One of the nine new members of the McHenry County Board isn’t quite as new as the others.
Former Cary Village Trustee Yvonne Barnes was elected in 2006 to the McHenry County Board, where she quickly established herself and landed a committee chairmanship two years later. But she narrowly lost her re-election bid in 2010 in the Republican primary.
Voters in November re-elected her to another four-year term, and Barnes, a technical communications specialist and mother of seven children, is picking up where she left off.
Senior reporter Kevin Craver sat down with Barnes at Conscious Cup Coffee in Crystal Lake to talk about government, and he learned in the process to never challenge her to a word game.
Craver: Welcome back to the County Board.
Barnes: Thanks. I’m very happy to be back. The time went by very quickly. I think that’s because I have my kids, and time always flies by with kids. And I stayed in touch with County Board members and the issues. I missed it.
Craver: When did you decide to run again?
Barnes: Probably about three months before we had to file the paperwork. I received a lot of support. People still called me, just like they did when I was a Cary village trustee. They still thought I was there on the board.
Craver: What are your priorities?
Barnes: A big priority for me is education – being responsive to citizens’ needs and letting them know how to approach their problems. How do you appeal your tax bill? How do you get a permit to build an extension on your property?
One of my big issues is communication. The county does a great job communicating electronically, but I have concerns about all my senior friends who don’t use computers and don’t want to.
Craver: I’m a words guy, obviously, so I have to ask why your favorite book is the dictionary.
Barnes: Because you can learn something new every time you open it. My grandfather taught me to learn something new every day. And it’s because I’m a Scrabble addict. Words are wonderful. I once took an etymology class. I thought it was the coolest thing.
Craver: Speaking of words, some of my readers are going to think you studied bugs [etymolology is the study of words, entomology is the study of insects]. Do you let your kids win?
Barnes: They can win without me letting them. Sometimes I play Scrabble against myself. My goal is to get to 1,000 points. I don’t even know if that’s possible.
Craver: What’s your highest score?
Barnes: Eight hundred and forty-six.
Craver: Do you play Words With Friends?
Barnes: No. I’m not that big of a technology person.
Craver: [Gesturing to the iPad on the table] You have an iPad and you don’t play Words With Friends?
Barnes: This is the county’s iPad. We’re going paperless. I use it only for county business.
Craver: My wife plays Words With Friends with her mother, who strongly suspects that her opponent is in fact her journalist son-in-law. She suspects correctly. As for being a pizza fanatic, what kind do you like?
Barnes: Given the choice, I’ll take straight cheese, but I’ve been known to make fruit pizzas, vegetable pizzas, even potato salad pizzas.
Craver: Potato salad? Oh, geez! I was stationed in Europe, and they have some real messed-up ideas about what to put on a pizza, let me tell you, but I never saw potato salad.
Barnes: Remember what your parents told you as a child – it all gets mixed up inside you anyway.
The Barnes lowdown
Who is she? Yvonne Barnes, District 1 representative on the McHenry County Board
Family: Seven children: Bryan, 21, 19-year-old twins Megan and Allison, Emily, 17, Nikita, 16, Daniel, 13, and Colleen, 12.
Favorite book? Webster’s English Dictionary
Favorite food? “Pizza, pizza and more pizza”