Freshman-heavy County Board puts committee roles in place
WOODSTOCK – If Thursday’s approval of committee assignments was an indicator, the learning curve of the new McHenry County Board could be steep.
Its 14-7 vote to accept committee assignments – the only action item on the agenda – survived a challenge alleging the assignments as presented violated the County Board’s own rules. The vote to approve then required two subsequent motions and votes because of confusion as to whether members actually approved committee assignments or a calling of the question to stop debate.
Board members approved the committee structure hammered out last month by new Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, and the aptly named Committee on Committees she assembled. The group, made up of the chairwoman and one member from each of the County Board’s six districts, is convened after every November election to adjust memberships in the 11 standing committees in which most of county government’s work gets done.
The sheer number of new members – nine of the board’s 24 members are freshmen – prompted the committee to give the chairmanships of three committees to newcomers. That, in turn, prompted Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, to point out Thursday that board rules state that chairmanships must go to members who have served on the committee for at least a year prior.
“I would expect that we would abide by our own rules,” Evertsen said.
However, the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, after a brief recess, pointed out that the rule says the board shall do so “to the extent practical.” Given the number of new members, Civil Division Chief Donna Kelly concluded a vote would be safe.
“We believe this is a logical and practical interpretation of the rule,” Kelly said.
The nine new members is the largest freshman class in at least 20 years – all 24 seats were up for election in November because of redistricting after the decennial U.S. Census. Only one committee kept its current chairman under the new structure.
Board members made no attempts to alter the proposed structure on the board floor. But two speakers during public comment questioned the decision to make freshman Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, chairman of the Planning and Development Committee over board veteran Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock.
Mary Moltmann and Jane Collins told Hill that appointing Gottemoller, a zoning and development attorney, over Schuster, who has a record of promoting smart growth and groundwater preservation, sends the wrong message. The committee is reviewing a first draft of a comprehensive overhaul of the county’s development ordinances.
“Can you appreciate that this makes me go, ‘hmm’?” Moltmann, of Bull Valley, told board members.
The other two freshmen who received chairmanships were Mary McClellan, R-Holiday Hills, who will head the Human Resources Committee, and Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, who will head the Natural and Environmental Resources Committee. For the first time, one of the board’s two Democratic members will head a committee, with Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills, taking the chairmanship of the Management Services Committee.
Committees will return to a regular meeting schedule next week. All but one of the board’s standing committee meetings were canceled last month after the Dec. 3 seating of new members. Thursday’s vote also assigned board members as liaisons to about two dozen other boards, commissions and agencies.
What it means
The McHenry County Board voted Thursday, 14-7, to approve assignments and chairmanships for its committees.
Voting “yes” were Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock; Sue Draffkorn, R-Wonder Lake; Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake; James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake; Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake; Mary McCann, R-Woodstock; Mary McClellan, R-Holiday Hills; Anna May Miller, R-Cary; Robert Nowak, R-Cary; Sandra Fay Salgado, R-McHenry; Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake; Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake; Paula Yensen, D-Lake in the Hills; and Chairwoman Tina Hill, R-Woodstock.
Voting “no” were Yvonne Barnes, R-Cary; Nick Chirikos, D-Algonquin; Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard; John Jung, R-Woodstock; Robert Martens Sr., R-Spring Grove; Ersel Schuster, R-Woodstock; and Mike Skala, R-Huntley.
Board members John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake; Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake; and Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, were absent.