Kane County Board Chair race: Corinne Pierog seeks 2nd term

Incumbent details 1st term accomplishments, 2nd term goals

Corinne M. Pierog, will announce her candidacy for Kane County Board Chairman at 1 p.m. July 18, at the Kane County Courthouse, 100 S. Third St., Geneva.

Kane County Board Chair Corinne Pierog is seeking a second term in the Nov. 5 general election, facing off against her Republican challenger, Lance Bell of South Elgin.

Pierog, of Batavia, said she sees a a second term as a fulfillment of long-term projects, such as the Longmeadow Parkway Bridge corridor – finally after more than 10 years – across the Fox River, as an economic driver for the region.

“They took down the toll signs – there are no tolls on that bridge,” Pierog said. “It was a win-win situation.”

The bridge became a no-toll a reality this year with $30 million from the state, $1 million each from McHenry and Cook counties and $3 million from Kane, she said.

Pierog said one of the successes of her first term is the protection of farmers and farmland so Kane County doesn’t become overly developed with housing or warehouse distribution centers.

“We like our open land. It complements the Forest Preserve District and brings a uniqueness to Kane County,” Pierog said. “Kane County leads Illinois in farmland protection. Right now we have 7,000 acres protected in perpetuity.”

The farmland protection continuation is the balance between rural and urban development.

“It is private land, and farmers can sell the land, but we hope that sensitivity to the importance of agriculture will be maintained here in Kane County and preserved,” Pierog said.

Her background

Pierog was born in Chicago, raised in Southern California, worked as a college professor in New York, then returned to Illinois, first living in St. Charles, and now in Batavia.

While in St. Charles, Pierog began a management consulting firm, Sustainable Leadership Solutions, and served two terms on the St. Charles District 303 school board.

As first vice chair of the Kane County Democrats, Pierog is also the founding chair of the Kane County Democratic Women in 2018, on the board of United Way of Central Kane County since 2014 and was a past first vice chair for the nonprofit Age Guide to Northeastern Illinois.

Health department

Her current goal of a centralized Health Department in a new facility has its roots in its vaccine response to the pandemic with a centralized hub with a mass vaccine site in Batavia.

“The Health Department was doing popups, setting up tents, taking down tables and schlepping back and forth,” Pierog said. “We served thousands of people within Kane County and outside of Kane County.”

A centralized location protected and preserved vaccine supplies, supported portable popups in other areas like senior homes and congregate living facilities, as an effective response to the pandemic, she said.

Kane County was the only Health Department to collaborate with Cook County at the Elgin Recreation Center, located in the Cook County side of Elgin, a second mass vaccination site, she said.

“Why I’m interested in having one facility for the health department is because of its effectiveness,” Pierog said. “The vax hub was an amazing model of efficiency once it was set up. It was a three-weeks team effort, a highly efficient model to provide services. ... Health professionals wanted a centralized model.”

The health department in Aurora is in a building that is outdated and inefficient, she said.

A new building was estimated at $39 million with $18 million coming from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, but in March, the County Board voted 20-1 with one abstention and two absent against spending $6.5 million start site and building planning for a new health facility.

Some suggested using an existing vacant building, but Roger Fahnestock, the county’s executive director of information technology and buildings management, said county staff looked but did not find anything suitable.

Pierog questioned the idea of just reusing an existing building for the health department’s specialized needs.

“To do it cheaper – is it the best use for the county?” Pierog said.

Second-term goals

As Pierog looks to a second term, there are not enough resources to support an expanded paratransit system, a critical need for a growing senior population.

“People need to get from point A and B – not just to see the doctor – but to go see a friend, go shopping, have a normal life,” Pierog said. “We were not built for mass transit.”

Another goal is an economic initiative to promote economic growth via the Fox River, for tourists to be able to secure a canoe or kayak at a launch site, and then go to a local restaurant or shopping district.

“It’s happening now, with the recognition of the Fox River Trail as the ninth river trail to get national recognition,” Pierog said. “The epicenter is in Kane County.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced last year that the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail, is 158 miles from the border of southeast Wisconsin to northeast Illinois. With over 70 access points, the water trail offers recreation, as well as the opportunity to explore local communities.

Another goal, which is about to be accomplished, is the Greater Chicagoland Development Council, where Kane partners with eight other counties in a regional approach to economic development to keep companies here.

“Working together in what is regionally best for Kane County to protect and grow existing companies,” she said.

Length of meetings

A criticism of Pierog’s leadership is that she allows meetings to last hours too long.

Pierog said the length is from people who sign up to speak, in particular those aligned with her opponent.

The Illinois Open Meetings Act requires all public meetings to provide a time for public comment.

“These voices have to be heard,” she said. “This is the Republican Party.”

Plus that, after a half hour, she asks the board if public comment time should be extended, and it is.

“Sometimes the discussion takes a little longer for robust conversation,” Pierog said. “What started out as a couple of people has continued to grow (with) the same kind of comments repeated over and over again and no new items.”

Pierog said at times, the meetings devolve into shouting. When she tries to quiet things down, she is accused of censorship.

Pierog said sometimes there is a perceived aggressiveness from the public, which sparked safety fears among board members.

“I welcome discourse. I truly do,” Pierog said. “Now we have to control the meeting so we have sheriff’s deputies there – taken away from other duties – to come to the county board to make sure people are protected ... and provide crowd management.”