The District 11 primary for the Will County Board features three Republicans running for two spots on the GOP ballot this fall.
Candidates include incumbents Suzanne Hart and Chuck Maher and challenger Michael Strick.
No Democrat has filed to run for a board spot from the district.
Hart has lived in Naperville for more than 15 years and served on the Park District Board beginning in 2007, eventually serving as its president. She resigned that post in order to serve on the Will County Board.
Maher moved to Naperville with his family in 1975 and has served the Will County Board in a number of capacities including Republican Whip, a member of the board’s leadership team and on the executive committee. He has also chaired several committees.
Strick owns both car wash businesses in Naperville and Wheaton and is running for the first time. He has operated other businesses as well in the past 20 years.
The Sun asked each candidate to give a short statement about why he or she is qualified for the County Board, and was then asked to list three important issues that currently exist in the district, and what they would do to remedy those programs.
Strick, 51, said he is qualified because of his experience as a successful small business owner for more than two decades.
“I’ve run businesses for 20-plus years and have employed hundreds of young adults in the area over that time,” Strick said. “I feel the County Board needs to be run the same way, as a business. We’ve had people on the board for 12, 15, 25 years and many are stuck doing the same thing over and over. We need change from the incumbents and need to go back and do things the right way.”
Strick said that three issues the district currently faces include jobs, the tax burden, and a board that does not respond to its constituents.
“We don’t have enough jobs and this area represents a major economic hub with all the roads and waterways,” he said. “We need to create more jobs for the people in the county. Our tax burden here is too high. The board is looking at building a new jail, courthouse, and administrative building and essentially creating a new campus at a cost of something like $700 million. We have no way to pay for that. And now the board is looking at crushing concrete here in Naperville, after voting 26-0 earlier not to approve it. Given the hazardous material that could be put into the environment, people here don’t want that.”
If elected, Strick said he hopes to create jobs by possibly having tax free zones established for five to 10 years to attract businesses.
Hart, 48, said her qualifications to continue serving as a board member include her experience on the Naperville Park Board and working with the Forest Preserve District, which allowed her “to hit the ground running” when she came to the County Board.
“There is a huge difference between serving on private and public boards. With the public board, there’s no learning curve,” Hart said. “The fact that I served with the Park District and the Forest Preserve allowed me to learn about budgets and levies and so when I came to the county, I understood those things.”
Hart said the three most important issues the county faces right now include questions about the court house and “the necessary complex that no one can deny we need,” legislation in Springfield involving two bills that would affect local quarries and monitoring ground water, and financial issues involving future budgets and how things will be paid.
“We have some environmental issues involving quarries which we didn’t plan for earlier but they have to be addressed,” Hart said. “We need to figure out things with our insurance and budgets and not paying for things by just raising taxes. And we need a comprehensive plan to address the courthouse and sheriff’s facilities.”
Hart hopes to address all of these issues in the next term and said that ‘Will County needs to lead the state as its number one quarry facility” in addition to getting a plan to pay for the courthouse.
Maher, 56, said the many years he and his family have lived in Naperville and his 12 years of experience on the board, along with the work he has already done, makes him qualified to continue. “I chaired various committees and under my tutelage we have done things that have never been done before like the work we’ve done with the energy utility resource committee and recapturing methane gas,” Maher said. “We also did something that hasn’t happened here for 150 years when we completed a needs assessment of the county that will provide information for us during the next 20 years.”
Maher said current pressing issues include the county’s capital infrastructure including the courthouse and sheriff’s facility “and how those things are going to be funded and when.” He also said balancing the budget and securing a “steady stream of revenue and not just ‘soft money’ received through grants” remains a challenge.
“We had, as you know, a strike with our employees and we had to restructure the insurance,” he said. “Today, medical costs are astronomical, and government only has a few ways of generating revenues.”
During his next term, Maher hopes to have addressed all of these issues as well as eliminating “duplicate services” that he feels exist within the county. An example, he said, is a vehicle maintenance program that currently involves the sheriff, the Forest Preserve police force, and the highway department.
“Two years from now, I hope the conversation has evolved to the point where we have combined these services among these three groups as there is too much duplication going on within government agencies,” he said.