WOODSTOCK – Getting the McHenry County Board to run more smoothly and efficiently is high on the list of priorities for new Chairman Joe Gottemoller.
With only one round of voting required Monday, Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, received the majority needed for the chairmanship, defeating challenger James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake, on a 15-9 vote. Monday’s vote to elect the chairman and vice chairman was the first duty of the newly-seated County Board that voters elected Nov. 4.
It was also the last time that electing the chairman will be up to the County Board. Voters in March approved a referendum making the chairman popularly elected to four-year terms starting in 2016. Gottemoller replaces Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, who decided after one two-year term not to seek a second.
“It is an honor and a humbling experience … to have confidence placed in me by all of you,” Gottemoller said.
Gottemoller, a land use attorney with Madsen Sugden & Gottemoller in Crystal Lake, was elected to the County Board in 2012. He was appointed chairman of the Planning and Development Committee, where he was one of the leading figures in advancing the Unified Development Ordinance that board members ratified in October.
Member Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, nominated Gottemoller, with Michael Skala, R-Huntley, seconding.
“Joe Gottemoller is a true leader. When Joe speaks, people listen,” Schofield said.
Kind words also were spoken about Heisler, first elected in 1992 and the County Board’s longest-serving member. Yvonne Barnes, R-Cary, nominated him with Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, seconding.
“He’s dedicated to service. He has no agendas, no objectives other than wanting our government to work transparently and honestly,” Kurtz said.
One surprise Monday morning was that a third declared chairman candidate, John Hammerand, decided not to run. Heisler picked up a number of votes that otherwise would have gone to Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake.
“I thought that the conditions were such that my support of Heisler was more important than my own political [aspirations],” Hammerand said after the meeting.
Barnes ran unopposed for the vice-chairman seat. She told board members that her role will be their “advocate” to help bring matters to the chairman’s attention. She replaces Heisler, who has held the vice chairmanship several times over the years.
Gottemoller said the County Board needs to return to its roots of getting work done in its committee and not doing research for the first time on the night of the board vote. Besides finances – the county has kept its property tax levy frozen for three years – the County Board over the next two years will have to address major transportation projects, such as the Randall Road widening project, and the need to overhaul board rules to prepare for a popularly-elected chairman.
Gottemoller’s first duty as chairman was to appoint one board member from each district to join him on the Committee on Committees, which is convened after every election to assign board members to the committees in which most of county government’s work gets done. His choices – Anna May Miller, R-Cary, Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, Sue Draffkorn, R-Wonder Lake, Mary McCann, R-Woodstock, and Skala – were approved on an 18-6 vote.
The County Board will vote in January to approve the committee’s recommended assignments.
Gottemoller said after the meeting that neither he nor his law practice have taken any cases regarding unincorporated land under County Board jurisdiction since his election, and that the prohibition would continue.
“I haven’t done [unincorporated] land use work in the county since I took the first position two years ago. I haven’t and no one in my office does,” Gottemoller said.
The Nov. 4 election brought five new members to the County Board, all Republicans: Andrew Gasser of Fox River Grove, Don Kopsell of Crystal Lake, Charles Wheeler of McHenry, Michael Rein of Woodstock, and Larry Smith of Harvard. All 24 board members are Republican – the two Democratic incumbents were swept out Nov. 4, ending an eight-year streak of two-party rule on the board.
Wheeler, a small business owner, made history as the first black man elected to the County Board.
Also sworn in Monday were new Sheriff Bill Prim, new County Clerk Mary McClellan, new Treasurer Glenda Miller and incumbent Regional Superintendent Leslie Schermerhorn. McClellan was elected to the County Board in 2012 before deciding to run for county clerk in 2014.
How they voted
The McHenry County Board voted Monday, 15-9, to elect Joe Gottemoller, R-Crystal Lake, as board chairman over James Heisler, R-Crystal Lake.
Voting for Gottemoller were Larry Smith, R-Harvard, Michele Aavang, R-Woodstock, Sue Draffkorn, R-Wonder Lake, Gottemoller, John Jung, R-Woodstock, Ken Koehler, R-Crystal Lake, Don Kopsell, R-Crystal Lake, Robert Martens Sr., R-Spring Grove, Mary McCann, R-Woodstock, Anna May Miller, R-Cary, Robert Nowak, R-Lake in the Hills, Nick Provenzano, R-McHenry, Michael Rein, R-Woodstock, Carolyn Schofield, R-Crystal Lake, and Michael Skala, R-Huntley.
Voting for Heisler were Michael Walkup, R-Crystal Lake, Charles Wheeler, R-McHenry, Yvonne Barnes, R-Cary, Diane Evertsen, R-Harvard, Andrew Gasser, R-Fox River Grove, John Hammerand, R-Wonder Lake, Heisler, Tina Hill, R-Woodstock, and Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake.
The board elected Barnes vice chairman on a 23-0 vote. She ran unopposed for the seat.