Involving Citizen-Experts in Local Government

It’s snowing, so the following email from Lakewood Village Trustee and soon-to-be Village President Paul Serwatka might be of more than casual interest.

The discovery of experts in snow removal is fascinating.

Their willingness to advise how to make the snow removal system more efficient is of equal interest.

It so reminds me of my father’s vision of part-time teachers at McHenry County College.

He knew so many people who could have been recruited, probably pro bono, to share their life skills with students.

But that vision was never fulfilled.

It arose again when I talked to former McHenry County College and now McHenry County Board member Tom Wilbeck.

He told of volunteering to teach salesmanship.

The College Administration showed no interest.

Too useful a skill, I guess.

In any event, involving citizens in their local governments is one of McHenry County Blog’s goals, so I happily reprint Serwatka’s email to some 600 Lakewood residents below:

I wanted to touch base with some positive news on our winter road conditions, moving forward, unfortunately it doesn’t appear we will be getting much cooperation, on this issue, at this point.

Update on Winter Road Conditions

What Has Transpired

Since initially writing about our dismal winter road conditions, back in late December, I have heard back from well over 100 residents, sharing their concerns and suggestions. In the course of these dialogues, I have identified, and spoken at length, with three particular Lakewood residents who are by all rights “experts” in the field of efficient and effective management of winter roads.

Philip Stephan

One of these experts, in fact, is resident, Phil Stephan, who is also one of our “Lakewood Tax-Fighter Team” candidates, running to be village trustee at the upcoming April 4th election.

Phil has approximately 30-years experience as a C-DOT Supervisor, overseeing winter road maintenance/management and implementing strategies to improve efficiencies in such. Phil’s expertise in this area promises only to have a positive effect on our winter road conditions as well as other Public Works functions.

The second resident is a current Public Works Foreman of 20+ years in a municipality substantially larger than Lakewood, and is very well versed in effectively maintaining/managing winter roads.

The third resident, owns/operates one of the largest commercial snow removal/plowing firms in the entire Midwest.

Each of these resident-experts have indicated their assurance that much could be done to improve Lakewood’s sub-par winter road conditions.

I have been told, more than once, by Lakewood personnel and board members that we only have so much of a budget with which to buy salt, etc. Conversely, Phil Stephan has adamantly, and repeatedly, stated:

“improving our winter road conditions is not necessarily a matter of spending more money on plows and salt.  It’s how you plow and when you salt that makes for effective snow removal.”

Subsequently, in my conversations with the other two resident-experts, both essentially echoed Phil Stephan’s sentiments, stating: (paraphrasing) “It’s not just a matter of throwing more money at it – it isn’t just a matter of throwing down more salt as much as it is when, and how, you go about it -how you prepare and how you attack it.”  

All three have said: (paraphrasing) “We need to look at the whole picture. We need to sit down, look over the budget allocated toward salt and other resources, the equipt available, manpower, as well as the strategies currently being implemented in various weather conditions. Then, we can make the necessary changes and devise a successful strategy.”

Generously, each of these residents has offered their time, talent and expertise to help find a solution! 

My Proposal

I have proposed assembling a “task force” – much like the committees we currently have, or used to have, for the lakes, golf course, etc.

Each of these resident-experts have volunteered their time, talent and expertise to take part in this task force and all are quite confident that they can work to identify deficiencies and suggest efficiencies and strategies to better manage our winter roads.

My thought was to have a number of roundtable discussions (and follow up as needed) that would include myself, our three resident-experts and the appropriate village staff and Public Works personnel.

Together, we would analyze our budgetary allocations for winter road maintenance, manpower, equipment, and the actual road management strategies that are currently being implemented.

The purpose of this task force would, in no way, be meant to point fingers or place blame, but rather to form a sort of “mastermind” group of experts who would:

Identify deficiencies (be they; budgetary, manpower, equipment, or simply road/snow/ice management strategies) to determine where, and why, Lakewood winter road conditions are so, inarguably, inferior as compared to surrounding communities. From there, we would develop a meaningful plan to address these deficiencies and to create an efficient and effective strategy of managing our winter roads that can be implemented ASAP.

Where We Stand Today

The idea of this task-force has not been very well received and, unfortunately, I do not currently have the support to put this task-force into action, at this point.

That being said, and without this turning into a “campaign piece”, I will promise you this:

Once I am elected as Village President, and once the entire Lakewood Tax-Fighter Team of trustee candidates – Phil Stephan, Richard Ritchie and Amy Fues Odom – are elected to the village board on April 4th, this task-force WILL be implemented and our winter road conditions WILL be drastically improved next winter!

Please, Please, Please keep in mind, my being elected as Village President is but one component necessary to bring about the many needed changes in our village government.

Without the support of Phil Stephan, Richard Ritchie and Amy Fues Odom as trustees on our village board, I will not have the support to implement this winter road task force, nor will I have the necessary support to address the numerous other concerns and issues, about which I have written to you, and discussed,at length, with several hundreds of you.

I hope you’ll SHARE this newsletter with friends and neighbors, encourage them to subscribe to the newsletter as well, and PLEASE encourage everyone you can to stay informed and visit The Lakewood Tax-Fighter website at:

Your thoughts, questions and concerns are always welcome and always valued.


Involving Citizen-Experts in Local Government — 2 Comments

  1. It is obvious that the government center needs a volunteer committee to take a look at how the whole circus works.

    Three monkeys and a giraffe could run the whole shebang better but the animal rights folks would be marching again.

    I applaud the folks above and wish it spread.

    Government, especially the clowns on Seminary Ave and Ware Rd, is good at one thing – flushing your tax dollars down the toilet.

  2. Most of our real estate tax dollars go to the less-than-stellar, partially filled schools! That’s our biggest waste of money!

    Our County board is only 10% of our tax bills and we get quite a bit for that.

    With the exception of our new disaster of a county board chairman costing us 3x what we expected to pay with his hiring staff!

    No county board chairman has needed ‘staff’!!

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