Full Name: Brett Hopkins
What office are you seeking? Crystal Lake City Council
What is your political party? Municipal elections are non-partisan and designed to encourage candidates to focus on local issues and not be swayed by national party politics. This can lead to a more specific set of candidates who represent the interests of the local community rather than a particular political party.
What is your current age? 59
Occupation and Employer: I currently work for Syndigo Technologies. I am part of the senior leadership team.
What offices, if any, have you previously held?
- Crystal Lake City Council - 2007 - 2022
- Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning - 2000 – 2007
City: Crystal Lake
Campaign Website: www.bretthopkinscitycouncil.com
Education: I am a graduate from Western Illinois University
- Crystal Lake City Council - 2007 - 2022
- Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning - 2000 - 2007 · Co-Founder of the Crystal Lake Strikers Drumline, an NFP organization with over 150 students, which has granted over $50K in scholarships
- Committee member for Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley. Fox Valley Farms is a new venture in Crystal Lake providing nine single-family homes for partner families
- Volunteer Drum Instructor at Prairie Ridge High School - 2007 - 2019
- Volunteer Drum Instructor at McHenry High School - 2022
- Various volunteer activities within the City of Crystal Lake including coaching and scouting
Marital status/Immediate family: I am married with 4 children
Why are you running for office?
As many of you may be aware, I am a lifelong resident and have raised four children in Crystal Lake taking advantage of the wonderful parks and schools.
Crystal Lake has seen significant progress over the past decade ranging from the opening of the award-winning Three Oaks Recreation Center; major economic development by attracting retail, mixed-use, and commercial projects; an assortment of dining options from local cafes to national chains; and continued investment in its top-ranked downtown.
All of this has been achieved through a collaborative City Council working passionately with the city staff to increase the quality of life for residents and attract new businesses.
Although we have seen significant progress during my tenure in City Council, there is still much left to achieve. Therefore, I am seeking to be re-elected to the City Council to serve the residents of Crystal Lake with the same passion, integrity, professionalism, and unwavering commitment as I have done so for the past 16 years.
What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
I feel that the qualifications to be a City Council member require a combination of skills, experience, and personal qualities.
Experience - Understanding of local government is an important aspect to be qualified. For the past 23 years I have had the pleasure of representing the citizens of Crystal Lake by being elected to the position of City Council and prior to that, a member of the Planning and Zoning commissions. These experiences have helped me understand the needs and concerns of my constituents and navigate the complexities of city government.
Collaboration – As a member of the City Council, it is important to work as part of a team. Throughout my tenure, I have been able to build consensus, find compromises when appropriate, and work toward a common goal of representing the best interests of the citizens of Crystal Lake
Dedication to Public Service - I have also had the distinct pleasure of being a co-founder of a wonderful community organization called the Crystal Lake Strikers. For the past 15 years, the Strikers have performed nationally and have seven different educational community programs focused on students throughout McHenry County. These programs provide a range of educational experiences for different learning needs.
The combination of my experiences continues to help me make sound decisions on a variety of issues that affect the city, such as budget allocation, land use, public safety, and community development.
What is your position on the Illinois weapons ban that took effect in January 2023?
Banning weapons is not a policy that can be determined at the municipal level but rather at higher levels of government. As it stands today, Illinois does incorporate some of the strictest gun control laws which include background checks and waiting periods. The
question of whether a ban is a good idea is a complex one with arguments for and against it. From my perspective, complex scenarios cannot be solved with a “silver bullet”. Gun control laws in combination with other solutions such as better mental health care and increased community outreach may help reduce gun violence. The question of whether Illinois’ weapons ban is effective will take time. Ultimately, the decision is at the state level and not at the municipal level.
Is crime a problem in your community and, if so, what would you do to curb it?
While crime can occur in any city, Crystal Lake is a very safe community. When comparing Crystal Lake to other cities of similar size within the state of Illinois, Crystal Lake has a lower crime rate. In fact, Crystal Lake has a lower crime rate than both the national and state averages. While there are several contributing factors to low crime within the city, having an effective law enforcement agency is certainly an important element. The dedicated men and women employed at Crystal Lake’s police department work to prevent and investigate criminal activity. In addition, they also collaborate with other law enforcement agencies and community organizations to address crime and safety concerns continuously. The department is accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), which is a voluntary accreditation program that establishes national standards for law enforcement agencies. I’m extremely proud of both our police and fire departments because they are committed to providing quality services and working collaboratively with the community to address safety concerns.
What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on communities and the city worked with the McHenry County Health Department to mitigate the spread of the virus while also providing support to residents and businesses during this difficult time. To provide business support, the City Council approved a Business Task Force to help provide support and information to businesses that were impacted by the pandemic. Almost immediately, the City Council approved a grant program to provide financial assistance to businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19. For residents, the city provided updated information on its website regarding COVID-19 case numbers, testing locations, and other information related to the pandemic. The city also opened a vaccination clinic in the heart of town and provided details regarding how to schedule appointments. Restaurants were particularly at risk during this time. To help mitigate the risk, the City Council quickly enacted a process by which restaurants could be approved for outdoor seating administratively rather than applying for a Special Use Permit and waiting for a regularly scheduled City Council meeting for approval. Overall, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic within Crystal Lake was handled with creative solutions to not only mitigate the spread of the virus but also provide support to the residents and businesses that were affected by the pandemic.
