Long-term public official faces challenge from newcomer
Incumbent Kay Hatcher will face a challenge for her seat representing the 50th District in the Illinois House from Andrew Bernard, who wants to bring a fresh perspective to the office.
Kay Hatcher has spent decades serving the public through various elected offices at the local and state level, starting with her time on the Oswego School Board in 1991, through her time on the Kendall County Board and Kendall County Forest Preserve President, and including her current tenure as Representative of the 50th District in the Illinois House of Representatives. Those years also include an even more vast list of community volunteer activities.
All of her service activity comes from one thing—her love of the area.
“I originally ran for office quite simply because I love the Fox Valley,” Hatcher said. “I have the strategic skills needed to do the job, and the incumbent legislator was going to retire after 18 years of service. This is where my children and grandchildren live, and I want to ensure it remains the best place in the world to work and raise a family.”
She said the state is facing significant problems, and she feels her track record is proof that she knows what it takes to help solve them.
“The challenge is enormous,” she said. “Because of the actions of legislators and governors in previous decades, our state is nearing the brink of economic Armageddon. In the past three years of service I have been able to carry and support legislation that shines a brighter light on state actions, demands a more responsible budget and creates a higher ethical standard. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve, and want to continue rebuilding an Illinois that pays its bills and treats people with dignity.”
If given the opportunity to continue her service in the 50th District, she plans to focus on ensuring fiscal responsibility in the state. She said the issues are complex and intertwined, and must be dealt with across the board. She would work to eliminate the recent state income tax increase and address state pension and Medicaid funding issues. She would also continue to assess state programs in terms of their effectiveness, to help improve the state’s bottom line.
Hatcher said the state needs to create a stable environment that encourages businesses to remain in the state, so they can invest in both in people and products. She would also work to rebuild trust in state government.
“It (trust) takes a lifetime to earn and a moment to lose,” she said. “ My first vote impeached a governor now in prison; my last vote removed a member of the General Assembly for questionable actions.”
She said to help rebuild that trust, she would continue to remain entirely transparent, making her daily calendar publicly available, as well as regularly communicating with residents.
“I meet constantly with individuals and organizations to learn more about their needs,” she said. “The more interaction I have with the people of the Fox Valley, the better legislator I become.”
Andrew Bernard said if elected, he would bring a fresh perspective to the Illinois legislature.
“I will bring a new perspective to restoring Illinois,” he said. ”I bring forth a new platform giving tax relief to low and middle income families, while at the same time, bringing in the needed revenue. As a legislator, I will also work to cut the unnecessary waste in Illinois.”
Currently, he serves as the Democratic Chairman of Geneva Township, and is also a Precinct Committeeman in Geneva. His interest in politics and policy, as well as his experience in local politics, has led him to believe that the state needs to change.
“The financial disaster and poor reputation of Illinois government prompted me to seek this position,” he said.
Bernard said the state’s tax code needs to be overhauled. He said that Illinois’ tax structure is regressive, explaining that the state is one of only seven in the nation that maintain a flat rate income tax.
“This type of taxation system is the primary cause for Illinois having to raise taxes on all workers in Illinois; therefore, hurting small businesses and halting new job opportunities,” he said. “I strongly believe that raising taxes on the middle class is harmful to the economy and stunts job creation. The best solution for Illinois is to adopt a progressive income tax system and lower the tax rate for middle class residents.”
He said that a progressive tax structure would have allowed the General Assembly to retain the previous income tax rates for the middle class while still generating additional state revenue from the higher tax brackets.
“When the middle-class residents pay less in taxes, they will spend more, and stimulate the economy,” he said. “In other words, Illinois businesses will need more employees when businesses are growing stronger.”
To further help job creation, Bernard said the state should invest in new infrastructure. This will create new job opportunities, improve current public systems and raise the economic value of the state, he explained.
“Part of this plan will include supporting state grants to local governments in order for them to invest and fix their existing infrastructure; thus, creating new job opportunities,” he said. “Investing in new infrastructure will also attract new businesses to Illinois, which, in return, will create new revenue and jobs.”
He would also work to reform state welfare programs. He supports a plan that would require recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to pass a drug screening to receive funding.
“This will help ensure that those receiving cash are using public funds wisely and not abusing the system,” he said.
The plans are more than mere tweaks to the existing system, and Bernard said he knows what it would take to take those plans and make them a reality.
“I will achieve my goals by working in a bipartisan manner with all legislators, while keeping direct communication with my constituents,” he said.
Challengers vie for KC Circuit Clerk Office
Both Ed Nendick and Thomas Hartwell seek to bring greater efficiency standards to the office of Kane County Circuit Clerk.
Ed Nendick is looking to use his experience from serving 24 years as a veteran in both the U.S. Navy and Air Force, as well as his time spent as Vice President of Sales and Administration in his company, O’Connor & Nendick Inc., in the role of Kane County Clerk of the Circuit Court.
