GOP picks 2 candidates to fill McHenry County Board vacancy

Board Chairman Jack Franks says candidates will have to go through process

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The McHenry County Republican Party picked two Barrington Hills men as their choices to succeed Andrew Gasser on the County Board.

But the Democratic chairman of the County Board who has the power to advance a candidate for a formal vote said the two will be treated like every other person who has expressed interest, including filling out an extensive questionnaire.

The county GOP late Thursday announced that it was backing Ralph Sesso and David Stieper to succeed Gasser, who stepped down after winning the April election for the office of Algonquin Township highway commissioner. Gasser, of Fox River Grove, was elected to represent District 1 in 2014, and whoever is picked to replace him will serve the remaining two years of his term and have to run again in 2018.

The GOP’s announcement comes after five weeks of interviews with prospective candidates, party Chairwoman Sandra Fay Salgado said. She said the two “represent the same conservative values” as Gasser and will serve as leaders within the county GOP.

“Both Mr. Stieper and Mr. Sesso have a strong business background and will work with the County Board and the County Board chairman to reduce the size of government, be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and be active members within the McHenry County Republican Party,” Salgado said.

Stieper and Sesso had reached out in past weeks to Chairman Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and have submitted their résumés ahead of a Monday deadline he set for interested applicants. They and the three other applicants Franks has received résumés from as of Friday now have until June 26 to complete the questionnaire.

Under County Board rules, the chairman submits a candidate for the full board to approve to fill a vacancy. But unlike vacancies under past chairmen, who were Republicans like most or all of the board and gave extensive deference to the candidate chosen by the county party, this is the first vacancy under a Democratic chairman who was popularly elected by the voters.

Franks said Friday that he has created the process he is following to take the politics out of the process, although the candidate he submits to the board must be a Republican. He bluntly said Friday that “the insider days are over.”

“Everybody is going to be treated the same, and they are going to be evaluated based on merit, not based on how valuable they are to any political party,” Franks said.

The candidate will be advanced for a vote in July – the chairman has 60 days from the day Gasser’s resignation took effect to submit a name to fill the vacancy.

The questionnaire drawn up by Franks’ office is eight pages long. Besides asking about background and criminal history, it includes the questions included in the statement of economic interests and the conflict of interest forms that board members are required to submit.

It also includes the questionnaires asked of County Board candidates in last year’s election by the Northwest Herald and the Daily Herald.

Questions include candidates’ positions on property tax reduction, shrinking the board’s size after the 2020 Census and improving the county’s business climate.

Sesso, a longtime investor in financial institutions, has founded a number of real estate ventures and businesses over the past 40 years, according to his biography provided by Salgado. Stieper, an attorney, has served on Barrington Hills’ Zoning Board of Appeals and Plan Commission.

Stieper unsuccessfully ran for the County Board in 2014, and Sesso lost his race in April for a seat on the Barrington Hills Village Board.

People who live in District 1 have until the end of business Monday to apply for the County Board seat with a resume and cover letter. Candidates must be Republican, live in District 1 and be registered to vote. Submissions can be emailed to or sent by regular mail to Jack D. Franks, McHenry County Board chairman, 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, IL 60098.

District 1 covers eastern and southern Algonquin Township and southeastern Grafton Township, and includes all or parts of Cary, Fox River Grove, Trout Valley, Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Lake in the Hills and Huntley. Interested parties can determine their residency by calling the McHenry County Clerk's Office at 815-334-4242.