McHENRY – Downtown revitalization and lowering property taxes are two of the main issues in the two-way race for McHenry mayor.
McHenry businessman Wayne Jett and former Mayor Steve Cuda are vying for the position in the April 4 consolidated election. The winner of the upcoming election will replace outgoing Mayor Susan Low, who has held the job since she first was elected in 2003.
Jett has lived in McHenry for more than 25 years and has owned Jett’s Heating & Air Inc. for 14 years. He also is the president of Sideline Marketing & Sports Memorabilia and has organized fundraisers through his businesses to give back to the community.
“In my first term, I plan to revitalize the downtown area, and believe I’ve already been doing so by investing in the McHenry indoor theater. Without a downtown, it’s hard to get a community moving in the right direction,” Jett said.
Jett said he knows he’s not a traditional candidate because he’s not a career politician.
“I thought it was time for a fresh perspective in city government,” Jett said. “I’ve just had enough with old politics, and it’s time we got things done in McHenry.”
His opponent, Cuda, served as mayor from 1993 to 2001 before deciding not to run for another term.
“After those eight years, I decided to spend more time with my family and take a break,” Cuda said. “Now that my kids are all older, I’ve decided I’d like to get back into politics.”
A lifelong McHenry resident, Cuda attended St. Patrick Catholic Grade School and McHenry Community High School. He is an attorney at Hamer, Schuh & Cuda in Woodstock and has been with the firm since 1984.
“A couple local clients of mine in the area have decided to leave the McHenry area because their real estate taxes are just too high,” Cuda said. “So I run on a platform of reducing the city’s real estate taxes.”
Cuda also served for 10 years as a member of the McHenry Community High School District 156 board, with four years as its president, and previously served as a member of the Fox Valley Freeway Citizens Advisory Committee.
“I think the experience I have is a defining characteristic. Until you’ve done it, you just don’t know what you’re getting into,” Cuda said.
Jett has been a McHenry resident since he was 6 years old and attended Riverwood Elementary School and McHenry High School – West Campus. He’s said he’s seen the city hit some hard times, and investing in the downtown area is a crucial part of his plan to bring more people to McHenry.
“It’s just time for young millennials to get involved and time for new visions,” Jett said. “When there’s vacancies throughout the city, it’s just time to make that change. I want this community to be a place where our children and grandchildren want to call home.”
To try to revive the downtown area, the city of McHenry recently approved the redevelopment of the indoor theater, which has been closed since 2014. Jett and Cuda both were in support of this proposal.
“By spurring economic development and investing in our infrastructure, we can bring prosperity to McHenry,” Jett said. “The resulting city revenues would allow us to sustainably lower your property taxes.”
“The challenge for the next mayor is to persuade current businesses to stay and new ones to locate in McHenry. By reducing the city’s share of the real estate tax burden, that challenge should become a little easier to meet and overcome,” Cuda said.
Cuda said his biggest concern for McHenry is losing residents and businesses because of high property taxes.
“I spoke with a longtime businessman from McHenry last evening, and he told me he was thinking of expanding his plant here, but his tax bill would be $140,000 when the project was completed,” Cuda said.
Both Cuda and Jett also noted that transparency, listening to others and taking responsibility are important traits of being a leader.
“At the City Council, I would like to see more dialogue amongst the elected officials and staff,” Cuda said.
“I will also ensure that all spending and city operations are conducted as transparently as possible, ensuring we are fully accountable for you,” Jett said.
FAMILY: Wife, Amber; four children
OCCUPATION: Owner of Jett’s Heating & Air Inc.; president of Sideline Marketing & Sports Memorabilia
SERVICE: Jett donated 47 ballistic helmets for the McHenry Police Department in January and has been involved in several local fundraisers.
QUOTE: “By spurring economic development and investing in our infrastructure, we can bring prosperity to McHenry.”
FAMILY: Wife, Annette; three children
OCCUPATION: Attorney at Hamer, Schuh & Cuda
SERVICE: McHenry mayor (1993 to 2001); a member of the McHenry Community High School District 156 board (1983 to 1993), including president for four years
QUOTE: “A couple local clients of mine in the area have decided to leave the McHenry area because their real estate taxes are just too high. So I run on a platform of reducing the city’s real estate taxes.”