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Sarah Jansen



3512 Deep Wood Drive, Crystal Lake, IL 60012

Bachelors Degree, , Illinois Wesleyan University

Juris Doctor, , University of Notre Dame Law School


Married, Greg Jansen

Alex, 11

Claire, 9

Grace, 7

On The Record

Why are you running for county board?

I first became interested in serving on the McHenry County Board during my appointment as an assistant state’s attorney at the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office. During my four years there, I provided legal advice daily to the board and its members, and worked hand-in-hand with department heads and other county officials. I also provided legal advice to several of the board’s commissions and committees, including the Ethics Commission, Liquor and License Committee, Planning and Development Committee, Transportation Committee, Law and Justice Committee, and the Human Resources Committee. I also successfully defended the county and its officials and employees in various state and federal trials and appeals; prosecuted ordinance violations; drafted and reviewed county contracts and intergovernmental agreements; and drafted numerous revisions to several of the county’s ordinances, including the Ethics Ordinance, Animal Control Ordinance, Sign Ordinance, and the Zoning Ordinance. This practical experience gave me a unique, inside perspective on what is needed to run our county efficiently, as well as a good working knowledge of the county’s codes and regulations. I now want to use this knowledge and experience to effectively represent the citizens of District 3.

What is your top legislative priority if you are elected?

My top legislative priority would be the online codification of the county’s ordinances and regulations. Currently, there is no one place McHenry County residents can go to find these. With online codification, every ordinance and regulation will be combined under one code and made easily accessible via the county’s website. I believe immediate access to such information is every citizen’s right in this technological age. I began working on this project at the State’s Attorney’s Office and would like to see it to completion. Another top priority would be revising the stormwater ordinance. In my opinion, the stormwater ordinance should concentrate more on major development projects as opposed to minor projects by homeowners. As written, any homeowner whose home is in a FEMA designated floodplain must get a stormwater permit, or at least pay for and submit an application to determine if a permit is required, before doing any home remodeling project, big or small. This is unduly burdensome and too intrusive and does not necessarily further the ordinance’s goals. If we focus enforcement on major developments such as shopping centers and subdivisions, we could more efficiently and effectively address flooding and stormwater problems.

Where do you stand on the upcoming March referendum to make the County Board chairmanship popularly elected by the voters?

Though I am glad voters will have the opportunity to decide whether the chair should be popularly elected, I personally will vote no on the issue. A popularly elected chair would add one more member to an already large County Board, which would add additional unnecessary expenses. Also, I am concerned if the chair were popularly elected, rural areas would continually be underrepresented. And finally, I believe the current system—one in which the board members elect their own chairperson—fosters board cooperation whereas a popularly elected chair may produce fragmentation and the chair and the members may have less incentive to work collaboratively.

Do you believe that the County Board – before 2013 – kept an adequate eye on the finances and spending of the McHenry County Mental Health Board? Why or why not?

I do not believe previous County Boards provided adequate oversight of the finances and spending of the Mental Health Board (MHB). The whole purpose of the MHB is to oversee and allocate funds to the county’s mental and developmental health service providers. The board itself provides no direct services to individuals. Despite this, the MHB has a $4 million dollar tax payer funded building and, at its highest point, employed 50 individuals. Meanwhile, actual service providers, such as Family Services and The Advantage Group, had to close their doors due in part to financial hardship. This is unacceptable. I recognize the service providers’ financial woes were caused in some measure by the economic downturn and property tax revenue decline which, by anyone’s standards, was difficult to predict; however, had previous County Boards acted with prudence, the closings could have possibly been avoided. Per statute, the only control the County Board has over the MHB is appointing its members and approving its budget. In my opinion, the County Board should have reined in the MHB’s administrative spending and required it to cut costs before approving budgets that included building purchases and the hiring of additional employees.

Do you believe the county should continue to run Valley Hi Nursing Home, or would you like to see it sold to a private entity?

I would like to see the county continue to run Valley Hi. It is a part of the county’s history dating back to the 1800’s when it was the “County Alms Farm” and then became a nursing home in 1950. It provides a quality, less expensive alternative for the county’s less fortunate elderly population. Currently, Valley Hi’s operating expenses do not exceed its revenue and I see no need to privatize. However, with the State falling way behind in Medicaid reimbursements and the unknown financial effects of the Affordable Care Act, unfortunately, I cannot completely rule out the possible need to pursue privatization at some point in the future.

What issues would you like to see addressed in the upcoming Unified Development Ordinance?

Many of the issues I want to see addressed have fortunately been included in the most recent draft of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) found on the county’s website. These issues include conditional use standards for such things as wind energy farms, solar farms, agritourism, and wineries. Agritourism, in particular, has become a large part of the county’s economy and appeal and there is a definite need for standardized conditional use requirements. Also, the draft UDO takes measures to protect the county’s groundwater, from which the entire county gets its water supply. Specifically, it prohibits particular uses—such as radioactive waste sites and municipal or special waste landfills—in sensitive aquifer recharge areas and special resource groundwater protection areas. Obviously, such prohibitions are important steps in groundwater protection. Additionally, the draft UDO addresses the revocation process for conditional uses. The county’s current zoning ordinance does not speak to this process, which has caused substantial problems for property owners, as well as county employees. While there are no guarantees the draft UDO will be adopted as is, I will see to it that the above issues are adequately addressed in the final version should I be elected prior to its adoption.

Do you believe county government should continue to keep its tax levy frozen? Why or why not? And if not, what expenses would you cut to ease the burden on taxpayers?

Yes, the board should absolutely continue to keep the tax levy frozen as long as doing so remains fiscally responsible. This past year, the county had a 6-month reserve which allowed the board to freeze the levy without affecting the county’s bond rating. I want to see this trend continue. The way to do this is to make sure the county’s departments are running efficiently and effectively and their budgets are properly scrutinized. And, as has been shown time and time again—most recently with the Mental Health Board and Valley Hi—this requires proper oversight by the County Board.

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