On the Record with John Frieders

John Frieders of Sandwich describes his membership on the DeKalb County Board as “rewarding” and “a way to get involved in the community and local government.”

Frieders is chairman of the DeKalb County Board. He has been a member of the board for nine years and represents District 12.

Regular meetings of the DeKalb County Board are at 7 p.m. the third Wednesdays of the month online via Zoom and are livestreamed on the county board’s website. The next meeting will be Feb. 17. The meetings are archived and can be viewed at a later time.

For information about the DeKalb County Board, visit www.dekalbcounty.org/government/county-board.

Frieders spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about the County Board, his position as County Board chairman and how he brings his agricultural background to the leadership position.

Milton: What is your role on the County Board?

Frieders: I’m the chairman of the DeKalb County Board. The board has 24 members because there are 12 districts in DeKalb County, with two members from each district. I was elected chairman after the November elections and took office in December.

Milton: What do you do in your role of chairman?

Frieders: I work closely with the county administration and department heads. I help create an agenda, attend meetings. I listen loosely to other representatives and learn how they feel about issues. Then we form a consensus and move forward. I think we all work very well together.

Milton: Are you new to the County Board?

Frieders: I’ve been on the county board for nine years. Being on the board is an important position. The County Board is involved in a lot of different things. It’s also nice to have some ag representation on the board.

Milton: Tell me more about yourself.

Frieders: I live on a grain and livestock farm in Sandwich with my wife, Linda. We’ve lived here since 1978. Before that, we farmed in Aurora. Farming is all I’ve ever done. Eighty percent of DeKalb County is agriculture, so ag affects a great deal of everything DeKalb County government does. … A lot of issues at the county level are ag-based: zoning, windmills, solar, the roads and highway maintenance.

Milton: How is the County Board formed?

Frieders: DeKalb County is split into population-based districts. There are 24 board members, two from each district. Board members must live in the district they represent. After the 2020 Census, the districts will be redrawn for the next election in 2022. In 2022, all 24 board members are up for election, and we will have new districts. There will be three plans submitted for nonpartisan redistricting, and we will agree upon one.

Milton: How can others get involved?

Frieders: Before the new election will be a great time to get involved with local government because all positions will be up for re-election. It’s a great way for people who want to get involved and have the community’s best interests at heart. It’s a very rewarding process that makes a lot of difference.

Milton: What are some topics the County Board decides?

Frieders: We decided upon the new county administrator, Brian Gregory, who will start March 1. We are in the process of deciding on a new county finance officer. A lot of our decisions are about personnel, finances and managing money properly and zoning. With COVID, finances have been a challenge this year and a major concern. Making sure small businesses survive is the first priority of the board. We’re doing whatever we can to help them during these difficult times.

Milton: What are some local topics the board has discussed?

Frieders: When I was first on the board, I didn’t think we’d talk about some of the issues that have come up. We have discussed and decided on a wide variety of issues. One that comes to mind is whether or not to allow backyard chickens in a small country subdivision in Genoa. The legalization of cannabis has also been a major issue. We work hard to find a fair solution that leaves everyone somewhat satisfied. It’s hard to please everyone, that’s why it’s called “an issue.”

Milton: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the county board?

Frieders: Zoom meetings and seeing everyone remotely has certainly been a challenge. It’s not quite the same as meeting in the same room, face-to-face. I like to hear what everyone is saying, talk to them, see them, sit down with them. The pandemic has changed that. I still make it a point to get to know my fellow board members. I want to know what they think and why. I want to actually get to know them, know what their life and background is like. Without knowing the fellow board members, you lose so much perspective.

Katrina J.E. Milton

Award-winning reporter and photographer for Shaw Media publications, including The Daily Chronicle and The MidWeek newspapers in DeKalb County, Illinois, since 2012.