Crystal Lake businessman nominated to replace state Rep. Suzanne Ness on McHenry County Board

McHenry County Board chairman recommends John Collins, a Crystal Lake resident who owns Elgin-based Omni Supply, to fill the seat

Suzanne Ness, right, then a McHenry County Board member, speaks during a public health and community services committee meeting Sept. 26, 2019, at the McHenry County Administrative Building in Woodstock.

McHenry County Board Chairman Michael Buehler nominated John Collins, a Crystal Lake resident who owns a business in Elgin, to fill the vacancy on the McHenry County Board left by state Rep. Suzanne Ness.

Buehler’s recommendation will need to be approved by the full County Board as McHenry resident and entrepreneur Jeffrey Schwartz unanimously was in January. Schwartz filled the seat left by the late Chuck Wheeler.

The County Board is set to vote on Collins’s appointment at its March 16 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. and can be watched online on the county website at

The seat vacated by Ness serves District 2, which includes all or parts of Crystal Lake, Cary, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood. By law, her replacement must be someone of the same party and reside within the same district.

Ness said in a written statement that she doesn’t know Collins but hopes “he will be fair-minded and represent District 2 well.”

“I am disappointed that a woman wasn’t chosen,” she continued. “There were qualified women who applied. Given that it’s women’s history month, we know that women make steps forward and then take steps back. It takes time to initiate change.”

Collins was chosen from a field of six applicants, according to a news release Thursday.

The McHenry County Democratic Party had recommended in early January that Thomas Pavelko, a Crystal Lake attorney, to fill the seat. The local Republican Party had not made a recommendation for Wheeler’s seat.

“I am disappointed that the Republican County Board Chair did not take the recommended candidate supported by the elected Democratic representatives of District 2,” McHenry County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kristina Zahorik said in a written statement Thursday. “Furthermore, neither Mr. Pavelko or I, received the courtesy of a call or email about the decision to appoint Mr. Collins.”

Zahorik also expressed disappointment that Jessica Phillips, the other Democratic board member representing District 2, was not included in the interview process.

Buehler said he conducted interviews in the same way that he did when filling the District 4 seat and said he thought including Phillips in the process would have violated the Open Meetings Act as the number of board members present that belonged to the same committee would have required the meeting to be opened to the public.

District 2 board members Carolyn Schofield and Jeffrey Thorsen, both Republicans, sat in on the interviews along with Democratic board member Kelli Wegener, Buehler said. He said he invited Zahorik to attend, as he did with the local Republican Party chairman during the District 4 interviews, but she declined.

“We did interview the party pick as far as [Pavelko] goes, and we gave him equal weighting in the interview process,” Buehler said. “It was a difficult choice to make because we had six very strong candidates.”

Zahorik said while she does not know Collins, she welcomes him and wishes him well on behalf of the McHenry County Democratic Party.

Collins is owner and president of Omni Supply, an Elgin company that builds environmentally responsible systems to manage fats, oil and grease for the commercial food industry, according to a news release.

“John Collins has a lifetime of experience as a successful businessman and innovator,” Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, said in the release. “His knowledge will prove invaluable as we work recover from, and grow our economy beyond, the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Prior to his ownership of Omni Supply, Collins owned JWC Services, a Crystal Lake commercial kitchen exhaust cleaning company that he sold in 2016 to Gurnee-based Averus. He also served as the vice president of development for Delux Cleaning Supply in Fort Worth; general manager of Facilitec/Ecolab, which has offices in Elgin, Gurnee and St. Paul; and prior to that, worked for Universal Standard HealthCare and Mobil Oil, according to the release.

Collins has a bachelor’s degree in business management from North Central College in Naperville.

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