Other, Business, University of Wisconsin, Northern Illinois University
Property Manager/Real Estate Broker/Director of Insurance Co., Self Employed
Married, Karen L. Smith
On the Record
Why are you running for McHenry County Board, and what qualifications do you bring to the office?
My interest in running for county board stems from a lifelong interest in politics and was sparked by a recent political flyer distributed during the primaries, showing the voting record of the representatives of District 6. The voting record on several important issues of one of our representatives was completely different than two other representatives. It did not seem reasonable to me that representatives from the same political party, representing the same constituency, would have completely different voting records on these issues. I began attending county board meetings and found I was dissatisfied with our representation. I decided it was time for me to get involved. I have been a self-employed business owner in McHenry County for over 30 years. I recently sold my business and now have the time and energy to devote to the job of county board representative. I am an experienced decision maker who will work hard to understand the issues so I can vote in the best interest of my constituents. My goal as a County Board member will be to use my experience and what some have referred to as “my common sense approach” to represent the people of District 6 to the best of my ability.
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 am still researching the advantages and disadvantages of an executive form of government. After attending county board meetings for the past several months, I feel our current system of government works quite well. I am concerned that the executive form of county government could potentially lead to partisan politics and government gridlock like we often see at the state and federal levels. However, I believe the people have the right to vote regarding this issue. I do not agree with board’s reasoning to not put a referendum on the ballot for the voters to approve or disapprove the issue of electing the chairman by popular vote. I am disappointed that the majority of our current board members did not believe the voters would understand the difference between a referendum that would make the Chairman of the Board elected by the people, as opposed to a referendum that would create a county executive position with significantly different powers than those of the county board chairman. There has been continued support for a popular election of the chairman and I believe the board should have approved the proposal to put a referendum with this option on the ballot.
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.
I do not support county government using taxpayer money to lobby against state legislation, for any reason. The county board members should be their constituents’ lobbyists at the state level and work with state legislators for the benefit of their constituents. I do not agree with the use of taxpayer money to lobby against state legislation that would have protected property taxpayers from tax increases in years when property values decline. Our state legislators are elected to represent us regarding these matters, and for our county government to use taxpayer funds to lobby against this issue is counterproductive and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Considering the dismal housing market and struggling economy, for the county board to spend money to undermine our protection from increases in taxes is inappropriate, and not in the best interests of the taxpayers of McHenry County.
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 would support a freeze of the county’s tax levy next year. If elected, I will be fiscally responsible and vote against unnecessary increases in spending. With no increase in spending, there should be no need to increase the tax levy next year. We can keep the county on a path of fiscal responsibility and insure that reserves are not depleted by demanding accountability from all departments. The financial report presented at the county board meeting on August 21ST indicated that the department heads were accomplishing just that. This is commendable and I hope this will continue. I will encourage a renewed interest in controlling costs, while still providing necessary services.
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?
I believe the county board strives to be business friendly while protecting the interests of the people of McHenry County. If elected, I will work to make the ordinances and the standards for conditional use permits relating to businesses as specific as possible. The specifics would relate to all attributes of the proposed business which contribute to or diminish from the local community affected by the proposed business. A reasonable time frame should be established for committee recommendations and further approvals if appropriate and required. The county needs to strive to be consistent in regard to these matters, which will make it more business friendly. Applicant entrepreneurs need to be able to assess the timeline, cost, and probability of successfully meeting the county’s standards in order to make informed decisions about starting or relocating their business in McHenry County.
Outside of jobs and the economy, what is the biggest challenge facing voters in your district and how would you address it?
As a mostly rural district, one of our biggest challenges is controlling growth. The voters need good sound representation on the county board to make sure their concerns and opinions are taken into consideration when decisions are made regarding these matters. Protection of open lands and groundwater recharge areas need to be at the forefront of all zoning and development decisions. If elected, I will work to protect our open lands and groundwater recharge areas. I will strive for better communication between the county and other levels of government. For example, the recent grinding and repaving of State Highway 47 North of Woodstock resulted in tons of grinding material containing potential contaminants being deposited on Freeman Road North of Hebron, a township road, in an area identified as having a “High Potential for Aquifer Contamination”. I question the appropriateness of this, and what the ramifications to the aquifer may be. I will be attending the National Groundwater Association’s expo in December, giving me the opportunity to attend educational seminars and network with some of the leading authorities on groundwater preservation to learn more about preserving our open land and water recharge areas.
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