Referendum to Elect County Board Chairman Every Two Years Goes to Full Board

The McHenry County Board's Management Services Committee.

The McHenry County Board’s Management Services Committee.

After a short debate, the Management Services Committee sent a resolution to the McHenry County Board that would authorize a referendum next spring on whether or not to elect the County Board Chairman for two-year terms.

The was 6-1 with only Ersel Schuster voted in the negative.

Committee Chairwoman Paula Yensen, a Democrat, launched the topic a half an hour before the meeting was scheduled to end by reporting that she had a discussion of  “the political implications” with Democratic Party State Rep. Jack Franks.

Anna May Miller then moved passage of the resolution, one that called for a County Board Chairman to be elected at-large every four years.

Ersel Schuster

Ersel Schuster

Consideration of the topic was immediately questioned by Schuster, who was “curious as to why this is being rushed through.  It obviously has something to do with the Board Rules.”

The decentralization of County Board power has been one of Schuster’s goals.

Walkup agreed that the Rules should be considered first and added that he thought the referendum should be held in conjunction with the General Election in the fall when more people would be voting.

He also argued for the Chairman to be elected every two years, rather than every four.

Miller said she didn’t “see this has anything to do with the Board Rules.”

Anna May Miller makes a point.

Anna May Miller makes a point.

She said she was following up on “a campaign promise.”

Kurtz expressed her support for a two-year term as a way to increase “accountability and responsiveness.

“I realize this comes with some baggage,” that being to win a countywide candidate would also have to win in his or her own district.

Current Board Chairwoman Tina Hill argued from the audience for a four-year term.

She told of working for state representatives who were always so worried about getting re-elected they “didn’t have time to govern.”

Schuster pointed out that elected a chairman at-large would create “a separate layer of government…This is a big deal.  We’ve already had one vote on this and I can’t support it.”

Yensen then expressed her support for giving the voters an opportunity to say “what kind of government they want to have.”

Yensen also commented on a two-year term being “less about government than fund raising.”

Yensen drew a two-year County Board term.

At this point Walkup moved to amend the resolution to make the term two years, rather than four, plus adding the requirement that a winning candidate must be victorious in his or her own district as well.  He thought that it would be unlikely a person could win a countywide race while losing a district race.

“I don’t care for the two-year term,” Miller said.

Kurtz thought a short term would make “the person more concerned and respectful of others,” noting the effects of concentration of power in the Governor’s and House Speaker’s hands.

“I already talked to Jack Franks about” amending the law to make it unnecessary for a Board Chairman candidate under this statute to eliminate the requirement of election to a local district office.

“It just ain’t going to happen,” Franks said, according to Yensen.

“I’d put both of them to the County Board and let them hash it out,” Mike Skala offered.

Assistant State’s Attorney David Mellem pointed out that could result in two referendums being on the ballot, both of which might pass.

He pointed out whatever resolution was reported out of committee, it could be amended on the floor.

The two-year amendment passed 5-2 with Miller and Skala voting against it.

The six who voted for the final version were Hammerand, Kurtz, Miller, Skala, Walkup and Yensen.


Referendum to Elect County Board Chairman Every Two Years Goes to Full Board — 7 Comments

  1. While moving this referendum to the full county board is a step in the right direction, it does need amending.

    McHenry County should follow the proven example of Kane County, and make the county board chairman elected at-large to a four-year term.

    Two years is too short for any countywide elected position.

    Four years is the way to go.

    The proponents of the 2-year term should produce an example or two of counties electing their board-chairman in an at-large election.

    To my knowledge, there are none.

    Kane and DuPage counties elect their board chairman at-large on a 4-year cadence.

    McHenry County needs to follow suit.

    And, Board Member Walkup is right, this question(s) should appear on the November 2014 General Election ballot, where more voters will participate, instead of a sparsely participated primary ballot in March.

    Though voters who don’t want to declare a party have an option to take out an independent, issues-only ballot, primary turnout will be low, despite the hotly contested sheriff’s race.

    And besides, the first time voters would be able to elect a chairman would be in 2016 anyway, so the spring vs. fall referendum makes no difference on when voters begin electing the McHenry County Board chairman at-large, assuming passage of the referendum.

  2. The Democans and the Republicrats politicize an issue yet again. They make the simple things impossible.

  3. What about term limits?

    We need to keep this from turning into a life long position!

  4. Quote from the post: ‘“It just ain’t going to happen,” Franks said, according to Yensen.’

    I can with reasonable confidence having spoken to decree that St. Rep. Jack Franks would most certainly, never, say “ain’t.”

    This is heresay at best and not even worth quoting as you have Cal.

    This is blatantly dishonest and wholeheartedly deceptive.

  5. Yensen’s quoting of Franks is a non-issue, but I’ll vouch for what Cal heard.

    Yensen’s full quote was, “[Franks] said, ‘It just ain’t going to happen.’ Those were his exact words.”

  6. This referendum, like the County Executive referendum on the 2013 ballot is another self interest attempt by Jack Franks to create a position at the County Government level that “himself” can run for, win and retire from.

    I personally do not support this referendum.

    The County Board is elected by the voters.

    The board represents the political ideology of the county.

    We do not need another position at the board level that would require additional budgeting and the resulting expense.

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