He plans to apply that experience to improving the office and how it functions.
“I have served my country. I have raised my children. I have built my business and put plans in place to keep it going until I return,” Nendick said. “I see the opportunity to turn this governmental body around to a lean, high quality,efficient unit that cooperates with the other four Clerk of the Circuit Courts offices in this state. Together we can accomplish what individually we cannot.”
The spirit of togetherness is vital to his plans, he said. While listing his top three priorities, he noted that his third priority could actually double as his number-one priority.
“Third, and maybe first, would be to bring a spirit of cooperation and integrity to the office through outstanding leadership, example and a hands-on approach,” Nendick said.
Building on that spirit of cooperation, Nendick would work to integrate the computer program developed at the Clerk of DuPage County Office.
“I would request the Clerk of DuPage County share the program that they developed on Illinois government time using Illinois government money. Local citizens of Illinois paid the computer programmer wages in DuPage County. Credit goes to their brilliance in developing a program that works so well when others have stumbled,” he said.
From that point, Nendick wants to conduct a thorough audit of all systems and programs that exist in the office. He would establish clear personnel goals and training standards, redevelop job descriptions and clearly articulate personnel expectations.
Nendick said that all specific plans will flow from the audit process, as that will determine the areas that need improvement, thereby creating both short- and long-term goals. From there, he said, it is all about leadership.
“Leadership requires good communication. I plan to have great communication with my employees; I believe in an open door policy and am open to all suggestions and possible ways to improve the system I would like to implement,” Nendick said.
Tom Hartwell said that after 27 years as an attorney, regularly interacting with the Circuit Clerk’s Office, in addition to his time serving on the Kane County Board, he knows what it takes to make the office run more efficiently and effectively.
“My 27 years (of) experience as an attorney using the Circuit Clerk’s Office in Kane and other counties (as well as federal courts), give me a unique understanding of what excellent service means,” Hartwell said. “My service as a member of the Kane County Board has given me insight regarding the budget process and promoting cooperation and communication.”
Because the nature of the office is largely managerial, Hartwell said he has learned through his past experiences how to organize an office such as that of the Kane County Circuit Clerk.
“I am an attorney with an MBA. I served on the Kane County Board from 1996 to 2000. I have personal experience using the circuit clerk’s office. I have management experience. I have government experience,” Hartwell said. “While experience often dictates what we do, leadership allows us to do it. I have both the experience and leadership qualities to manage the circuit clerk’s office in an efficient and effective manner.”
He said he would use that range of experience and knowledge to streamilne the office, focusing his efforts on reducing waste and inefficient practices. He would connect those efforts to increasing transparency within the department, as well.
Financial efficiency goes hand-in-hand with transparency and accountability,” he said. “Given the changes that will occur with the upcoming election, this is one of our best opportunities to improve the relationship between elected officials.”
Better communication, increased effiencies and reduced waste will translate into the ability for the office’s employees to take on other additional responsibilities.
“(This will) create an create an atmosphere organized around timely and cost-efficient customer service,” he said.
Overall, service is Hartwell’s goal, and all other efforts would be designed to increase and improve services to the public.
“My goal as the circuit clerk is to serve the citizens of Kane County in a timely, efficient and ethical manner,” Hartwell said. “As an outsider, I bring a fresh prospective to the office not being entangled by policies of the past. It is important that the Circuit Clerk’s Office is well run and cost effective. Government must operate with its means.”
County incumbent faces challenge
What was once known as the 26th District on the Kane County Board is now folded into the 18th District. Incumbent Drew Frasz faces a challenge from Kerri Branson.
After 12 years volunteering on various community projects—including the steering community that helped develop La Fox and the La Fox Community Park—Drew Frasz joined the County Board to represent District 26. Now that area is drawn into District 18, and Frasz points to his continued community involvement as the reason he believes he deserves your vote.
“I am a life-long resident with the civic and elected experience mentioned above,” Frasz said. ”I am an active and engaged County Board member who responds to constituent’s needs. The position requires attending over 200 meetings per year both days and evenings. I have the best attendance record on the County Board, and have delivered on every campaign promise made in 2008.”
His goals for this term are clear-cut: 1) Hold or reduce the county’s portion of property tax bills and encourage other taxing bodies to do the same; 2) break ground on the Anderson Road bridge and road corridor in spring 2013; and 3) Continue to move forward with the Interstate 88/Route 47 interchange.
While the goals are clear-cut, the path to accomplishing these goals is not easy and will require the work ethic he has already exhibited during his time in office, he said.
To address the tax issue, Frasz said he would continue to pursue the conservative fiscal policies the County Board has been following. He would explore reducing non-mandated county services that the public may not deem affordable, and would look into potential new sources of revenue to reduce reliance on the county portion of property tax bills.
