This is the ninth in a series of articles outlining competitive races in McHenry County ahead of the June 28 primary. Check out nwherald.com/election for more election coverage.
Read about the McHenry County Board District 2 candidates running in the Democratic primary here, Republicans running in District 3 here, Republicans running in District 4 here, Republicans running in District 5 here, Democratic candidates for county clerk here, Republicans running in the 35th Illinois Senate District here and Democrats running for the Illinois Supreme Court here and Republicans here.
Maintaining the heritage of smaller communities, along with the role of government in broadband expansion, affordable housing and rural living are issues that distinguish the Republican candidates running in the primary in the McHenry County Board’s District 6.
The primary has three Republican candidates vying for two spots in November’s general election. They include a current board member, a business owner and a construction superintendent with experience on other boards.
Pamela Althoff of McHenry is a current board member representing District 4 but now is running for District 6 after the county’s redistricting process. Carl Kamienski of Johnsburg owns a business and has been involved in politics for several years now, assisting other candidates with their races before now running on his own. Erik Sivertsen is a construction superintendent and has served as a school board and local party official for more than a decade.
The County Board’s districts were redrawn this past year as part of the decennial redistricting process, which also included transforming the county’s six four-member districts into nine two-member districts as part of an effort to reduce the County Board’s size.
The new map has District 6 in the northeastern part of the county, which includes Fox Lake, Spring Grove, McHenry, Ringwood, McCullom Lake, Lakemoor and Johnsburg.
In total, 36 candidates have filed to run for the County Board, with four running in District 6. The fourth candidate, Chamille Adams, is the lone Democrat running and is unopposed in June’s primary.
Fiscal responsibility is something Sivertsen said he’s pushing for and has been since entering politics. He said he thinks the County Board has done a decent job at keeping its property tax levy consistent, but sees upcoming challenges that could bloat the budget, such as equipment replacement.
The topic of fiscal responsibility, and taxes more generally, was something all three said they hear most frequently from residents.
Althoff said she thinks the county has done a “phenomenal” job with its finances.
“I think the … bundling of our services with other government entities to keep the cost of those programs down … are the kinds of things the county can do,” she said.
Kamienski said he thinks the county has done well fiscally, but pointed to recent federal funding as a chance for the county to expand beyond its means. He wants to make sure that’s reined in.
Transparency was a priority cited by Sivertsen. On other boards he’s sat on, he pushed for recorded meetings and voted against going into closed session at various times, he said.
“When the government isn’t transparent, you know it’s hurting the taxpayer,” he said. “The government needs to be done in front of the people.”
Althoff and Kamienski said they think the county has improved its transparency in recent years through social media and the county’s meeting portal, but want to continue that work.
“I want that to continue to grow,” Kamienski said. “You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get that information.”
On broadband, Kamienski said he sees the county’s role as not subsidizing service, but instead clearing the way for the free market to come in and provide it.
Sivertsen said he thinks the “ship has sailed” on the county government expanding broadband. At this point, he thinks it’s best if the county government allows the free market to expand options.
“The technology is advancing to the point that by the time we get broadband installed, there will be better options at a cheaper price,” he said. “That’s something the county should have been working on 10 years ago.”
Althoff she thinks it’s up to the government to essentially set the table and allow the free market to fill the gaps, saying that in the past, the free market didn’t expand to all areas because it was too “cost prohibitive.”
Affordable housing was something both Sivertsen and Kamienski said also can be helped by the government getting out of the way. Sivertsen blamed property taxes for high costs, while Kamienski blamed regulations.
“When you have all these rules and regulations, … that adds cost and then it’s not affordable housing,” Kamienski said.
Althoff cited state statutes that require larger counties to maintain a level of affordable housing, which she said makes it a need for the county to be involved.
Sivertsen said he thinks there’s too much emphasis put on urban living rather than rural, particularly through zoning. He views rural communities, mainly the western part of the county, as something to prioritize protecting.
“Much of the county is rural, but so much of the decision-making is based on the urban part of the county,” Sivertsen said.
Helping maintain the heritage of his community is a factor for Kamienski, he said. When he moved to Johnsburg in the 1980s, it was still unincorporated land, he said. He wants to maintain those roots.
Doing due diligence before allowing developers to come in is how he thinks he can help that process, he said.
“We want to develop in a smart way, but we still want to keep that feeling of a small community,” he said.
Althoff said she thinks the County Board has been nimble in its ability to change and adjust the services provided to meet needs. She hopes to continue sharing services to improve waste and gaps, while also working toward regular reviews of programs within the county’s departments.
“I think the County Board is always evolving,” she said.
Kamienski has been involved in politics for a while, but only in recent years did he start getting actively involved in helping other candidates. He also is a precinct committeeperson.
For work, he is a field service engineer and owns his own laser company.
“I bring the common sense of the blue-collar worker,” Kamienski said.
Althoff’s public career dates back to more than 25 years ago, having served both as the McHenry mayor and as an Illinois state senator before joining the McHenry County Board.
Her entrance into government started when she moved to McHenry County but couldn’t find a job as a teacher. She instead applied to be a city clerk, where she was “bitten by the bug,” she said.
“I enjoy public service and helping my constituents,” she said. “The power [of the board] is the collective body.”
Sivertsen is a construction superintendent, a role he’s been in for about six years, he said.
Before running for County Board, he served on the McHenry Elementary School District 15 board for eight years and is currently the chairman of the McHenry Township Republican Party.
Living in an unincorporated area, Sivertsen said he thinks he brings an important perspective, as the County Board affects unincorporated land more than any other part of the county, he said.
“I’ve been involved in politics basically since I turned 18,” he said. “I think the County Board is a good opportunity to make a difference in people’s tax bills and make a difference in the services around the county.”