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McHenry County Board - District 3 (Republican)

Voting will take place Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Voters will be able to select 2 candidates in this race. The 2 candidates with the most votes will be elected.

Winner in this race will be elected for a term of 4 years.

Click a question below to display the candidates' answers to that question.

Why are you running for county board?

Donald Kopsell

I am a life long resident of McHenry County. With my experience as Highway Commissioner and problem solving I will serve the residents well in District 3. I am knowledgeable about the issues affecting McHenry County. Property taxes, traffic congestion, zoning and water shed protection. As a County Board member I will take a common sense approach to the issues that affect the residents of McHenry County

Joe Gottemoller

I am running for re-election to the McHenry County Board because I believe our government needs to be reminded that it was created to serve its citizens, not the other way around. Although I am passionate about many County issues, since my election in 2012 I have been working diligently with fifteen other County leaders to revise McHenry County’s Zoning and Development laws. As a local zoning attorney who, before being elected to the county board, regularly appeared in front of the county on zoning matters, I believe that our zoning laws are too cumbersome and complicated to be applied fairly. For example, in 2011, almost one half of filed zoning petitions were by landowners who were forced to file in response to zoning or permit violations issued by the county. There has to be a better way. The new zoning ordinance is being written so that every rule serves a purpose, and is a reasonable way to protect the health, safety and welfare of all McHenry County’s citizens. With the electorate’s help I hope to be able to continue to use my experience to serve the citizens of McHenry County.

Nancy Gonsiorek

My husband and I have lived in District 3 for nineteen years; we’ve raised our two children here and we appreciate the quality of life. I have a long record of public service and I will champion a County that is beautiful, and support the vibrant economic growth necessary to provide jobs and services in our community. Diversity is important to every board and my financial expertise will be an asset. I am a CPA with 25 years of experience as a trusted business advisor. I fill a void on the County Board – currently there are no accountants on the Board. Voters will appreciate my proven leadership experience. I have served two terms on the District 47 Board of Education. We oversee an 85 million dollar budget for 12 elementary schools. I have served as Chair of the Finance Committee and my colleagues twice elected me as Board Vice President. We have a proven record of working together for the benefit of our taxpayers and to provide an excellent education for 8,000 students annually. I am ready to bring my skillset to the County Board; work as part of the team; and stay connected to the community.

Sarah Jansen

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?

Donald Kopsell

Extend provisions in 605 ILCS 5/6-501 which has expired, to allow funds to assist non-dedicated subdivision roads platted before July 23, 1959 to become part of the township road district. The funding comes from taxes collected from a non-dedicated subdivision to make improvements that meet the criteria to become a part of the township road district. I would also like to see changes to the Illinois Highway Code to allow the County to spend motor fuel tax and other tax money to help the non-dedicated subdivisions make the improvements needed to become part of a municipality. I would also like to see legislation for the county to maintain local control and protest state and federal unfunded mandates.

Joe Gottemoller

During the upcoming year my legislative priorities include the completion of the Unified Development Ordinance, the preservation of the Aaa bond rating and the issuance of a frozen or flat property tax levy.

Nancy Gonsiorek

Farmland protection is very important. We need to protect our precious farmland while respecting the rights of individual property owners. Farming has to be recognized as an important business in McHenry County especially as the demand for local, sustainably-grown food increases. Although not truly a legislative issue, I would like to see a more unified approach to sustainability. Sustainability is becoming a part of our economy. We have a conservation district (albeit a separate taxing body) and a natural resources committee. The water resources director position has seen some marked changes in the past year or so and the department handling solid waste provides great resources for the community. Grant money is available to promote renewable energy. I would entertain the idea of having a director of sustainability, working within the IGEN (Illinois Green Economy Network) to connect these efforts with the potential funding, collaborate with the EDC, and help to grow our business community.

Sarah Jansen

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?

Donald Kopsell

I support having the County Board chairmanship elected by popular vote of the residents of McHenry County.

Joe Gottemoller

Although I voted to put the question on the ballot, I will be voting against the creation of a new county wide position. The proposition to elect all positions sounds politically correct, yet we have numerous examples where it is a bad idea. From school board president to Speaker of the US House of Representatives the elected bodies choose their own leadership. If those bodies do not like the leader they change leaders. When we allow leaders to be chosen by the body they are expected to lead we get more reliable and accountable leaders. To the argument that the citizens could easily change the County leader I would say only once 135 years ago did the current system allow someone to hold the seat more than eight years. Currently, when a change needs to be made in McHenry County it takes 13 of 24 board members to make the change. A county wide race requires years and thousands of dollars to defeat the incumbent chairperson. No one in McHenry County needs a chairperson who is disconnected from the board and almost impossible to remove.

Nancy Gonsiorek

I favor the referendum as it is important for voters to decide. That being said, I will personally vote against a popularly elected Chairman. A Chairman is not the chief operating executive of the county, that job is held by the County Administrator. The number one duty of the Chairman is to manage the board and run the board meetings. Most voters have never attended a County Board meeting and may not have an opinion regarding those specific leadership capabilities. In my opinion, the 24 board members should determine who is best suited for that job. Additionally, a popularly-elected chairmanship would increase, not decrease, the political stakes for the job. Anyone interested in the job would have to raise a substantial amount of money. I would expect such a campaign to cost more than $100,000. Talk about political patronage and being beholden to special interests – I fear these problems would increase if the Chairman was popularly elected. Lastly, I believe that a popularly-elected Chairman would become a stagnant position. As much as voters complain about politicians staying in office too long, they re-elect the incumbent. Once in, the Chairman would likely be re-elected year after year.