The Anderson Road bridge and road corridor project is more complex, and Frasz said he would encourage continued talks between the project developers and the village of Elburn, which recently voted to table the project.
“The county is ready to get bids on this project, and federal funding is in place but may be in jeopardy if not used soon,” he said.
Similarly, the Interstate 88/Route 47 interchange project will also require strong communication among various entities.
“This will be an active partnership between several governmental agencies including Sugar Grove, Elburn, Kane County, the Tollway Authority, and state/federal funding agencies,” he said.
His efforts are based on a simple premise, which serves as the foundation for his efforts both during his time on the County Board and previously.
“I am very proud of our area and want to see it grow in a positive way,” Frasz said.
After spending years volunteering in the community, Kerri Branson said she wants to run for County Board because she can identify with the challenges and successes that everyday citizens face.
“I am running as an average resident of Kane County who has experienced the same struggles as the people of our county and want to make a difference by raising questions to the board that our community has been asking,” she said.
She plans to continue coordinating efforts and communicating within the community, and as a County Board member she can make sure those voices get heard.
“As a public servant, it is my duty to listen to my constituents and bring their concerns before the board,” she said. “I believe in coming together as board members and making decisions about our county to make it a better place to live, work and be proud of.”
She would focus her efforts on cutting wasteful spending and allocating funds fairly and ethically. She would promote community health and education, including the preservation of farmland and forests. And to address an issue she has lived with first-hand, she would help those who are with exceptional needs.
“My biggest accomplishment in life are my four children, who have taught me the basics in life I can use towards solving any problem,” Branson said. “My two oldest twins are severely affected by cerebral palsy, which threw me in headfirst to an array of medical, insurance and organizational stresses.”
She said her family’s experience has taught her a lot about how people with special needs are treated in society.
“I have been a strong advocate for my sons and people who are at a disadvantage by relentlessly continuing to fight for their rights,” she said. “This will be my job for the rest of my life, and I feel honored God has given me this responsibility.”
She said her “everyday citizen” perspective is exactly what is needed on the Kane County Board.
“Inexperience can sometimes be a positive addition to an equation that needs solving,” Branson said. “If people are looking for change in our county, more of the same and requiring experience is not going to bring that. Fresh eyes to an old problem can help look at things creatively and logically without the influence of what has already taken place. I am not a politician, and have no desire to strive to be one. My interest is in relaying what I hear from our community to the County Board and advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves.”
Challengers Pierog, Oberweis seek State Senate seat
A pair of challengers will face off to win the seat representing the 25th District in the Illinois State Senate.
With a background in education, as well as being a small-business owner and community volunteer, Corinne Pierog regularly sees first-hand the struggles of the middle class in Illinois. She said she is running for office to help ease those struggles.
“People in my community are struggling. I am from and support the middle class, and I can be the advocate who understands their problems and can be their voice in Springfield,” she said.
With time spent on the St. Charles School Board, as well as the City Council, Pierog has experienced working with groups of all sizes and people of all means, facing a variety of challenges.
“All of our residents must be able to succeed. I want our kids to achieve their dreams,” she said.”I don’t want families to have to choose between funding their 401K and paying their child’s college tuition. And I want our seniors to enjoy their retirement with dignity. I want to make sure our economic and social policies reflect the needs of our businesses, our residents and our social service agencies.”
If elected, Pierog said she would focus on three areas: jobs, education, and property tax relief.
Economic growth is vital to secure a more stable future for the state’s residents, she said, and focusing on certain areas of the economy are important to the state’s economic turn-around.
“We need to reinvigorate our state as a hub of transportation, agriculture, education and innovation. And our entrepreneurs and small businesses must be given the tools and training they need to succeed and create jobs,” she said.
Pierog explained that unemployment and underemployment are best overcome through education. With technology and innovation driving the economy and what it continues to evolve into, the workforce must learn the skills it needs to meet the demands of change.
“We need to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education for our children and job retraining opportunities for displaced workers,” she said.
While all of that goes on, which can take time to occur, Pierog said work needs to be done to provide economic relief sooner.
“Supposedly, there are two things in life we can’t avoid—death and taxes,” she said. “But just because we can’t avoid taxes doesn’t mean we can’t have some relief from too heavy tax burdens. People today are struggling to find jobs, to pay bills, to keep their homes. When they are hit with an annual high real estate tax, it can put them under water. Many residents in District 25 are faced with just this dilemma. They need relief.”
Pierog also wants to address an underlying issue statewide that she feels negatively impacts the entire system. She explained than Illinois contains nearly 7,000 governmental entities, and the volume of different political bodies creates the opportunity for corruption and lack of transparency, making any efforts to improve the state difficult, if not impossible.
