Republicans, including the longtime board chairman, are running for District 2 of the McHenry County Board.
Republican incumbents James Heisler, Donna Kurtz and Chairman Ken Koehler, GOP candidate Carolyn Schofield and Democratic challengers James Kennedy and Jim Roden are running for the four open seats in the district, which includes northwestern Algonquin Township and part of northeastern Grafton Township.
All 24 seats on the County Board are up for election because of redistricting after the 2010 U.S. Census.
If re-elected, Heisler will be the board’s longest-serving member, and Koehler might seek a fifth two-year term as chairman.
Kennedy, who was elected in 2006 but lost his bid for a second term, was the first Democrat elected to the County Board in 30 years.
Voters who elect them will be asked on the same ballot whether to change the county to an executive form of government.
All six of the candidates oppose the referendum, advanced by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, which would create a popularly elected county executive with wide-ranging powers to run the day-to-day functions of county government. The executive would have veto power over the board.
Kurtz, a business development director, said the executive form puts too much power into one official’s hands. But Kurtz, Schofield, Kennedy and Roden said they support allowing the voters to elect the County Board chairman, rather than the board’s 24 members electing their chairman.
“Replacing professional management with the political authority of a county executive has tremendous potential for increased dysfunction, patronage and even corruption, resulting in increased cost of government, while reducing the effectiveness of county government to serve the community,” Kurtz said.
Heisler, who has served 20 years on the County Board and owns Heisler’s Bootery in downtown Crystal Lake, supports term limits on the chairmanship as a reform measure.
“Elected-at-large county chairmen and elected executive races cost big money – races that are often driven by special-interest money instead of substance of issue,” Heisler said.
Board members are expected to freeze the property tax levy so the county does not collect 3 percent more – the rate of inflation – on next year’s bills. But when asked by the Northwest Herald whether they would freeze the levy again next year for 2014 bills, only Roden, a business owner in unincorporated Ridgefield, said he would do so for sure.
“Our citizens cannot afford higher property taxes,” Roden said.
The remaining candidates said they would do their best to keep costs down, but that it is too early to determine whether another freeze will be economically viable a year from now. Koehler, a retired businessman and board chairman since 2004, pledged to do his best.
“I will do everything in my power to keep the tax rate as low as possible without sacrificing the current level of essential ‘safety net’ services that residents rely on today,” Koehler said. “I also pledge to be very mindful of economic conditions and will encourage the board to do everything in their power not to raise taxes next year if the economy is still sluggish and unemployment remains high.”
Aside from jobs and the economy, many candidates highlighted the need to continue to improve the county’s road infrastructure. Kennedy, an Elk Grove Village police officer, also said that government should continue to focus on improving mass transit. Kennedy represented District 5 during his term, but redistricting now puts him in District 2.
“Public transit needs to be increased and improved to take vehicles off the roadway, such as more Pace bus service, dial-a-ride, ride sharing, a Metra train station in Huntley, and development of bicycle-pedestrian paths as transportation corridors,” Kennedy said.
Schofield, a Crystal Lake City Council member, highlighted groundwater sustainability. She serves on the McHenry County Council of Governments Water Policy Task Force and helped the city get the Crystal Lake Watershed recognized.
“The county needs to be a leader on groundwater protection to deliver a consistent message throughout all municipalities,” Schofield said.
Under redistricting, District 2 lost two precincts – Algonquin 18 and 50 – and gained Grafton 5, 7, 8, 13 and 31.
District 2 member Scott Breeden, R-Lakewood, is not seeking re-election to a second term.
On the Net
Visit Election Central at NWHerald.com/election to learn more about the races, candidates and issues in the Nov. 6 election.
McHenry County Board districts have changed slightly because of post-census redistricting. Visit http://shawurl.com/4q2 to see the new district boundary maps.
Visit the McHenry County Clerk’s website at www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/countyclerk to view sample ballots, lists of candidates and polling places.