McHenry County Board chairman candidates talk collaboration, lowering property taxes

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The Crystal Lake Republican seeking to unseat McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks this November said he aims to rid the county of "cutthroat politics" by approaching disagreements in a respectful way.

The challenger, Mike Buehler, participated in an endorsement interview Thursday afternoon facilitated by the editorial boards of the Northwest Herald and the Daily Herald. Incumbent Jack Franks, D-Marengo, opted to provide a written statement on his views.

Both shared their thoughts on efforts to lower the county's property taxes and the importance of working collaboratively across party lines.

Buehler described himself Thursday as a local business man running on an anti-corruption platform, while Franks said in a phone interview Wednesday that pushing back against the "status quo" of the County Board is necessary to get things done for the benefit of residents.

"I'm not there to make friends; I'm there to make really good public policy and to help our taxpayers," Franks said.

Buehler said he thinks Franks has tried to expand the role of the chairman to serve in more of an executive capacity, which he feels goes against what the public has asked of him.

If Buehler was elected as McHenry County Board chair, he said he would allow committees to set the County Board's agenda and would encourage board members to "perform to their highest levels by giving them a level of autonomy and utilizing their individual areas of expertise to the greatest benefit."

Franks said he has only exercised his right to keep items off of the County Board's agenda twice in the four years that he has served as chairman.

“I'm always collaborative. I always reach out and I try to get consensus,” Franks said Wednesday. “But I also lead ... and I set out goals where they never had.”

When asked about property taxes, Buehler said the County Board has done a good job lowering property taxes, but said he would like to lower the county's expenditures and make county government smaller to reduce shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buehler said he wants to do this without sacrificing the services that taxpayers depend on and brought up the circuit clerk's office as an example of a department that has been able to run more efficiently with less staff through the use of technology.

In his statement, Franks said his record speaks for itself after having reduced county government's property tax levy by over $28 million and rebating $8 million in surplus funds from Valley Hi Nursing Home back to taxpayers.

He said Wednesday he plans to continue looking for ways in which various departments of county government can run more efficiently.