“Obviously there appears to be no shortage of news about Illinois’ storied history of political corruption, and equally an enormous amount of ideas presented on how to make our government more ethical and transparent,” she said. “What seems to be missing, however, is the mandate from the voters to engage the change, by demanding through their voice and their vote a responsible and ethical government. I will be a candidate to champion that voice.”
A lifelong entrepreneur, Jim Oberweis wants to see the trajectory change for the state of Illinois.
“I decided to run for this office because I want the future of Illinois to be better than the past,” he said. “I want my children and grandchildren to have the same opportunities with which I was blessed as a lifelong Aurora area resident. I see a decline in public safety, education, fiscal responsibility, employment opportunities and infrastructure. Illinois can and must improve in all aspects.”
Oberweis started Oberweis Asset Management from nothing, and helped build Oberweis Dairy from 50 employees to the more-than-1,000 employees it has today. He said that real-world business experience is what is required to turn the state around.
“I know what it takes to bring successful companies to Illinois, as well as to prevent companies from wanting to leave our state. I’ve had first-hand experience in dealing with government over-regulation, negotiating union contracts, providing health coverage to employees, and overcoming a variety of hurdles to build a successful business,” he said. “I want to take that knowledge to Springfield to get our state working again.”
Oberweis said he wants to make the state more “business friendly,” thereby securing more jobs and opportunities for Illinois residents. He intends to help solve the state’s underfunded pension issue, calling it a “mess,” and wants to make the state’s Workman’s Comp laws more like the surrounding states. Additionally, Oberweis wants to ensure that the temporary income tax increase is truly temporary, if not repealed outright.
“I will also work for term limits for state legislators. Eight years in any office is long enough,” Oberweis said. “We need to return to citizen legislators instead of career politicians.”
When addressing the state’s struggling economy, he said the first thing that needs to happen is to repeal the 67 percent increase in the state income tax.
“This was promised to be a temporary increase, and I plan on making sure it will be temporary.”
He said the economy will continue to stagnate until the state’s unfunded pension liability of over $80 billion is resolved. He suggested that the state consider changing the current defined benefits plan to a defined contribution plan for new state employees.
“This would begin to put us on the path of fiscal responsibility,” Oberweis said.
The key to accomplishing these goals is for a change in approach from state legislators. Instead of focusing on winning their next election, they should focus on solving problems.
“My focus will be on improving the future for Illinois, not on getting re-elected,” he said.”I will work with Republicans and Democrats to do the right things to solve our problems. I’ve been pretty good at getting people to work together in the past, and I believe I can do that in Springfield.”
Both incumbent, challenger focus on the economy
In the race for the representative from the 14th District of the U.S. House of Representatives, one-term incumbent Randy Hultgren faces challenger Dennis Anderson.
Randy Hultgren is looking to a second term in the U.S. House of Representatives to continue his work focusing on the nation’s struggling economy.
“We’ve got to get our nation’s spending under control and get the economy back on a road to growth,” Hultgren said. As a father of four, I’m truly concerned for the future of our nation.”
His level of concern has not changed during the past two years of his freshman term.
“My first vote as a Congressman was to repeal the president’s massive health care law in full, and I still believe the law must be repealed,” he said.
With unemployment still too high and federal spending still too high, he said much work remains to be done beyond the federal health care law.
“Unemployment is still far too high. We were promised an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent if the stimulus was passed. Instead, millions of Americans are still unemployed or underemployed (working part time when they would rather be working full time),” he said. “Federal spending is also far too high. Washington would like to treat the economy as a cash tree—a new tax for every program, chopping off as much as it wants, whenever it wants. What Washington doesn’t understand is that the best way to allow the tree to grow more jobs and tax revenue organically is to simply leave it alone.”
Unemployment must be addressed by working with small businesses, he said, explaining that two of every three new jobs is created by a small business. Hultgren has met more than 100 small business owners and job creators in his district in the past year alone, and he always asks the business owner the same question:
“During each storefront visit and factory tour, I ask what it would take for that employer to create just one more job,” he said. “There are nearly 30 million small businesses in the U.S., and 23 million people who are under employed. If every small business could create just one job, we would have overemployment.”
He personally introduced a regulatory sunset bill that would address outdated rules and regulations that he feels stifle business growth.
Debt needs a comprehensive approach, he said. The only way he feels the federal government can control its spending is with a Balanced Budget Amendment.
“We absolutely need a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Hultgren said. “Without structural change, it will be near impossible to reign in Washington spending. A constitutional amendment would force the government to spend only what it takes in.”
He said such an amendment is necessary because the scale of the problem is so large.
“If the U.S. were to eliminate all discretionary spending—all defense spending, all highway repair money, all federal courts and government operations, even the money spent taking care of our returning veterans—the budget would almost be balanced for a single year. What this tells me is that we can take nothing—not even defense or entitlements—off the table when it comes to cuts. It took years to reach this point, and it will take years to balance our budget again, but I believe it can be done.”
