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Reporter's notebook, new McHenry County Board edition

Tina Hill spills her coffee in victory and Michael Skala plays musical chairs at the first meeting of the new McHenry County Board on Monday.

• OOPSIE – Tina Hill inaugurated her victory as the newly-elected County Board chairwoman by spilling her coffee all over her desk.

She assumed the front desk of the chairmanship without a cup of joe – not because she ran out, but because coffee and the fancy computer by which the chairman runs the microphones and sound system don't mix.

Tina, you're supposed to do that with Gatorade when you win. Gatorade, Tina. It's much less painful and it comes out easier. Ask any football coach.

• HISTORIC FRESHMAN CLASSAs I wrote, it's been at least 20 years since we had a County Board with so many new faces.

I went back through the newspaper's microfiche as far as 1992 – two redistrictings ago – and found that voters elected seven new board members. One of those freshmen, James Heisler, is now the board's longest-serving member.

A radical new map – the County Board went to the present six districts rather than three – drove much of this change. But we live in volatile political times – only a handful of precincts changed districts this time around, and not one of the 24 board members up to Nov. 6 found themselves redrawn into new districts.

For the record, the smallest turnover since then was in 2004, when only one new board member was seated – one-term member Marie Chmiel was elected to replace Mike Tryon, who was elected to the Illinois House.

• THE JOURNEY OF MICHAEL SKALA – A rite of passage after each new board is seated – the prerogative of veterans to switch seats with freshmen – almost took as long as the voting process to elect a new chairman.

Skala started the meeting assigned the front-row seat formerly held by Virginia Peschke, but he had to switch with Democratic member Paula Yensen to the second row. Yensen consoled him by telling him his new neighbor, Diane Evertsen, always brings candy, which can provide much-needed sugar rushes for those long meetings.

Ken Koehler, after losing his bid for the chairmanship, sat in the far left on the last row until he informed freshman Michael Walkup, sitting in the last seat on the right in the last row, that he wanted to "walk up" and reclaim the seat he sat in when he was first elected in 2000. This didn't sit well, pardon the pun, with Walkup, who said he needed an aisle seat for medical reasons.

So Walkup ended in Skala's seat, pushing Skala to the rear where Koehler had been sitting. But that seat has remained empty for a reason – the county clerk who takes roll call and counts votes can't see the person sitting there – and Skala had to move again.

So Skala finally ended up in Hill's old seat – hopefully they got up all the coffee – to the left of Evertsen.

"So much for my first consensus-building task," Hill joked.

As for that phantom seat the clerk can't see, I hope the guys who built the government center took a little something off of the price.

• NOBODY WANTS TO PLAY WITH ME – Why doesn't anyone want to sit next to Evertsen? She's got candy!

• YOU SAY CHIRIKOS, I SAY CHI ... CHO ... CH ... – Allow me to offer a primer on the proper pronunciation of newly-elected Democratic member Nick Chirikos' name. It's chi-REEK-ohs.

County Clerk Katherine Schultz told board members that she'd have pronunciations down by the next meeting. But given that the access road to the county Administration Building is Katherine Schultz Way, I believe that entitles her to pronounce it any way she likes.

• SPEAKING OF BEVERAGES – I couldn't help but notice that board member John Jung had two cans of Tab cola on his desk.

I had no idea that they still made Tab, or that people still drink it.

But at least he didn't spill it.

UPDATE: New County Board member Michele Aavang told me Tuesday morning via Twitter that it was indeed her Tab.I guess Schultz isn't the only one whose view is impaired by the layout of the board chambers.
Senior Writer Kevin Craver can be reached at kcraver@shawmedia.com.

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