Village of Lakewood
Master's Degree, Business Administration (MBA), DePaul University
Bachelor's Degree, Management (BA), North Central College
President of a Registered Investment Advisory Firm, Plexus Financial Services, LLC
Married, Erin Smith
Brittani Smith, 27
Morgan Smith, 24
Rachel Smith, 22
Keith Smith, 19
On the Record
What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?
I believe what differentiates me as a candidate is that I bring both experience and a fresh perspective to the College Board of Trustees. I am entering my fourth year of volunteer service on the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation Board of Directors. I currently serve as the President and Executive Committee Chairman, following 2 years as the Treasurer and Finance Committee Chairman. This service has provided me with practical experience and insight regarding the college’s assets, as well as the institution’s current and future needs. As a newcomer to the Board of Trustees, I would also bring a fresh perspective, particularly as it relates to capital needs assessment and the opportunity to refocus any efforts to expand on private fund raising rather than taxpayer funding. Professionally, I am the President of Plexus Financial Services, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisory Firm that specializes in the fiduciary oversight of Corporate Retirement Plans. I hold certifications and licenses that reflect adherence to the prudent practices related to the Global Fiduciary Standards of Care, and along with my P&L responsibilities, illustrate the credentials and experience that comprise my qualifications to be a prudent fiduciary in the oversight of the college budget.
Do you support the college’s long-term expansion plan? Explain.
I support plans that are aligned with strategic areas widely considered to be critical success factors for today’s community colleges: student access, learning and success; economic and workforce development, global and intercultural education, institutional leadership development and advocacy for McHenry County College. I will actively seek input to understand the expansion needs and perspectives of all stakeholders, from students to faculty, administration and the taxpayers of McHenry County. Full transparency is imperative and I support referendums for all initiatives of this magnitude that directly or indirectly require public funding. If any feasibility study establishes a value proposition that proves to be in the public’s best interest, I believe it should prove to be compelling enough to capture the necessary taxpayer support to move forward. As any independent and objective feasibility study will likely conclude, there are a number of industries experiencing or projecting talent shortages that would benefit from the expansion of educational services in these industries. Based on my 4 years of experience on the College Foundation Board, and extensive experience in sales, finance and fund raising, I am confident that private funding opportunities exist for any expansion that is substantiated by economic need.
Would you support freezing the college’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?
Yes. McHenry County College is funded by a combination of local property taxes, tuition, fees, and a declining level of state assistance. I am mindful of the financial realities of our state looming large, as well as the risk of more financial burden being shifted to the college. That being said, I fundamentally believe that the trend toward increasing taxes, coupled with decreases in services, often to support underfunded pension systems or pay increases that exceed the CPI, is simply unsustainable. We have to recognize that operating under the premise that going to the taxpayers for tax increases as a “last resort” is not an acceptable approach or philosophy. If we don’t find alternative solutions for adequate funding, if we can’t achieve improvements in operational efficiencies that lead to cost savings, the institution could eventually risk collapse. As the President of the College Foundation Board, I have been privileged to collaborate with extraordinary people involved with the Foundation itself, as well as throughout McHenry County, whose generosity of their time and talent is very humbling. I believe that improving collaboration between the college and foundation boards can lead to efficiencies in financial planning and its alignment with strategic initiatives.
What one decision by the board do you most disagree with and why?
It was reported that Alternate Revenue Bonds would be considered as one of the options to finance facilities expansion, which appears to be driven by a desire to circumvent going to referendum. Alternate Revenue Bonds do not eliminate the exposure to financial risk for the taxpayers, and I would not support such a financing option. The issuance of debt certificates has also been discussed, and again I would not support such a direction without public input, since the funding would be derived from the college’s operating budget, which is subsidized primarily through local tax dollars. The Board has indicated that they would not move forward with an Alternate Revenue Bond approach if they weren’t assured that there would be a revenue stream generated from the proposed capital project that would insulate the taxpayers from financial risk. No one has a crystal ball, and I believe moving forward with nothing more than these assurances would be a breach of fiduciary duty to the taxpayers of McHenry County. As local industries experience talent shortages, expansion of educational services to support these needs must be supported by public/private partnerships and the shared financial risk that coincides with it.
What was the biggest accomplishment of the board in the past year?
I believe that boards should govern in a prudent manner, setting policy and establishing appropriate controls, while delegating the authority to manage operations of the institution to the President, administration, staff and faculty. The accomplishments of the College should be credited to the department directors, faculty and employees who manage day to day operations, from the innovative Robotics programs, dual-credit and summer bridge programs, to a graduation rate that is higher than 67% of community colleges across the country, to name just a few. Given the accomplishments of the team overall, the Board deserves credit for empowering the staff to achieve these successes. There are a number of College employees accomplishing extraordinary things every day, and if I have the privilege of serving the institution as a Trustee, I will make it a priority of mine to govern without ego, promote them, and contribute to the reshaping of a positive image of the college throughout the community.
Outside of any issues already discussed, what one or two things would you try to accomplish if you are elected?
I look forward to playing an active leadership role as a steward of the institution through participation in legislative advocacy and intelligent policy development for the College. Identifying opportunities to actively represent the College at the national, state, and local levels will be a top priority during my service as a trustee. As a 25 year resident of McHenry County and President of the College Foundation Board, I have developed personal and professional relationships within a variety of organizations that provide a venue for legislative advocacy, including: the Illinois Community College Trustees Association and members of the Illinois General Assembly, the American Association of Community Colleges, the McHenry County Council of Governments, the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation, and a collaborative effort between the Board of Trustees and the Friends of McHenry County College Foundation Board. I look forward to leveraging these relationships to help inform intelligent policy decisions and secure resources that will benefit McHenry County College. I believe that McHenry County College, as an institution, should be the pride of McHenry County, and I will consider it a privilege to contribute to an effort that restores public trust and reshapes the positive image of the institution.
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