Dennis Anderson has spent a lifetime in community service, volunteering on the boards of directors for a number of service organizations, ranging from humane societies to food banks.
He wants to continue serving the public, but now he wants to do so by changing what he calls the dysfunctional state of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“The House has been frozen by partisan gridlock, and the people of this district, of Illinois and of the nation as a whole are not being served,” Anderson said. “Honesty and truth no longer seem to be held to be of any value by too many in Congress, and the people deserve thoughtful, honest representation, whether Republican, Democrat or Independent.”
He said Congress needs non-career politicians in office.
“I am not a career politician,” Anderson said. “I owe no debts to party or to special interests and, at the age of 61, I am not planning on starting a new career. I am running because we need change in Washington.”
All aspects of that change relate to the economy, he said. He will focus on bringing jobs to the district, increasing access to education and serving the historically under-represented.
“Recovery from the economic downturn requires the cooperative efforts of both parties in Washington, and between the public and the private sectors,” Anderson said. “That the government has a role in the recovery is accepted by both parties, as demonstrated by the ‘jobs bills’ that each have introduced.”
He said that one of the best things the federal government can do to improve the economy is to repair and upgrade the nation’s infrastructure, specifically pointing to schools, bridges and water systems.
“To do so will not only create good paying jobs, jobs that will result in a revived customer base for small business, but will also save future generations from having to bear the cost of our neglect, a cost that rose by roughly half a trillion dollars between 2004 and 2009, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers,” Anderson said.
Like Hultgren, Anderson believes there should be a new plan to address the nation’s health care system. However, Anderson’s plan goes in the opposite direction as Hultgren’s. He said the cost of health care is out of control, and pointed to health indicator world rankings—specifically relating to infant mortality, maternal mortality and deaths due to care not obtained because of cost—that he said “are terrible.”
“If we truly had the world’s best health care system, as some often claim, our health status indicators would reflect that,” Anderson said.
He also pointed to the rising costs of health care as a drag on the economy. If he had his way, he would pass one piece of legislation to address the problem.
“If I had one chance to pass and implement any law, with no opposition, it would be the creation of a single-payer health care insurance system in the U.S.,” Anderson said.
However, Anderson said he knows that when addressing problems in Washington, no one gets their own way and all sides must work together.
“I am committed to engaging in fact-based, honest exchanges with other members of Congress and with the people of the 14th District,” Anderson said. “I also believe my many years in the public sector and as a volunteer have been helpful in training me to work with highly diverse parties to gain consensus.”
Pair of candidates both seek to serve as tax money watch dogs
Republican incumbent Melisa Taylor is running for her second term representing District 5 on the Kane County Board. She faces Democrat challenger Norman Martin, who brings a background of public service as a former member of the United States Air Force and as a retired member of the Illinois State Police.
Taylor plans to continue the same priorities as what originally led her to run for the office two years ago—serving as a steward of county taxpayer money.
“I initially ran for Kane County Board to help more than just Sugar Grove,” Taylor said. “With a Kane County budget of over $70 million, I felt it important to oversee where our tax money is being spent.”
To serve in that watchdog role, she said she plans to continue looking into every process within every department of the county, searching for the most efficient ways to obtain cost savings. She also is focused on the Kane County Animal Control Department.
“I will also continue to assist with the restructuring of the Kane County Animal Control Department to ensure that our pets are treated and sheltered with the utmost of care,” she said.
Another priority is continuing her efforts to freeze Kane County property tax levies.
“It is important that our government reflects the utmost respect for the contribution of each taxpayer,” Taylor said.
Knowing that these goals will require the input of the other members of the Kane County Board, she remains dedicated to developing strong relationships with her fellow board members.
“It is necessary to work with the other board members, and therefore I will continue to foster working relationships with the other board members, whether experienced or new to the board,” she said.
Overall, her efforts are economy-focused.
“The role of a Kane County Board member is to be the steward and watchdog of the revenue generated within Kane County to ensure the money is used to the benefit of all Kane County residents, homeowners and business owners,” Taylor said.
In addition to her efforts to help increase efficiencies and freeze tax rates, she also plans to help her constituents, one person at a time if need be.
“(I) will continue to advise residents of the Kane County services that are available to help them with assistance through these trying economic times,” she said.
Norman Martin Sr.
While new to politics, Martin is not new to public service. Following his discharge from active duty in the Air Force, Martin served a full career as a police officer for the Illinois State Police, ultimately serving as Regional Commander, policing and patrolling Kane County for 13 years.
He chose to run for office because he sees a need for change at the county level, and he feels his past experience can help him directly address his concerns.
“As a taxpayer and resident, I am concerned about how our tax dollars are being spent, how responsive our elected officials are to the constituents they serve,” Martin said. “I want to use my knowledge and experiences to help ensure our county is doing the best it can to provide quality services to its customers who live, work and trade in the county and do so in a responsible and efficient manner.”
