Candidates Keith Wheeler (Republican) and Valerie Burd (Democrat) on Nov. 4 will vie for the seat of 50th District State Representative
Keith Wheeler sees the role of 50th District Representative as the people’s representation in the General Assembly in Springfield.
“While the General Assembly is seen primarily in its role of making laws, a state representative is also a resource for constituents when it comes to state government issues, problems and concerns,” he said.
Wheeler on Nov. 4 will seek the 50th District Representative seat.
Wheeler currently owns Responsive Network Services, LLC., and serves as a Bristol Township trustee and Bristol 5 Republican Precinct committeeman. He’s also a past board chairman for Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce, board chairman for Kendall County Food Pantry, Illinois Leadership Council chairman for National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), current board treasurer for Oswego Bears Youth Football and Cheer Pop Warner program, District 308 Teaching and Learning Advisory Committee member.
As a small business owner in Illinois, Wheeler said he has seen first-hand the damage that Springfield has done to the Illinois business community.
“Employers, jobs and families are leaving Illinois at a frightening pace. In my past role as board chairman of the Aurora Regional Chamber of Commerce and current board chairman of the Illinois Leadership Council for NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business), I hear from fellow business owners that Illinois is not competitive as we should be. Unemployment in Illinois is too high and is among the highest in the Midwest. We see it locally by the increase in the demand for food at local food pantries. I pay close attention to this in my role as the Kendall County Food Pantry board chairman. I am running to help create and support Illinois jobs for Illinois families—that’s actually the theme of my campaign.”
Twenty-three years as a small-business owner means that Wheeler signs the front of paychecks; not just the back. It also means he understands what job creators are dealing with in today’s business climate. He believes he has a pulse on the business community and has working relationships with the organizations that understand what needs to change in order to improve the business and hiring climate in Illinois.
And as a parent with young children, Wheeler’s eye is on the future.
“We need to make Illinois a state with an education system of which we are proud and that we can count on for preparing the next generation for success here in Illinois,” he said.
If elected, Wheeler’s priorities will include job creation, a focus on state spending and pension reform.
“While our state has been struggling to pay its bills and we suffered through a 67 percent increase in income taxes, the Democrats in Springfield increased state spending instead of paying off the outstanding bills,” Wheeler said. “This is the wrong approach to improving the balance sheet of the state of Illinois. We need to examine runaway Medicaid fraud and perform a forensic audit of state spending to root out waste, fraud, abuse and duplicative spending.
In regard to pension reform, Wheeler believes the only way to truly solve the pension mess would be to move to a defined contribution system so that payment to and on behalf of the employee will be complete at the same time the employee is working.
“For this reason, I will support massive expansion of the new defined-contribution program that was introduced in the recent pension bill,” he said.
An important step Wheeler would like to lead with is creation of a bipartisan Small Business Caucus to give the job-creating small business community in Illinois a louder voice in Springfield.
Wheeler created a plan called “Illinois Jobs for Illinois Families” in order to make the state “more competitive and give companies, entrepreneurs and hard-working citizens a reason to make Illinois their home.” The outline of Wheeler’s plan includes:
• Make Illinois a more affordable place to do business—stop the progressive income tax which would raise taxes on 85 percent of Illinois families
• Clean up the pension and bill payment mess in Springfield
• Perform a forensic audit to clear out waste, fraud, abuse and duplicative state spending
• Restore state funding promised to local school districts to keep our promise to our kids and prevent further increases in property taxes
Valerie Burd will compete for the 50th District Representative seat on Nov. 4.
Burd, a 25-year resident of Yorkville, served on the Yorkville City Council from 1998 to 2011, with nine years as Ward 2 alderman and four years as mayor. She’s currently on the Environmental Advisory Board for the Kendall County Health Department, a member of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk’s Woman’s Advisory Committee, and a member of the Board of the Illinois State Genealogical Society. She was recently appointed the Public Guardian and Public Administrator for Kendall County. She’s also a member of the Yorkville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Green Committee.
Burd defines the role of 50th District Representative as a two-way job.
