HEBRON – In the closing minutes of his final meeting as village president, Frank Beatty turned the attention to a man sitting in the chair nearest the door of the Village Board chambers.
John Jacobson, who eight days earlier had defeated Beatty, sat cross-legged in jeans and a light blue button-up.
“I want to congratulate Mr. Jacobson for winning the election,” Beatty said, prompting several members of the crowd to twist in their seats. “He did an outstanding job of campaigning, and I really appreciate that he stepped up and came forward and ran for office.”
Jacobson nodded in appreciation.
It was a rare public moment of communication between a couple of candidates in a town that has largely kept quiet after the surprising result of the April 9 election.
Despite pending felony charges for possession of crack cocaine, Jacobson, 65, took 61 percent of the vote against incumbent Beatty, who’d held the position for 16 years.
It’s nothing new that in a small town, residents might choose to hold their opinions in public rather than speak out and face scrutiny in a close-knit community. In the days after the election, residents willing to openly support either candidate were scarce.
Still, seeping into consciousness from the Northwest Herald online comment section to the corner store, the circumstances that led to Jacobson’s unlikely win have become more clear.
Some, like 11-year Hebron residents Dave and Lucy Smentek, think the reasons are simple.
“I think they wanted a new change, that’s all,” Dave Smentek offered before he left Wednesday’s Village Board meeting. “Frank did a great job and everything, but everybody wanted a new change it looked like.”
Added Lucy: “Unfortunately, they should have seen a little bit of the history, what was publicized in the papers. They didn’t look at it.”
About 3 grams of crack cocaine were found in Jacobson’s car during a Jan. 15 traffic stop, police said. He was charged with delivery of a controlled substance, a Class 1 felony, and possession of a controlled substance, a Class 4 felony.
Before the election, Jacobson didn’t return a Northwest Herald questionnaire and declined an invitation to be videotaped for NWHerald.com to state his case.
He told the newspaper in the days after the election that instead, he spent his time talking and listening to residents about their concerns. He also said he wrote a letter to voters.
“If you can take the good ideas out of everyone, whether you agree with them or not, and say hey, let’s put them together, we’re going to have a better town,” Jacobson said the night he was elected.
Beatty filled out his questionnaire at the Northwest Herald’s offices, but after a few attempts, decided against recording a video plea to voters.
Residents have voiced displeasure about circumstances within Hebron the past few years, both within and beyond Beatty’s control.
Some were upset and claimed nepotism when the village hired Beatty’s son as a police officer. Zach Beatty since has moved on and is currently the McCullom Lake police chief.
In 2005, the village made the decision to build a new $4.5 million wastewater treatment plant rather than spend $2 million to update the old facility. The new facility was supposed to allow the city to grow from 1,100 people to 5,000 people, according to Northwest Herald archives.
But the housing market bust left residents to deal with skyrocketing water rates.
“Everybody got hit with a fantastic water rate over the last six months,” Beatty said at the meeting Wednesday. “We can’t control that. Put the blame on me if you want.
“The fact of the matter is, if we don’t get growth coming in ... our water rates are going to go up again.”
Hebron resident Jim Lange said those increased rates might have played a role in swaying the public leading up to the election.
“It may have been a contributing factor,” Lange said as he left Wednesday’s meeting. “But it’s going to happen in today’s day and age. It happens.”
Neither Beatty nor Jacobson answered questions for this story. Beatty declined to comment after the meeting, and Jacobson didn’t return several messages.
Jacobson, who was fired from his job at McHenry County College after his arrest, is due in court May 22. If convicted of a felony, he will be removed from office, according to the Illinois Municipal Code.