He said his first priority would be to control taxes, either keeping them the same or lowering them if possible. To help reduce the cost of government, he said the county should explore private/public partnerships.
He also wants to focus on making government act in an ethical manner.
“One that is responsible to its constituents. One that holds self and all county employees accountable for the consequences of their actions. One that governs transparently, and is a good steward to the assets and affairs of the county,” Martin said.
He also wants to help improve the quality of life for Kane County residents by promoting safe communities and developing a business-friendly climate.
“That will attract activities that support job creation,” Martin said. “(We need to) create sustainable, environmentally friendly policies and business practices.”
Addressing those priorities will require regular and effective communication with the residents within Martin’s district, something he looks forward to.
“I will work closely with my constituents to ensure the issues and concerns are clearly understood and their interests are properly represented. If elected, I pledge to use every resource available to me to help the county prosper,” Martin said. “Above all, I will operate with honesty and integrity at all times.”
Candidates focus on restoring public’s trust in the office
Both challengers for the office of Kane County Coroner are in professions that relate to the office, so both bring a measure of experience to the race.
Martinez is the president and founder of ArchAngels BioRecovery, Inc., a company dedicated to the assistance of families suffering from the tragic loss of a loved one and victims of violence. Services include infection control of hazardous environments that result from homicides, suicides, unattended deaths and mass-casualty incidents.
That experience often puts him in touch with coroners from throughout the Midwest and beyond, as well as the families of victims.
“I currently handle homicides, suicides, industrial accidents, and mass casualty incidents on a day to day basis, and it is my job to get directly involved with the families,” Martinez said. “It has always been my passion to help others during their worst times, and achieving this position would give me the opportunity to work on prevention, which is the only way that we can offset the number of deaths that we see currently.”
He said that if elected, he would turn his attention to restoring the public’s trust in the office.
“The reputation of the Coroner’s office has been tarnished, and it will take a lot of hard work to re-establish trust,” Martinez said. “The only way to start the healing process and repairing the image of this office is by establishing and enforcing a policy and procedural manual for all employees … As a team, improving the public image begins with building working relationships with various agencies, and focusing on raising community awareness toward programs that promote safety, health, education and life skills. Together we can work toward reducing the number of lost lives.”
Martinez also plans to streamline the office’s budget to address the financial challenges posed by the struggling economy. He said he has established relationships with other agencies to bring in resources and apply local funds to retain operations at no additional cost to the county. He also said that establishing mutual aid agreements with other nearby counties would qualify for Homeland Security Grant funds.
He said that while the primary function of the office is to determine the cause of death, there is another function he wants to ensure doesn’t get overlooked: focusing on community safety.
“As an elected official, not only is there an obligation to the office, but an obligation to the community,” Martinez said. “The best way to reduce the cost of operations within this office is to aggressively promote community awareness through various educational programs that will address domestic violence, drunk driving, bullying, drug abuse and many other acts of violence that can lead directly to homicides, suicides and accidental deaths. By following this approach, it is my belief that we would be saving funds, but most importantly, we will be saving lives.”
L. Robert ‘Rob’ Russell
Russell has 20 years of county law enforcement experience in all three sheriff bureaus: corrections, court security and patrol. He is currently a sergeant with the DuPage County Sheriff’s Office, and feels that his experience and education are perfect for the role of Kane County Coroner.
“I have spent the majority of my working life serving the public as a law enforcement officer,” Russell said. “I have always looked for areas of need in which I could make a difference. I decided to run for coroner because the office was in need of a leader. I believe my qualifications best fit the job description, and I would like to have the opportunity to improve and professionalize this office.”
He said that upon taking office, he would focus his efforts on establishing clear-cut accountable policies and procedures, establishing a common-sense educational campaign to help prevent unnecessary deaths, and updating the current morgue facilities.
To deal with the policies and procedures, Russell would begin working with other coroners throughout Illinois.
“Most Illinois coroners provide a high level of compassionate service and are impeccably professional. I have, and will continue, to seek out those coroners who have maintained honor and integrity while serving in this vital office,” Russell said.
Russell said his efforts to raise community awareness would be centered on the most-common types of unnecessary deaths that occur in the county.
“Issues like DUI crashes, heroin and synthetic drug use are some of the issues that have plagued many of our young people,” Russell said. “One of the things I have already done is to print up bumper magnets that say ‘slow down-speed kills’. Several people have commented that they have seen these magnets on vehicles while driving around Kane County. Hopefully, this pro-active step has raised awareness and had an impact. I have many more ideas like this that I would like to bring to the office when elected.”
While Russell said he is focused on improving the office’s morgue facilities, he said he is not interested in building a new facility. Instead, he is interested in exploring resource sharing with area hospitals.