Sarah Jansen

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?

Donald Kopsell

The McHenry County Board has the responsibility to appoint a County Mental Health Board. The Mental Health Board is an independent and objective board. The Mental Health Act requires the County Board to approve the Mental Health Board Budget that is prepared by the Mental Health Board. The County Board has no active role in the production of the Mental Health budget.

Joe Gottemoller

I was not on the board prior to 2013. In my opinion both the McHenry County Board and the Mental Health Board were unprepared for a declining economy and the state funding changes. Although the County Board appoints the members to and oversees the budget of the Mental Health Board, the County Board was content to allow the Mental Health to manage its own affairs. Then the funding changed. No longer would grants be handed out and the agencies free to spend them as they saw fit. Now agencies would have to demonstrate they provided services for the grant money they received. At the same time the economy went into a recession. No one was prepared for the impact of these changes. Two long time service providers failed. The Mental Health Board was powerless to save them. Since 2013 the County Board has taken a more active role and the majority of the Mental Health board has been changed.

Nancy Gonsiorek

I applaud the County Board for holding the line on property tax increases. A budget is a living document and I am sure that cost-cutting must continue.

Sarah Jansen

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?

Donald Kopsell

In November of 2002 the residents of McHenry County voted on a referendum for a tax increase to fund Valley Hi Nursing Home. The referendum passed with 53.35% of the vote in favor of funding Valley Hi. The decision to sell to a private entity or keep Valley Hi Nursing Home should be up to the voters of McHenry County not 24 board members.

Joe Gottemoller

I believe the County should continue to provide services to its seniors. Valley Hi Nursing home is one of the best services the County provides. Several years ago the citizens of McHenry County passed a referendum to fund the construction and operation of a new Valley Hi facility. It has taken several years but the current administration at the facility has actually generated a positive cash flow for the facility. So now that the citizens have funded all of the risk, there are those who would hand it over to private hands to reap the benefits. This is comparable to Chicago selling its parking meters. Parking meters were intended to pay for streets but Chicago decided to sell all of the future revenue and now has no revenue for streets. The nursing home is not intended to make a private owner a profit. It is intended to care for those senior citizens who need our help. If we sell off this asset the day will come when we are unable to care for those seniors who need it most.

Nancy Gonsiorek

I recall that taxpayers approved a referendum for the new Valley Hi facility, so our community favored this county-run institution. I believe that past problems with management of the operation have been resolved and it is currently run in an efficient manner. It is important to have such facilities especially with our aging population. At the current time, I support the continuation of Valley Hi as a county-run institution.

Sarah Jansen

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?

Donald Kopsell

Define and identify zoning for agritourism. This will give small business owners an opportunity to avoid the cost and difficulty of obtaining a conditional use permit for their business.

Joe Gottemoller

As Chairman of the Planning and Development Committee I have had the front row seat for revising the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The purpose of the UDO is to combine and simplify many of the county’s development ordinances from zoning, to subdivision and even signage. Most of these ordinances were created at different times by different people who may or may not have had the ability to see how these ordinances interacted. As a result, when someone comes to the county for a permit today they are often overwhelmed by the complexity of trying to comply with an encyclopedia of ordinances. Some of our work is as simple as putting all of the definitions in one place. The more important decisions are addressing the trends which have divided our community such as: Agritourism, A-2 zoning, Conditional Uses, Commercial Storage, Home Occupations, and Conservation Design. We have worked to strike a balance on all of these issues. The draft should be ready for public review in April. Once we have addressed any additional public concerns the UDO will be brought before the County Board for final approval.

Nancy Gonsiorek

The Stormwater Ordinance has been very challenging for some homeowners and businesses with respect to time and expense. Agri-tourism can be a win-win for our business climate but will require special consideration. Home businesses are becoming more prevalent and also will require special consideration. I applaud much of the common-sense approach that has been taken by the current P&D committee.

Sarah Jansen

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?

Donald Kopsell

McHenry County has a healthy reserve and needs to keep its tax levy frozen in this economy. A review of county services and expenses can be done to see where we can use consolidation and reduction to reduce expenses.

Joe Gottemoller

The tax levy needs to remain frozen. We cannot let the government take unlimited amounts of tax money. Property taxes are based on a percentage of the value of property. When property goes down in value even if the government keeps the levy the same, the homeowner still pays a higher percentage of their home value in tax in order to generate the same amount of tax money. If we do not keep the levy frozen when property values are lower, it is only a matter of time before individuals are taxed out of their homes.

Nancy Gonsiorek

While the board must carefully consider all circumstances, I would like to see the levy frozen until property values begin to increase. One place the board can cut is to cease providing benefits such as insurance and pensions to County Board Members. While not a huge piece of the budget by any means, it is a good faith step by the board to show dedication to saving taxpayer dollars.

Sarah Jansen

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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