McHenry County Board unanimously approves Carolyn Campbell’s nomination: ‘A hard-working, intelligent person’

McHenry County Conservation District Trustee Carolyn Campbell is McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler's choice to replace Jessica Phillips, who resigned in November.

The McHenry County Board voted unanimously Wednesday to approve Carolyn Campbell’s nomination at its meeting Tuesday.

Campbell, who is a Democrat, comes from the McHenry County Conservation District where she is a trustee. As a result of her approval Tuesday, she will have to vacate her role there.

She will replace Democrat Jessica Phillips, who resigned in November after she moved out of the district. District 2 includes all or parts of Crystal Lake, Cary, Algonquin, Lake in the Hills and Lakewood.

Campbell will be sworn in Friday, officials said at the meeting Tuesday. Her term will expire Nov. 30, 2022, which will follow the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Starting Dec. 1, the County Board will be reapportioned into nine districts with two members each. Currently, there are six districts with four representatives in each.

Along with serving on the conservation district board, Campbell also has volunteered at Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47 and served as assistant finance director for the villages of Bartlett and Wilmette, according to a release last week from the county.

While Campbell’s approval was unanimous, her choice represents the second time in two years where McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, R-Crystal Lake, opted for a candidate who was not the Democrats’ recommendation.

In both cases, Thomas Pavelka, who is an attorney and former Lake in the Hills trustee, was the Democrats’ desired candidate.

“It does disappoint me that Chairman Buehler would say he’s going to give great deference to the party’s choice and then goes off and up in other directions – twice,” Pavelka said last week. “I’m not some major Democratic player. .… I honestly don’t know why they won’t put me on the board. They would enjoy working with me. I’m easy to deal with, and I get along with people.”

The first snub came in March 2021 when Democrat Suzanne Ness vacated her seat after winning election to the Illinois House of Representatives. Buehler’s recommendation at that time was John Collins, a Crystal Lake resident who owns a business in Elgin.

That time around all nine of Collins’ fellow Democratic board members chose to either abstain or vote “no.” This time the vote was unanimous and without discussion.

Following the vote on Wednesday, County Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, said Campbell was a “wonderful candidate” who has a lot of experience and a passion for learning. Wegener was involved in the interviews for both Collins and Campbell and said that there wasn’t anything political about the decision to vote for Campbell.

“[Campbell] seemed to rise above the rest [of the candidates],” Wegener said.

On the change of heart for Democrats this time around, Wegener said she thinks last year’s “no” votes came from board members wanting a candidate they felt would have a similar voice to the vacating Ness, she said, which at the time was “hard to know” because of the nature of the interviews.

She doesn’t think the decision was a strategy from the party, she said, and the vote last year was nothing personal against Collins, who she said has done well in the role.

County Board member Tanya Jindrich, D-Crystal Lake, said Wednesday that the party was “really happy” with the Campbell’s nomination after it was announced.

While she said she abstained last year when the vote for Collins came up, she said that was more of a personal choice because she didn’t feel like she had enough information. She clarified her vote was not based on what the party wanted.

“I don’t play any of those games,” she said.

When a County Board member resigns, the chairman is required to nominate a replacement who is within the same party. While the party is able to offer recommendations, the chairman does not have to abide by it.

• Brenda Schory contributed to this story.