Five of six candidates in the June 18 contested primary Kane County Board races for Districts 11 and 12 spoke about the issues in a joint interview with the Kane County Chronicle and the Daily Herald.
Leslie Juby and Walter Lindwall are seeking the Democratic nomination for District 11; Brian Jones and Jonathan Bretz are seeking the Republican nomination in that district; and incumbent Kenneth Shepro and challenger Bill Roth are seeking the GOP nomination in District 12.
Bretz did not participate.
Why they are running
Jones, a Geneva attorney, said he was approached by the current Board Member James Martin, R-Geneva, to succeed him in serving on the board.
“I think I would do a good job keeping continuity on the board,” Jones said. “I have the ability to work across the aisle with different folks.”
Juby said she had recently finished 12 years on the Geneva District 304 school board, served on the Geneva Strategic Plan Advisory Committee for six years and on the Illinois Math and Science Academy board for four years.
“I really feel like it’s important for me to give back to the community. I have a history of service,” Juby said.
“I have a lot of experience that would play well into working on a governance board, such as the County Board. I really enjoy policy. … My interests and my experience would serve my constituents well as I have in the past.”
A Geneva resident, Lindwall said he was running for County Board “because I believe that my community deserves someone who will put everything they have into working for them.”
“I have devoted most of my life to public service. I have made it my goal basically to always do what I can to help other people,” Lindwall said. “I do this because I’m inspired, personally, by my family and my little brother. He is someone that inspires me personally to do public service. He has cerebral palsy.”
Roth, a St. Charles resident, said he is active in ministry at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, is a Knights of Columbus leader and a board member of Fox Valley Court Watch.
Roth said he is running to have better communication from the County Board.
“The only time it seems like I hear from Kane County is when I get my tax bill,” Roth said. “I believe in fiscal discipline. We need to be more efficient in how we run government. And part of my experience in … consulting in IT in business has been efficiencies … I don’t think government does that very well at times and we need to do that.”
Shepro, a resident of Wayne, said he was seeking a second term on the County Board. His past experience includes eight years previously as the County Board attorney under former chair Karen McConnaughay and as a 20-year member of the Kane County Regional Planning Commission that authored an award-winning land-use plan “that is still a model across the country.”
“I was a leader in redistricting of the board, which is required every 10 years. I am very proud of the plan that was unanimously accepted by the County Board,” Shepro said. “And unlike the Springfield redistricting - which were heavily partisan and disregarded almost every principle of sound districting – our map was fair to all sides, to all parties, to all municipalities.”
Shepro said he also championed fiscal responsibility on the board, making the motion to kill the current administration’s effort to raise the gas tax, and said he was a leader in defeating an attempt to increase the county’s tax levy.
“There is still a lot of work to be done, and I think more than ever, the board needs experienced people to guide them,” Shepro said. “We have the least-experienced board in terms of service that I’ve seen in my 30 years in the community.”
Shepro also countered Roth’s comment on a lack of communication from the county, pointing out the newsletter Kane County Connects, as well as the public’s ability to watch meetings live, or after they are recorded.
Elected or appointed auditor
Regarding whether the county should put a referendum on the ballot to appoint the auditor instead of having that office be elected, Jones said he had no strong opinion either way.
Lindwall said he didn’t see any reason not to elect the county auditor.
Roth said he didn’t see that it made any difference.
“If we do that referendum, we need to lay down to the voters the pluses and minuses of keeping it elected versus appointed,” Roth said. “It should be appointed, not just by the chairman, but I think it should be a majority of the board voting on it. … It is supposed to be independent but we want someone who is fully qualified. And I think doing an appointment, you have a better chance of having a quality individual running that.”
Juby said she strongly supports keeping the office elected and not appointed for the purpose of government accountability and transparency.
“It’s one of the last layers of oversight and accountability we have,” Juby said. “The office is only as good as the person in charge. And so hopefully, the community will elect a person who will actually do the job.”
Shepro said many Illinois counties eliminated their elected auditor positions.
“The auditor has more power to investigate than any county official, including the state’s attorney and is the only office that has the ability to go in and look at what other elected officials do,” Shepro said. “And if you make that an appointment of the county board chair, obviously there is less incentive for the auditor to investigate or bite the hand that feeds them.”
Regarding how remaining COVID relief funds should be spent, Lindwall and Juby were in agreement that the funds should support mental health services.
“My suggestion would be to put the remaining funds in traditional grants for mental health services,” Lindwall said.
“I think that the pandemic has really stressed the community’s ability to deal with the increase in the mental health issues, whether in schools or the community,” Juby said. “When we don’t have solid mental health programs, we see that trickle down into other areas that the social services need to pick up.”
Roth said the remaining COVID funds should not be allocated for recurring expenses.
“Because we’ll be used to that and when the federal funding goes away, then how are we going to pay for that,” Roth said.
Shepro said the board had extensive public hearings on how to spend COVID funds.
“The purpose of the federal legislation was to allow local government to recoup lost revenue due to the pandemic,” Shepro said. “I support the decision that was made to allocate initial funding for mental health. … All the initial funding for outside organizations is going for mental health programs.”
The county also used COVID funds as intended – for its internal projects that stopped because the pandemic caused a revenue drop, Shepro said.
Jones said he agreed with Juby and Lindwall that funding mental health is a priority and mental health is important – but he praised Shepro’s point.
“Mr. Shepro nailed it,” Jones said. “These relief funds should be used for government services first and foremost and that would allow us to bridge the gap instead of levying additional taxes on gas or sales tax.”