The McHenry County Board met with its new members for the first time Thursday, marking a new chapter for a local government that underwent a major makeover in November.
“It’s not just that we have more Democrats,” said District 4 representative Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, after the board met for a Committee of the Whole meeting. “We have more women. We have new faces. They are truly engaged. They have their own ideas. They are not afraid to speak them.”
There now are 10 women on the 24-member board, and six of them won election, or re-election, in November: Althoff; Suzanne Ness, D-District 2; Carolyn Schofield, R-District 2; Kelli Wegener, D-District 3; Lori Parrish, R-District 3; and Michele Aavang, R-District 6.
“It’s extraordinarily representative of the evolution of McHenry County,” Althoff said.
On Monday, seven new County Board members took the oath of office.
The list included two male newcomers: Michael Vijuk, D-District 1, and Carlos Acosta, D-District 5.
One of four new Democrats to join the board, Vijuk said his goal is to work with his fellow board members in a nonpartisan way.
“People are trying to understand what each member’s strengths are moving forward,” Vijuk said. “You have to get to understand how people work together. That’s something I’m trying to do.”
Vijuk now is one of six Democrats on the board – including Chairman Jack Franks, who said he is excited to work with the new lineup.
“We’ve got some great people with some good background. They’ve already jumped in fully,” Franks said. “I see much less partisanship with this board. I think these guys are in it for the right reason, and not taking orders from party bosses and insiders.”
From her seat as the head of the Illinois Democratic County Chairs’ Association, Kristina Zahorik said she hopes to see less partisanship on this board.
“My hope is that there is less political grandstanding and conflict so that the board as a whole can continue the business of actually governing,” Zahorik said.
Diane Evertsen, chairwoman of the McHenry County Republican Party, could not be reached for comment.
The board now includes two people with an extensive background set in Springfield, where the House and Senate approved a bill that could give voters the power to abolish townships and change the composition of local governments in McHenry County.
Althoff is a McHenry native who served as a member of the state Senate since 2003, and Franks is a Marengo lawyer who stepped down from the state representative seat he held for 18 years to run for the County Board chairman seat in 2016.
Althoff said she is not too sentimental about leaving a post she held for more than a decade to return home.
“I miss the clowns,” Althoff said, “not the circus.”
Representatives rolled through a light agenda Thursday, including proposed changes to committee structures. The board will meet again at 7 p.m. Tuesday at 667 Ware Road, Woodstock.