Six vie for three Algonquin-LITH fire district seats

Management style and goals, and how trustees should work with firefighters, has led six candidates to vie for three seats on the Algonquin-Lake in the Hills board: two seats for six-year terms and one for an unfinished two-year term.

Joseph Saunders, current Trustee Rick Naatz, Bruce Toussaint and Natalie Littlefield are running for the two six-year terms.

Tim Moss and current board President Virgil Corless are running for the two-year term.

The six candidates are running as two slates. Saunders, Littlefield and Moss are one slate, and Naatz, Toussaint and Corless are the second slate.

Naatz, an insurance agent, used to be a firefighter.

“I truly feel the district and fire service needs to be business-oriented as well,” Naatz said. “I think a business has to be accountable from top to bottom.”

Naatz said the district needs to look at where things are today and how to maintain services while dealing with growing costs.

“My goal would be to keep taxes where they stand, increase services without increasing taxes for our taxpayers, working with intergovernment agreements with the village and other fire departments as well,” Naatz said.

Corless has been a volunteer with the ambulance service, became a firefighter and captain, and he’s been on the board for one term.

Corless said he wants to see the department through an accreditation process.

“To do benchmarking based on size of the department and number of personnel, it provides a strong asset and basis for financial decisions you might make,” Corless said. “It provides all the data to make a sound business decision.”

Corless said he hopes to work on a five-year strategic plan, which would serve as a road map for the district. The plan would have annual goals, with measurements for the district’s senior staff members.

“The current board is looking for accountability, looking at what we’re doing, how we’re doing and can we do better,” Corless said.

Toussaint, of Lake in the Hills, worked for the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills fire department for 26 years and retired as the fire prevention bureau chief.

He said fiscal responsibility is the most important issue, especially with the recovering economy.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve levied the maximum,” Toussaint said. “We’ve been able to to work within a budget without doing appreciable increases to the taxpayers.”

Toussaint said he has done a lot of work with the district and helped improve safety codes for both villages.

“I hope ... we’re maintaining fiscal responsibility to the taxpayer, providing the best service we can, [and] maintain a high level of safety within the community,” Toussaint said.

Saunders, Moss and Littlefield said they all disagreed with the decision to ask former Chief Kevin Rynders to resign.

“He’s been one of the better chiefs that they had,” Littlefield said. “For them to not want him there, it hasn’t been explained why they did it.”

Saunders, who is an account executive in the food distribution industry, said district trustees should not be micromanagers.

“The trustees have gone from an oversight committee ... to micromanaging the organization and having their fingers in everything,” Saunders said. “I’m not sure we want those people running our fire department when we have professional firefighters.”

Saunders said there needs to be more transparency with the department and more common-sense decisions.

“I don’t see that with our current trustees,” Saunders said. “They don’t want to give the public information.”

Saunders said there is a need to have independent-minded people on the board.

“It seems to be a rubber-stamp board right now,” Saunders said.

Littlefield, whose husband, Tim, is a captain in the fire district, is running for a six-year term.

She said she would recuse herself on votes or discussion on matters regarding her husband.

“I have thought about this long and hard, as far as if anything came up in regarding him, I would just back away and abstain from voting period,” Littlefield said. “I don’t think that would be right for me to be voting on anything that affected him directly.”

Littlefield said that the board needs to be more transparent.

“Just sitting watching the meetings, there just needs to be change. There’s not enough transparency. Too much goes on behind closed doors that’s not reported to the public,” Littlefield said. “The trustees right now do not let the chief officers do their job. They are just running everything.”

Moss is an Army veteran.

The board shouldn’t’t worry about small purchases, such as a $700 iPad or $500 car repair, Moss said. It should be the job of the everyday chain of command. Mainly large purchases should come to the board.

“To me, that’s not the board’s job to be doing that; they should have enough trust in the people they hire to do that on their own,” Moss said.

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