At various times, the Kane County Board and its chairman have been at odds with the circuit court clerk, coroner, sheriff, county clerk, the health department executive director, county unions and even old political rivals. Some of those publicly fought battles have resulted in lawsuits where the taxpayers have funded legal representation for multiple elected officials.
Chairman candidates Sue Klinkhamer, a Democrat, and Chris Lauzen, a Republican, both believe they have the answer to pushing everyone to get along better.
"The biggest problem is mistrust," Klinkhamer said.
She believes the current county board does too much micromanaging rather than focusing on policy. And political jockeying has played too large a role in votes, she said.
"I believe in governing by consensus, not by intimidation," Klinkhamer said. "Too many board members have been promised chairmanships in exchange for support. This is a political machine; this is not a government. When everyone is in charge, then no one is in charge."
Klinkhamer believes politics can be taken out of the day-to-day operations of the county by hiring an administrator. The board would set policy. The administrator would carry out that policy. Money to pay an administrator can be found by cutting insurance benefits to board members and slashing the chairman's salary by 25 percent, Klinkhamer said.
But Lauzen said the job of the chairman is to be the county administrator.
"An administrator is a redundant layer of county government that puts employees between you and the chief executive whom you've hired to do a job," Lauzen said.
If hiring a competent administrator was the answer, then tax bills for local schools would be much lower, he said. The real answer is to change the tenor of debate.
"The root cause between the rancor of county officials and elected department heads is simply ego, and it's inexcusable," Lauzen said. "You have to have the strength to say I screwed up, I'm sorry. If I can satisfy a person's injured feelings with an apology rather than a public lawsuit, I think everyone is farther ahead. I don't have to have my way or the highway."