Lincolnshire resident Ann Maine, who hasn't faced an opponent in the general election since being easily elected to the Lake County Board in 2002, says her record of fiscal responsibility and availability to constituents speaks of for itself.
Democratic challenger Arlene Hickory, a nurse from Lake Bluff who is making her first run at public office, says protecting Lake County from privatizing resources, such as water, is a priority and says she would work for the increased involvement of citizens in government decisions.
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District 21 includes Riverwoods, Mettawa, Lincolnshire, Green Oaks and Bannockburn and portions of Deerfield, Gurnee, Lake Forest and Waukegan.
Maine, a senior lecturer in biology at Lake Forest College, was selected in late 2010 as president of the Lake County Forest Preserve District. Though employee cuts have saved $50 million in salaries since 2009, Maine said it's important to continue to look for ways to save money. County board members double as forest preserve commissioners, and together those governing bodies account for about 10 percent of an average tax bill.
Maine said both entities have been fiscally responsible and have maintained AAA bond rating. But she said the county in some respects is at the mercy of the state, which doesn't fully fund programs such as probation services and has taken away revenue in other areas like the inheritance tax.
"That just took $2.5 million out of our budget. That's one of our challenges," she said.
"That will make us look more and more at the bottom line. We've taken the low-hanging fruit."
Hickory said privatization of public services has become a "more powerful force," but some public entities that have dispensed with resources later ran into problems, such as a decrease in services and increased costs.
"I think water will be one of the privatization issues," she said.
Hickory said she has found that county residents don't have a lot of input or awareness of what's happening in government. She said "cloud-based" technologies could create more effective government by gathering and analyzing input and providing feedback, for example. But she did not cite specifics.
"I will have to explore that technology," she said. "Ï just have an overall sense."
Maine said people who live in unincorporated areas and rely on the county for services are "pretty attuned" to what's going on. Board members share information via an email newsletter, and both government bodies have made "great strides" in increasing transparency by posting agendas, documents, bills, budgets and minutes on their websites.
"Government is best when its citizens are informed, and that's something I've worked really hard at," Maine said.
Hickory also said she favors innovative approaches to issues like energy conservation and recycling and would bring attention to new economic models. She suggested the county establish a bank, for example.
"Like a credit union, it would be for everybody," she said.
"I'm not clear on the benefit," Maine said. "I don't know about it but I would be hesitant to start something like that."