19111 Righeimer Road, Harvard, IL
Real Estate Broker, Farm Owner/Manager, Self
Married, Karen Smith
On The Record
Why are you running for county board?
My interest in running for office stems from my lifelong interest in politics and the hope I can better represent the voters of District 6. I am confident my experiences as a real estate broker, appraiser, director of an insurance company, and farm owner can bring a fresh perspective to the County Board. As a self-employed businessman in McHenry County for over 30 years, my positive approach on the County Board will represent my constituents free of the bipartisan politics that has so often hindered good government in the past.
What is your top legislative priority if you are elected?
A top priority for me would be to see that the Unified Development Ordinance is completed in an appropriate manner to be approved and implemented. I would like to see it designed well enough to have the backing of the entire County Board. This Ordinance can be the backbone of bringing job-creating business development to McHenry County. Quality jobs have the potential to drive our economy, bring tax money to our County, and ease the tax burden on the homeowners of McHenry County. Many quality people have spent countless hours working on this Ordinance, and I think it is appropriate to dedicate the necessary resources required to finish it in its entirety.
Where do you stand on the upcoming March referendum to make the County Board chairmanship popularly elected by the voters?
I am in favor of having the referendum on the ballot and giving the voters an opportunity to be heard. This is in direct contrast to my opponent Ersel Schuster’s “NO” vote in January of 2013. With her “NO” vote to support placing the referendum on the ballot, she is saying “the voters can’t be trusted”. There has been continued public support for a popular election of the chair of the County Board. I personally support the current arrangement of having the board members elect the chair. However, in the interest of transparency, I feel the voters should have their say. If the referendum results show my constituents feel the chair should be popularly elected, I will support this position and work towards making it happen.
Do you believe that the County Board – before 2013 – kept an adequate eye on the finances and spending of the McHenry County Mental Health Board? Why or why not?
In hindsight it is apparent that the County Board could have done more regarding this matter. I would like to commend the board members who did realize there was a problem and had the courage to speak out. I do not think this was as much a problem of the County Board not keeping an eye on the finances of the Health Board as it is a problem of not having a system in place to oversee these matters for all boards and departments receiving county funds. There should be a system in place that brings all boards and departments before the County Board in a timely manner to justify their budgets. As departments and boards like the Health Board develop and grow, they typically come back to the County Board for further appropriations. Often with increased appropriations there is the creation of new departments or new divisions within departments. This increase in size and the scope of their actions has contributed to more government spending and higher taxes. A system should be set up so that each department, on a rotating basis every 3 years, would be required to justify their budget from dollar one for the County Board to review. This would be very helpful in eliminating waste and/or duplication of services, and help make our County government operate as efficiently as possible.
Do you believe the county should continue to run Valley Hi Nursing Home, or would you like to see it sold to a private entity?
Valley Hi Nursing Home serves a need for the elderly of McHenry County in a way that a private entity may not. I think control of Valley Hi should stay with the County. The elderly of our county need to know there is a place for them even if they cannot afford a private rest home. This is a safety net for our elderly that may not be there if control of Valley Hi was relinquished to a private entity.
What issues would you like to see addressed in the upcoming Unified Development Ordinance?
Key components of this ordinance must include how it is to be implemented and public understanding of the implementation of this ordinance. There needs to be a uniform and understandable procedure available for anyone who will be working under the jurisdiction of this ordinance. For example, a flow chart could be developed outlining the steps required to let applicants know what is expected in regards to development, permits, and estimated time frame to make it all happen. The applicants for permits need to be able to make informed decisions as to their ability to meet requirements, time frames, and costs involved. The ability to make informed decisions and move forward in a timely fashion will encourage job-creating businesses to locate or expand in McHenry County.
Do you believe county government should continue to keep its tax levy frozen? Why or why not? And if not, what expenses would you cut to ease the burden on taxpayers?
Yes, McHenry County is financially stable at this time with reserves available; there is no need to raise the tax levy at this time. In these economically trying times, raising the tax levy can only have a negative effect on the citizens of McHenry County. With the tax levy frozen, the County Board has more incentive to find creative ways to resolve financial issues.