McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks, an incumbent Democrat, conceded his bid for re-election to his Republican opponent, Mike Buehler, at a meeting of the County Board Thursday morning.
Franks – who trails Buehler by over 9,000 votes, nearly six percentage points – said he thought it was time to acknowledge that McHenry County voters have spoken in choosing Buehler to lead the County Board through the next four years.
“I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to have served,” Franks said in an interview Wednesday ahead of the announcement. “I was thankful every day for the opportunity.”
The chairman called his successor Wednesday to congratulate Buehler and to offer his full support in making for a smooth transition into the new role, Franks said.
“He called to wish me well in a new role as chairman and was very forthcoming in offering up his services,” Buehler said. “I told him I would definitely be reaching out to him for his advice and thanked him for his service to the county."
Over the course of their race for chairman, the two exchanged sharp criticism of one another's politics and character, but both said that they will put election rhetoric behind them.
“Election season does get pretty contentious at times but when it's all said and done, I think we need to put that behind us and move forward with the county's business no matter what the result is,” Buehler said in an interview Wednesday.
“The election’s over,” Franks said in agreement. “Now it's time for people to come together and to do what's best for the citizens."
Franks said he encouraged Buehler to use him as a resource in serving constituents well, just as he did with his predecessors such as Ken Koehler.
“I told him, 'Listen, whatever you need here for you. If you want to, you know, ask your questions that you don't want to ask anybody else, I'll keep it private and use me as a resource,’” he said.
Buehler will be sworn in as the new McHenry County Board chairman in a special meeting on the morning of Dec. 7, according to the County Board rules. Newly-elected board members also will be sworn in during the meeting.
Franks will "run through the tape" at the end of his term as the county's first-ever elected board chairman proud of what he and the board have accomplished over the last four years, he said.
During his term, the board lowered the county's property tax levy three years running, reducing the levy by more than 14% and saving taxpayers a total of $28 million, Franks said in his remarks at Thursday's Committee of the Whole meeting.
Franks also led the County Board in rebating $8.2 million in surplus funding from the county-run Valley Hi Nursing Home back to taxpayers, implementing term limits for the board and the chair through a referendum and reducing the size of the board by 25% effective in 2022, he said in his statement.
"We’ve accomplished so much together," he said in his remarks to board members. "I leave this office proud of what we’ve done for our taxpayers and proud that, with your help, we delivered on every one of my campaign promises."
In taking over the role, Buehler said he hopes to look for ways to continue cutting costs without sacrificing essential services, a goal which has become more dire in light of the economic impact that COVID-19 has had on county government and the county as a whole.
Buehler began the necessary transition work weeks ago in the hope that he might hit the ground running, he said. He has spent his time building relationships with board members on both sides of the aisle and planning for the future.
“I don't really want to bring any kind of partisan politics to the board meetings,” he said. “The vast majority of the issues that come before the board are really non-partisan issues.”
His lack of experience in politics will give him fresh perspective into the county's issues, Buehler said, a point which Franks supported.
“When I first got elected to state representative, one of my greatest strengths was being naive because I didn't know what I couldn't do,” Franks said.
Buehler said he wants to find new ways to make county government run more efficiently and will encourage more communication between departments, especially when it comes to applying for grant funding to support the broader community.
The first thing he and the board will focus on is the Committee on Committees, which is held after every election to choose which board members will serve on which committees, Buehler said.
While board members recently changed the County Board's rules to omit the board chairman as a voting member on the Committee on Committees, Buehler said he is still looking forward to suggesting appointments.
“In my conversations with the board members I’ve spoken to to date, they all have indicated that they would like me to have input on it,” Buehler said. “The rules are what they are and I am more than happy to work within that framework.”
The Committee on Committees will take place at the Dec. 7 organizational meeting after new officials are sworn in, according to the County Board rules.
As for his feelings on the proposal to end the McHenry County jail's contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Buehler said he would like to see more comprehensive information on the finances of the contract presented before the full board.