What did you learn from the pandemic?
While the COVID-19 pandemic was challenging, I learned how quickly we adapted and found innovative ways to live and work to mitigate the spread of the virus. Many of these innovations are now preferred choices post-pandemic. Like myself, many of you who are reading this shifted to remote working which led to the innovation and adoption of “virtual communication and collaboration”. Today, remote working is now one of the key decision factors for job seekers. Telehealth, contactless payment systems, online shopping, and virtual events were all quickly adapted to reduce the risk of transmission, and now these are the preferred tools we utilize in our daily lives. I was particularly impressed with our educators in both D47 and D155. Almost overnight teachers had to become proficient in using digital tools and technology to deliver instruction and communicate with students, but also had to be flexible to changes in schedules, and student needs and find new ways to engage students. Specifically in Crystal Lake, I learned how our residents demonstrated kindness, resilience, adaptability, and creativity as a result of the pandemic.
How would you spur economic development in your community?
Crystal Lake has been successful in helping existing businesses expand as well as attracting new businesses using creative incentives. I believe that it is important to be proactive in attracting new businesses by utilizing a combination of tools, technology, and creative marketing techniques to showcase the important demographic information that potential businesses find attractive. Crystal Lake’s economic execution, population stability, and school district performance are all important factors that influence the caliber of the workforce that continues to make Crystal Lake a “Good Place to Live and Work.” For the past several years, Crystal Lake has reaped the benefits of these programs that I have supported.
Would/can/should local governments do anything to help reduce the tax burden on residents?
I will continue to support a culture of spending control which has resulted in Crystal Lake’s portion of a property owner’s tax bill being amongst the lowest when compared to surrounding communities. Only 11% of the property tax bill is attributed to municipal services, yet through sound practices that I promote, the city still provides the highest quality of amenities for the citizens. I am certainly committed to providing fiscally sound services, programs, and facilities for all the citizens of Crystal Lake with a keen eye for efficiency so that the high quality of life that citizens and businesses experience today can be enjoyed for years to come.
Do you support recreational marijuana being sold in your community to help lower residents’ tax burden?
Illinois legalized recreational marijuana for adults over 21 in January 2020 as part of The Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act. In Crystal Lake, we have 2 dispensaries that have been approved and I supported both uses. First, it is important to note that the state imposes a tax on marijuana sales, with the revenue going towards funding programs such as education, public health, and substance abuse treatment. Our neighboring communities also support dispensaries. Although this in and of itself is not a reason to justify a dispensary in Crystal Lake, prohibiting this type of use does create a revenue disparity between the town allowing the use versus the town prohibiting the use. While Crystal Lake will never be overly reliant on dispensaries as a single source of revenue for the municipality, the generated tax revenue can help with public service and infrastructure initiatives. Crystal Lake has taken the necessary steps to ensure that dispensaries are located in appropriately zoned areas and limited the number of dispensaries, and I have supported this decision.
What projects or infrastructure would you look to address in your community and how would you do it?
We live in a rapidly changing world, and the post-pandemic economy is reshaping the way we work, live, and shop in Crystal Lake. Communities that can adapt to this changing environment will have a competitive advantage, while those that do not prepare for the future will decline. I understand that successful communities work to define a sustainable future blueprint because those that do so are always more successful than communities that leave their future to chance. Plans to revitalize vacant areas within Crystal Lake are just now being developed through innovative mixed-use development. I have been an advocate for these types of uses because of the changing demographics of Crystal Lake - specifically the demand for high-quality, compact walkable communities located next to desirable amenities. Most recently, properties like the “old Walmart” and the corner of Crystal Lake Avenue and Main Street are being tagged for this type of development. I respect Crystal Lake’s unique small-town values, historic character, scenic beauty, and sense of community, and will continue to balance the charm of Crystal Lake with a smart, sustainable, and prosperous economy.
Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?
A well-functioning democracy relies upon its citizens to determine the outcome of an election. Through the voting process, citizens can help determine the leaders, laws, and policies of Crystal Lake. I will absolutely abide by the outcome of the election on April 4th.
What is your position on open, transparent government?
I absolutely support an open and transparent government. Doing so promotes efficiency, and accountability and encourages its citizens to participate in the decision-making process. When the municipality is completely transparent with its activities, it provides the opportunity for the citizens to evaluate their performance. Transparency also provides the opportunity for the citizens of the town to ensure that public resources are utilized effectively and hold the elected officials accountable for the use of public funds. Finally, when citizens are informed, they are more likely to be engaged, and this promotes trust with local officials.
Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?
I believe that the Freedom of Information Act is a positive law because it helps to ensure transparency within the government. Through the FOIA, individuals can request information that may otherwise be difficult to find and in doing so, understand how the local municipality operates and how tax dollars are spent. Personally, I feel this helps provide a more informed citizenry which is important to our democracy.
Would you sign a nondisclosure agreement with a prospective company that would limit your ability to communicate with your community?
Professionally, I work within an industry where an NDA would not limit my ability to communicate with the citizens of Crystal Lake. If this question pertains to signing an NDA with a company that is looking to do business with the city of Crystal Lake, unless the agreement is driven by state or county law to do so, it would not be appropriate for me to sign an NDA.