Four new Republican executive officers were elected Wednesday night in a move that is poised to shift the dominant party's control in McHenry County.
Chairwoman Sandra Salgado, Vice Chairman Andrew Gasser, Secretary Diane Evertsen and Treasurer Charles Wheeler were sworn in as new leaders of the McHenry County GOP's Central Committee.
The group hopes to reinvigorate a party that has seen low voter turnout over the past several years, and reunite county Republicans who were harshly divided after the March primary, Salgado said.
"Being elected to this position is a great honor, and it comes with a lot of responsibility," said Salgado, who noted that she is the first woman ever elected to the position. "We're going to build more rapidly on the base that has already been set. We're not necessarily going to change things. … We're going to hold more meetings and encourage participation. We want more people involved in the community and more voices at the table."
Salgado said she plans to run an aggressive get-out-the-vote operation to encourage voters to head to the polls in November.
"I think there's been a lot of frustration over the last five to eight years, not only in the government, but how the government decisions have been affecting people's lives," she said.
The new GOP leadership members were among the political supporters who helped Bill Prim, a former Des Plaines police commander, defeat McHenry County Undersheriff Andrew Zinke in the March primary.
Meanwhile, many former party leaders, including former McHenry County GOP Chair Michael Tryon, who did not seek another term, politically supported Zinke.
Salgado said that while the primary was divisive, she already has begun talking with leaders on the other side of the party. But she noted that uniting the party won't be an easy task.
"With some individuals, it will be more challenging," she said. "When you're emotionally invested in a candidate and they [don't get elected], it's hard. But I understand that and respect that.
"Within the next two to three months, we will be able to demonstrate more unity."
Salgado is a longtime McHenry County Board member, while Gasser and Wheeler won their respective GOP primaries for County Board in March. Evertsen is a current County Board member.
Salgado beat challenger Mark Daniel 12,153 votes to 8,703 votes. Gasser won with 11,392 votes over second-place John Jung and his 6,958 votes. Evertsen received 12,184 to Carolyn Schofield's 8,270 votes. And Wheeler got 10,588 votes to Glenda Miller's 9,866 votes.
Gasser agreed that it's important to reach out to all voters, but added that the group's election signifies that the party was ready to move in a different direction.
"We offered a different alternative and a different vision," he said. "It's going to be an exciting two years for the Republican party with new faces and a new energy.
"There's going to be a little bit more of an active and vibrant Republican party in McHenry County.
Tryon said he believed the county party did well under his six years of leadership and noted that McHenry County was the only one of the collar counties that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
As several longtime McHenry County officeholders, including Sheriff Keith Nygren, County Clerk Katherine Schultz and Treasurer Bill LeFew, decided to retire, there was new interest in primary politics that got combative at times, Tryon said.
"Politics has always had a certain spirited energy to it," he said. "It's a challenge, as it was for me for six years, to move everyone over into a united front for the general election."
But Tryon said he expects the new energy and new leadership will figure out a way to coexist with other party factions.
State Rep. Barb Wheeler, R-Crystal Lake, said she wasn't surprised when the new leadership team was elected, and said she's looking forward to working with the new group.
"I'm excited about it," she said. "I'm excited about the new blood … Change can be good."
Barb Wheeler acknowledged that the March primary, particularly the sheriff's race, divided many McHenry County Republicans. But the county GOP is ready to get behind Prim for sheriff, and, ultimately, Bruce Rauner for governor, she said.
"I don't think there's any Republican that isn't supporting Prim in the election," she said. "Time heals all wounds. It's like a family that goes to battle with each other. Sometimes we get dysfunctional, but we all come to the dinner table and share a meal."