unincorporated Dunham Township (near Harvard)
Juris Doctor, Law, Northern Illinois University College of Law
Master's Degree, Business Administration and Public and Nonprofit Management, Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management
Bachelor's Degree, Liberal Arts, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Attorney and author (two books published by the American Bar Association), Self employed www.ScottSummers.org
On the Record
Why are you running for McHenry County Board, and what qualifications do you bring to the office?
We all know that McHenry County is a magnificent place in which to live, work, and play. (That’s why we’re here!) But it will take an enormous effort to set – and keep – our McHenry County on a course of sustainable prosperity. I believe that I can make many positive contributions. My training in law and business, my prior service as an elected official (trustee at McHenry County College), and my past work in public and nonprofit management make me particularly well suited to serve.
The County Board has resisted calls to make its chairmanship popularly elected. Now, a referendum has been placed on the November ballot that seeks to change the county to an executive form of government. What do you think about the referendum and the board’s resistance to allow voters decide whether they want to elect the board chairman at the ballot box?
I oppose the referendum. The part-time governing boards of many our area’s municipalities and schools wisely hire skilled professionals to run their day-to-day operations; so, too, does McHenry County. For three reasons, the present system of appointing an administrator (rather than electing an executive, as the pending referendum would provide) is the better method. First, high caliber individuals can be recruited from national talent pools. Second, they serve “at will” (rather than for a four year term) and can be changed readily if circumstances warrant. Third, delivery of vital public services is insulated from direct political pressures when handled by an appointed administrator. I advocate instead for a wholesale cut in the size of the McHenry County Board (from 24 individuals to 12), coupled with the countywide election of a board chair. I would retain the board’s present system of hiring a professional county administrator.
Do you support county government using taxpayer money to lobby against state legislation that would have protected property taxpayers from tax increases in years when property values declined? Explain your answer.
Spend McHenry County tax dollars to advance programs that are not in the public interest? Absolutely not! Yet this seems to be precisely what is happening with issues such as (1) lobbying to perpetuate property tax spikes and (2) erosion of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) provisions. McHenry County has memberships in a number of organizations which, on their faces, purport to advance the collective interests of the citizens of Illinois’ larger counties. It is highly troubling to me that some do not. The county board must act swiftly to place some of these groups on “probation” – that is, partially withhold annual membership dues and, instead, pay in four or six month increments until they change their lobbying practices to comport with true public interests. If they don’t comply, then we should drop our memberships – and advocate directly for ourselves.
The County Board is working this year to not collect the inflationary tax levy increase allowed under state law. Will you agree to support a freeze to the county’s levy again next year? Explain.
I ardently support a continued freeze. Our county – and our nation – remain mired in the worst economic conditions in eighty years. McHenry County residents continue to suffer. For many of our family members and friends and neighbors, prospects remain bleak. Accordingly, it is imperative that the county board continue to hold the line on taxes. But it’s not just taxes that need to be controlled – it’s also spending. I believe that county government can, and must, do more with less. I will do everything in my power to advance a McHenry County government that is smarter and leaner – and smaller, and more efficient, and less expensive.
Given the obstacles a local couple have had with turning their vineyard into a winery, how business friendly would you say the County Board and county ordinances are? What changes would you seek if elected?
The county must become an staunch advocate – rather than an unwitting adversary – for business startups. We have ample resources for fostering small businesses, yet there is little coordination. The county will do well to establish (via retasking current staff) a one-stop support center or help desk function that will cut red tape and provide referrals and assistance on matters such as permits, licenses, tax filings, and zoning changes. This aid should be coupled with the excellent programs at McHenry County College’s Shah Center for Corporate Training and the Illinois Small Business Development Center (www.shahcenter.mchenry.edu). Additionally, I am promoting a program I call “microcapitalism” for short – a countywide project to develop home and community-based businesses. I also view business creation on a macro basis. Specifically, I would like to see the county (in association with the City of Harvard) acquire the long-vacant Motorola plant and market it aggressively across the nation and throughout the world. In short – the County Board must become both a collaborator and a catalyst. On micro and macro levels, it is imperative that we in McHenry County now take our economic destiny into our own hands, and not leave it to chance.
Outside of jobs and the economy, what is the biggest challenge facing voters in your district and how would you address it?
Very roughly speaking, District 6 covers the western half of McHenry County. It is our collective good fortune that large portions remain rural. By extension, it is also in the best interests of all of McHenry County that our rural resource – yes, resource – be protected. We must work diligently to foster a unified urban/rural dynamic that will champion healthy economic development while at the same time promoting and preserving our cherished agricultural character and heritage. It is imperative that the McHenry County Board lead the way with transportation and land use planning that is, by turns, bold, shrewd, wise, and visionary. Let us do everything in our collective power to avoid the sorry experiences of nearby counties like DuPage and Lake. They show us conclusively that haphazard sprawl is a monumental mistake.
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