Four Republican candidates with varying degrees of government experience are running for two open seats in District 3 of the McHenry County Board.
Incumbent Joe Gottemoller is running for a four-year term, along with challengers Sarah Jansen, Nancy Gonsiorek and Don Kopsell, in the March 18 primary. The two winners will run in the Nov. 4 election against Democratic challenger and former County Board member Kathleen Bergan Schmidt.
District 3’s four candidates represent the largest GOP field among the four districts with contested primaries. The district includes all of Nunda Township, southeastern McHenry and northeastern Algonquin townships, including all or parts of Crystal Lake, McHenry, Bull Valley, Prairie Grove, Holiday Hills and Lakemoor.
Jansen, an attorney, was formerly an assistant state’s attorney who served as the County Board’s legal counsel.
“I’ve always had civic involvement as a priority of mine, and that’s why I’m running,” Jansen told the Northwest Herald Editorial Board earlier this month.
Gottemoller was just elected in 2012, but his years of experience as a local zoning and land use attorney landed him the chairmanship of the Planning and Development Committee, which is undergoing a final review of the proposed county Unified Development Ordinance. Half of the board drew two-year terms after the last election to restagger them after post-census redistricting.
Gottemoller was one of several candidates who supported continuing to keep county government’s levy flat and to reject the inflationary increase that governments are entitled to under the tax cap. He highlighted other cost-cutting measures adopted in recent years, such as automatically eliminating positions that are not filled in 120 days.
“If we don’t keep the rate flat, at least until the economy improves, you’re just throwing people out of their homes,” Gottemoller said.
Gonsiorek, who is in her second term as a member of the Crystal Lake District 47 school board, is a certified public accountant, and said that skill set would be invaluable when it comes to keeping county government’s costs under control. Gonsiorek said she has fought for her school board to keep its levy flat like county government has, without success.
She said governments take the wrong approach in viewing the tax cap as how much they can take, and not thinking about how much they really need.
“That stops you from going back and making the tough decisions,” Gonsiorek said.
Some candidates had concerns about the controversial proposal to build a continuous-flow intersection at Randall and Algonquin roads. Jansen said something has to be done about the congestion, but said opponents must have a seat at the table and their concerns taken into account. The Lake in the Hills Village Board adamantly opposes the plan. Algonquin has not officially weighed in, but some individual trustees also oppose the idea.
“I have confidence ... that [designers] will work with them and will come to the best conclusion,” Jansen said.
Gottemoller said whatever fix is decided upon must be a long-term fix and not something that staves off congestion for a few years. He voted in favor of moving the design process forward – whether they include a CFI has not yet been decided. Gonsiorek said planners have to listen to affected constituents, and brought up how residents on rural Fleming Road banded together to successfully fight a controversial $5 million widening plan.
Kopsell was the only one of the four who explicitly said he thinks the CFI is a good idea. Kopsell was formerly Nunda Township Highway Commissioner until he narrowly lost his 2013 re-election bid.
He said his knowledge of transportation issues would be a boon to the County Board. A Vietnam War veteran, Kopsell also pointed out that the highway department had a balanced budget during his 16 years as commissioner.
“I’ve got 26 years in with the township and I think I could help at the county,” Kopsell said.
Kopsell was the only District 3 candidate absent from the newspaper’s endorsement interview, and said he did not receive the invite.
District 3’s other incumbent, Mary McClellan, is not running for a second term after her 2012 election – she is instead running for County Clerk against another District 3 Republican, Nick Provenzano.