“Unfortunately, the most contact that people have with the Coroner’s Office is when tragedy strikes,” he said. “I do not want these victims to identify their loved ones in the dilapidated facilities that we currently have. It is important that families coming to the Coroner’s Office are shown compassion in a professional environment.”
Longtime incumbent faces challenger
While many elected county offices will be filled by someone new regardless of who wins on Election Day, the race for Kane County Recorder features a longtime incumbent, Sandy Wegman, facing a challenge from Brenda Rogers.
After spending the last 12 years as Kane County Recorder, Wegman said she is looking to continue her track record of continual improvements and upgrades while remaining budget conscious.
“Having played a vital role in the design and development of our land records systems, I am seeking re-election because I want to ensure that the system stays in place and new technologies are implemented along the way,” Wegman said.
She pointed to her past accomplishments as reasons why she deserves another term in office. She said she has streamlined the office, consolidated services and implemented new technology, all while staying within budget. She currently serves as President of the Illinois Association of County Clerks & Recorders (Zone IV), a leadership position she feels is an example of the success she has brought to her role.
“In a time when we are required to do more with less, I have a proven track record of implementing improvements that benefit the taxpayers of Kane County,” she said.
The Recorder’s Office is solely fee-funded, Wegman explained, meaning that the office is funded entirely by the fees it charges and not with tax dollars. She said it is vital that the office remains within budget each year, and this would continue to be her number-one priority.
Being able to do more with less means finding new ways to accomplish tasks, and that means utilizing new technology as it becomes available, she said.
“The Recorder’s Office is one of the most technologically advanced offices at the county,” she said. “It is important to provide the necessary upgrades that will allow our technology not to become dated so that we can continue to provide the services that are expected by the users.”
She also is focused on completing the rewrite of the office’s Land Records System.
“This will allow us to take advantage of new technologies that will make the system easier to support, upgrade and use,” she said.
Overall, Wegman said the goal of the office is to provide better service while using fewer resources. She said that the past 12 years show she knows how to accomplish that.
“Under my leadership, the Recorder’s Office has always come in under budget,” she said.
She said that streamlining the office has been an ongoing project, evidenced by the fact that Recorder’s Office staff has been reduced from 33 to 19. At the same time, the office has improved its ability to serve the public, she said.
“Through innovative technology which allows e-recording of documents and instant return of documents, the Recorder’s Office has reduced the flow of paper, which eliminates the cost of postage and allows for immediate access to data and/or images,” Wegman said.
Rogers would not only focus on the task of recording documents and utilizing new technology, she said she would also do so while spending extra effort protecting the public’s identity from identity thieves and offering public seminars to raise awareness as well.
She said that as she has met more people from the county, she realized that many people were not even aware of the office of Kane County Recorder, nor what its responsibilities are.
“So, as the recorder, I will go that extra mile by doing educational seminars that will include explaining to our residents the duties of the recorder. I will do foreclosure and identity theft prevention seminars, as well as indexing documents,” Rogers said.
While she agrees that utilizing new technology is vital, it must be done so responsibly.
“Protecting our resident’s privacy by removing their signatures from documents that are online (is a priority),” Rogers said. “Having their signature online is a way for individuals to steal their signature, and it is one of the first steps of identity theft.”
She said that closely watching the budget and utilizing technology to reduce costs are important, and her 20-year background as a Realtor gives her the experience she needs to do so.
“I believe my background as a Realtor is helpful to the position,” Rogers said. “I have experience working with multi-million dollar budgets. I have been a Realtor for over 20 years, and as a Realtor I have had the opportunity to work with first-time buyers, those moving up, empty-nesters and developers. And since the office deals with documents related to ownership of property, I believe I am the best candidate for the position.”
Rogers said that her efforts would go beyond the traditional office hours; she plans to spend extra time with the public helping educate them and raise their awareness of issues that should be important to them.
“Many employers have asked their employees to do more with less, and the recorder should do the same,” Rogers said. “I believe that we have to give the residents value by going above and beyond for them. As the recorder, I will be in the office during the day and in the community in the evening doing educational seminars for them. I will have an open dialogue with the users of the office and the residents of the county.”
She said she would plan quarterly educational seminars that will include foreclosure prevention and identity theft prevention. She said the office’s website would have a question-and-answer section, and she would stay abreast of new technology. All of this would be focused on providing more services for less cost, while at the same time protecting the public.
“Next to your family, your property is your most valued possession, and I want to protect it for you,” she said.
Both candidates bring elected experience, focus on changing county culture
In the race for Kane County Board Chairman, both candidates feature a long history in holding elected office. Sue Klinkhamer served eight years as an Alderman in St. Charles, followed by another eight years as St. Charles Mayor. Chris Lauzen has served as an Illinois State Senator in the 25th District since 1992.
Lauzen said he chose to run for the office because he believes it is time to reform how the county functions. He said that escalating property taxes are a significant problem. In addition, he pointed to what he says is the increasing perception of pay-to-play politics within the county, which he feels has damaged the morale of taxpayer and county employee alike.