“First, a representative needs to listen and be accessible and available for his or her constituents to help resolve issues,” she said. “Second, a representative needs to keep residents of the district informed on what is happening in Springfield—how it affects them. A state representative is one of 118 people filling that role in Springfield, so people running for this spot need to focus on working with people on both sides of the aisle if they want to get something done. Collaboration is the key.”
Burd said she was a long-time supporter of Kay Hatcher, who is the current 50th District Representative.
“When I learned she was retiring, I was concerned that her position might not be filled by someone like Kay— a pro-choice, socially moderate candidate,” Burd said. “When I was asked to run, I decided that I would go forward and give people that choice in the November election.”
Burd said her decision to run for office stems from her love of this country, its constitution and the political process. She said she hears many people saying negative things about politicians—wanting to kick them all out of office. But when she looks back on this country’s history and sees the leaders who have stepped forward when they were most needed to solve problems, she said she has to feel that God has blessed this country and its citizens many times. “There are many good people, Democrats and Republicans, working to solve the problems we are facing,” Burd said. “We need to support these people, not the ones who are trying to tear us part. This is our government, created by us, and we are responsible for it.
Burd believes she is the best candidate for 50th District Representative because, as a former alderman and mayor of Yorkville for 13 years, she understands the needs of local municipalities and the residents in the district. She said she had the opportunity to talk to many people, listen to their comments and try to help them solve their problems.
“I served on Metro West Council of Government and the Metropolitan Council of Mayors, where we studied many of the problems Springfield is still facing today—like how to better fund education and pension reform,” Burd said. “I also am the owner of a small business and have been very involved with the local chamber and was formerly on the board of the Yorkville Economic Development Commission. I am not driven by an ideology. I am used to working with people on both sides of the aisle to find solutions to problems.”
One of the administration accomplishments Burd is most proud of is the consortium created by Yorkville’s Plan Commission. Plan Commission members from Yorkville and adjacent municipalities worked together and helped each other with planning issues. According to Burd, this helped heal the distrust that had been created by a previous administration and plans to site a landfill in Yorkville.
If elected, Burd’s priorities as 50th District Representative include job growth, a fairer property tax system, and working to fix Illinois’ financial problems. In terms of job growth, Burd said she intends to support and encourage existing and new education programs that help retrain the workforce for jobs that are available now and in the near future. She also intends to support infrastructure improvements, work with local chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and local elected officials in their efforts to attract new businesses and help retain existing businesses. Her other listed priorities affect job growth, she said.
“Kane and Kendall counties have some of the highest property tax rates in the U.S.,” she said. “This hurts us when we are trying to attract businesses to our area. The property tax is inequitable—it hurts people on fixed incomes and those who have lost their jobs, and it is passed on to businesses in high rental costs. We can’t just promise to cut taxes, because the taxes are needed to fund schools, municipalities, libraries, park districts, etc. Encouraging taxing bodies to cut their costs is one way to go, but during the recession, many of these taxing bodies made deep cuts. The only option is to look for alternate ways to fund some of them.
Burd said Illinois’ financial crisis is discouraging businesses from coming to the state. According to one report she’s read, as much as 70 percent of Illinois taxpayers’ dollars goes to pay for pensions.
“This needs to continue to be addressed, but people receiving pensions need to be represented at the table for the discussion,” she said. “We need to cut waste from our budget, but we don’t need to spend money on any audits or litigation. We need to carefully review all budgets and all expenditures, and hold employees accountable. But we need to ensure that education and infrastructure and other necessary programs are funded. If it were easy, it would have been solved already.”
Burd and her husband, Paul, have five children, three of whom are currently on active duty. Valerie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism, with a minor in political science, from Northern Illinois University. She worked as a newspaper reporter, was managing editor of two weekly newspapers for the Naperville SUN, was a marketing director for a Batavia architectural firm, and worked in Waubonsee Community College’s Public Relations department. She currently owns Positive Media Solutions, Inc., a Yorkville marketing firm that does community guides, maps, advertising pieces and photography.
According to Burd, her campaign has received endorsements from the AFL-CIO, Planned Parenthood and Personal Pac.