Local entrepreneur and former professional road racer Jeffrey Schwartz was sworn in as the newest McHenry County Board member in a meeting of the full board Tuesday evening.
County Board members voted unanimously to confirm Schwartz’s appointment to the board to fill the seat of the late Chuck Wheeler, who served on the board for seven years up until his death on Nov. 12.
“[Wheeler] would have approved, definitely,” board member Jeffrey Thorsen, a friend of Wheeler’s, said Wednesday. “[Schwartz] is quite an impressive man. He’s pretty much self-made and semi-famous, so I’m looking forward to working with him. But I really do believe that if [Wheeler] were here to approve, he would have.”
Schwartz said he has had a growing desire to serve the residents of McHenry County, which he has called his home for the past 47 years. He currently resides in rural McHenry.
“I love McHenry County, and I had some thoughts of participating in these processes for many, many years and I just felt like now was a good time,” he said. “I’ve been paying attention to politics and policies and things around the area so I’ve had my eyes open, you know, the whole time I’ve been here.”
Schwartz, a Republican, will be representing District 4, which covers Richmond, Johnsburg, Spring Grove, Wonder Lake and most of McHenry.
McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler, who chose Schwartz for the appointment, said he is encouraged by the effort that Schwartz is already putting into the role.
“He was texting me Friday night, and he had already downloaded the packet for the Tuesday board meeting and read all 450 pages,” Buehler said. “That’s the kind of board member that we want – someone that’s actually going to take an active interest in what’s going on and make informed decisions.”
As far as his priorities, Schwartz said he is passionate about the environment and the conservation of open spaces, adding that the prevalence of open spaces is one of the many reasons why he loves living in McHenry County.
He also feels strongly about issues related to mental health and domestic violence, he said. He raises funds for Turning Point of McHenry County and said he is concerned by the uptick in domestic abuse that has been reported since the start of the pandemic.
“With the lockdowns, I think there were a lot of unintended consequences of suicides, domestic abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse. ... That’s concerning to me,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz will serve on two of the county’s committees,x the Public Health and Community Services Committee and the Planning, Environment and Development Committee, according to the county’s website.
He said he is unsure of what his specific policy priorities might be and will begin by taking some time to better understand the needs of his constituents in District 4.
County Board member Kelli Wegener, D-Crystal Lake, said she is also looking forward to working with Schwartz, adding that his “experience with the various economic councils here in the county will be a wonderful asset.”
Before seeking nomination to the County Board, Schwartz served as a member of McHenry County College’s Manufacturing Advisory Council, chairman of the McHenry County Industrial Council and as a member of the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation Board.
Beyond public service, Schwartz is the founder of Schwartz Performance in Woodstock, a company that designs and manufactures custom cars.
Schwartz worked with General Kinematics Corporation in Crystal Lake before founding Schwartz Performance in 2005, he said. He also founded Schwartz Motocross History Museum, according to a news release sent out last week.
He had quite the professional racing career before entering the business world, according to his company’s website. He raced everything from Motorcross bikes to race cars and worked as a pit-crew member with the Yamaha World Superbike Team during the 1998 Daytona 200.
Schwartz grew up in northern Minnesota before moving to McHenry County with his mother in 1974. He graduated from Crystal Lake Central High School.