“… they see the politically connected few benefit while the grassroots many of us stagnate,” he said. “There is a critical mass of people who want and will work for reform.”
He strongly disagrees with Klinkhamer’s view on adding a County Administrator position to the county.
“I am more closely aligned with voters’ desires to freeze the county property tax levy, to end political campaign contribution cronyism, to bring best practices to the county, not hire and delegate county administration to a highly paid, electorally unaccountable administrator,” Lauzen said.
His number-one priority is to freeze the property tax levy.
“It makes no sense that our property values are going down, but our property taxes continue to go up,” Lauzen said. “We are being taxed out of our homes, while the Kane County portion of our tax has gone up 50 percent in the past seven years.”
He would then focus on ending what he calls the “Kane County Culture of Cronyism.” He said that too many political contributions come from people with something specific to gain in return for their financial support.
He would seek to find best practices from both inside and outside of the county to help find ways to reform the way Kane County conducts its business.
He would do this “by intensely listening, providing accurate information, treating all people respectfully, gathering consensus around taxpayers’ priorities of limiting the growth of government, restoring trust in public institutions, and increasing per capita prosperity in Kane County.”
Economically, he believes the county should help coordinate the efforts of existing Chambers of Commerce, as well as changing how county government serves employers. He has a five-step strategic plan to accomplish this:
“ • Streamline the permit process, setting predictable, prompt standards for response.
• Coordinate a framework of incentives countywide to minimize tensions of regional ‘bidding wars.’
• Partner with private industry and educational institutions through quarterly roundtable discussions and employer forums.
• Coordinate planning for infrastructure among federal, state, local agencies, and developers who are willing to invest their capital.
• Establish a Kane County Cooperative Clearinghouse website and portal to exchange and exploit innovative ideas, equipment and services, especially in the areas of access to capital.”
He explained that this type of cooperative clearinghouse could also learn from successful businesses already operating in Kane County.
He said this is all possible by collaborating with the various members of the County Board and county staff.
“The strength of board-style governance is multiple perspectives and contributions (with checks and balances), not personal political aggrandizement,” he said. “Together, we will do more with less.”
Klinkhamer says that her depth of experience will serve her well in the office she categorized as the “legislative leader in the county.”
She points to her 16 years on the City Council of St. Charles—including eight as mayor—in addition to her more-recent stints as the Deputy Director of the City of Chicago’s Washington D.C. Office of Intergovernmental Affairs (2006-08) and time spent as District Director for Congressman Bill Foster (2008-10).
“My experience and background are well suited to this position, particularly my history of being a leader who succeeded by building consensus, a quality that is greatly needed to move the county forward at this time,” Klinkhamer said.
Once taking office, Klinkhamer would turn her attention to making the County Board function more effectively and efficiently. One of her first efforts would be to retain a County Administrator.
“As our neighboring counties have learned, a professional administrator is vital to ensuring that a county is functioning efficiently,” Klinkhamer said. “Reaching this goal will help to ensure that information from all county departments is funneled through to all board members through a single office, which will ensure greater efficiency, eliminate duplication of efforts, and allow for greater transparency.”
She would also change how the County Board functions, changing the group from having multiple committees in favor of a Committee of the Whole structure. This would reduce the influence of the County Board Chairman, who currently has the authority to grant committee chair assignments.
“Adopting this format should also eliminate projects moving forward in such a way that not all County Board members are aware of their details before they come up for a vote, which should in turn assist in relieving some of the tension that has in the past resulted in lawsuits which have proved to be very costly to Kane County taxpayers,” Klinkhamer said.
Klinkhamer said she would also push to cut the County Board Chairman’s pay by 25 percent, as well as eliminate the full-time benefits currently available for County Board members.
“Any time elected officials start talking about cuts, taxpayers should absolutely demand they talk about cutting their own salaries and benefits before they go after services vital to the health and well-being of taxpayers,” Klinkhamer said.
With a refined internal structure, Klinkhamer would focus on transforming tension into a collaboration. She said she would make sure that all team members at the county, including elected officials and hired staff, are respected and recognized for their contributions to serving the public. She would also seek to focus on building consensus “where there has often been contention among these different partners.”
A more-efficient, fully functioning county could then be more effective in working with the various municipalities inside the county.
She said she would “work with the municipalities to coordinate their existing excellent economic development efforts, strengthen our county’s urbanized core, and better our transportation system.”
Yet, to get to that point, Klinkhamer pointed back to the very first things that she said would create a better-functioning foundation for success: Hiring a County Administrator and switching to a Committee of the Whole structure.
“Until this is done, none of the fundamental issues underlying both ethics questions and in-fighting that have plagued the county—and have resulted in lawsuits costly to the taxpayer—are likely to be resolved,” Klinkhamer said.