Maybe it’s the inherent bell curve nature of this existence, but it seems like, within every body of local elected officials, there’s always one who’s willing to take the whole thing off the rails. And much like Chaos Theory, it applies to every political level from those lowly library boards right on up to county offices.
And we pay more attention to those folks because they’re kind of entertaining and it reinforces our preconditioned belief that all politicians have descended from a lower life form. The problem is, then we tend to ignore those who simply do their job.
For an all too obvious reason, this is especially true of Kane County right now. But if you take the time to peer past the obvious, you’ll quickly realize just how good we have it out here.
So excluding the Chairman’s office, which is an entirely different beast, let’s take a closer look at our county-wide elected officials:
1. The Sheriff
It’s difficult to get Kane County Democrats to come to a consensus and, historically, it’s even harder to get the Republicans to see eye to eye. But the one thing both sides readily agree upon is that they love the Sheriff.
Sadly, his tenure is about to end, but during the past eight years Pat Perez took the most difficult county office, returned it to a firm footing, and set it up for smoother sailing for years to come.
He’s proven to be more fiscally conservative than many Republicans and, to accomplish that goal, he had to gain the respect of three separate unions at a time when the economy made salary negotiations far more treacherous.
Perez has never played favorites, nor has he used his office to punish his enemies. No matter what the initiative, he always moves forward with the best interest of the Sheriff’s office and his constituents in mind.
The bottom line here is, whenever Republicans and Democrats manage to agree on anything, it’s certainly worth noting.
2. The State’s Attorney
As Joe McMahon likes to say, this is the job he was meant to do and it shows.
Holding a group of generally underpaid and overworked prosecutors together is never an easy task. Then you have to consistently consider that, not only are you responsible for enforcing those county statutes, but you’re also the attorney for each and every elected official. And they’re not always the most rational people on the planet.
Then, to consistently display a level of calm certitude when one simple case of human error can make a life or death difference, is something very few politicians manage to pull off.
But what I like best about our State’s Attorney is that he clearly believes in the always imminent possibility of redemption. At a time when it’s politically expedient to take a “throw away the key attitude,” whether it’s drug court or a student sexting issue, he and his staff never forget that they’re dealing with frail human beings.
There’s a good reason Joe McMahon never has a primary election opponent.
3. The Circuit Clerk
Tom Hartwell is yet another example of a politician who set his sights on solely serving the public. He came into an office with its own set of challenges and he’s done nothing more than silently go about setting that ship straight.
He came in $1.1 million under budget this year, he’s become an integral part of the success of the new court data system, and he navigates that potential citizen – state’s attorney – judiciary minefield with a great deal of skill and tact.
Much like our two previous contenders, I can’t think of a better person to fill these shoes than Tom.
4. The Treasurer
When was the last time you heard anything about Dave Rickert? Considering the press’s propensity to print only the negative, that’s a really good sign.
And let me tell ya, taking a property tax check right out of a citizen’s right hand is no walk in the park. The Treasurer’s office can’t afford to make a simple mathematical mistake either, because then they will write about you!
Rickert always stays above the political fray and simply does a good job.
5. The Chief Judge
Or as I like to call her, the good Judge Judy. I realize this is not an elected position, but it’s important to note that the efforts of a good chief judge can have far ranging results.
Whether it’s coming to the budgetary rescue like last year, coming up with a Kane County foreclosure mediation program, or simply staying a step ahead of those potential pitfalls, Judge Brawka does an excellent job.
Just like the State’s Attorney, the Judge is another example of a public official who, despite wielding a great deal of power, understands the notion of balance. She knows that the folks winding their way through the court system generally got there out of some sense of desperation.
6. The County Clerk
Running one election in a county the size of Kane is a daunting proposition. But when you consider those ever evolving election statutes, doing it year after year without any serious issues takes real foresight and skill.
And Kane County’s model early voting program makes casting a ballot easier than it’s ever been.
Jack Cunningham consistently comes in with the lowest per capita budget of all the collar county clerks, he insists that anyone who enters the Clerk’s office be treated with respect, and he hosts a monthly elected officials’ luncheon that keeps everybody talking.
Now, I’m not purposely giving Auditor Terry Hunt or Recorder Sandy Wegman the short shrift here, but we’ve already gone a little long and, suffice it to say, they’ve both proven to be exemplary public servants as well.
Again, if you don’t hear anything about them…
So while it’s fashionable to pile on politicians and we tend to focus on those who actually do deserve our scorn, it’s equally important to note that, politically, we actually have it pretty good out here in Kane County.