First openly gay woman on McHenry County Board to resign due to move

Phillips was elected to the board last year and was its only LGBTQ+ member

Jessica Phillips is running for District 9 of the McHenry County Board.

McHenry County Board member Jessica Phillips, D-Crystal Lake, will be resigning from her seat effective Friday.

In an email to County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, on Monday, Phillips announced she would be leaving her seat as a District 2 board member on Friday after moving out of the district to Huntley.

“My heart is heavy with this resignation because I achieved the life goals of having children and serving in public office,” Phillips wrote. “I developed well-laid plans and was excited to seek reelection in District 2 in 2022. This said, life has a way of changing our best laid plans at times.”

Phillips said she was moving to Huntley for family reasons.

District 2 includes all or parts of Crystal Lake, Cary, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood.

She is the first openly gay woman to be elected to the County Board after receiving the most votes for the District 2 seat in the 2020 election, unseating Republican incumbent John Reinert.

Phillips said she wanted to be an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community while on the board, especially for younger people. Phillips fought against a proposed resolution to limit what kinds of flags could be flown outside county government buildings, which many members saw as a ban on the pride flag.

“You’re excluding us and telling us we are not equal and not a part of this community,” Phillips said in August in response to the resolution, which was ultimately tabled and did not come up for a vote.

County Administrator Peter Austin said Tuesday the vacancy on the board will be declared next month, starting a 60-day search to find a new board member to replace Phillips.

“I thank the residents of County Board District 2 for electing me to represent our district,” Phillips wrote. “I thank the members of McHenry County Board for mentorship and guidance you have provided. The experience I have gained has been transformational.”

Phillips’ departure creates the third vacancy on the board in about a year after the death of Chuck Wheeler last November and Suzanne Ness was elected state representative. Wheeler was replaced by Jeff Schwartz, R-McHenry, in January, and John Collins, D-Crystal Lake, replaced Ness in March.

Once the County Board votes next month to declare the seat vacant, Buehler will begin taking applicants for the position from interested people who live in District 2. Because Phillips is a Democrat, Buehler must appoint a Democrat to fill her seat for the remainder of the term.

All McHenry County Board seats will be open for election in 2022 following the county’s redistricting process and changes that reduced the board’s size to 18 members with two from nine districts. The board currently has four members from each of the six districts.