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updated: 1/18/2013 5:36 PM

McHenry County Board keeps power to pick chairman

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McHenry County Board members decided Friday in an 11-9 vote to continue picking their own chairman instead of leaving it up to the public.

Earlier this week, 11 county board members organized a special meeting to see whether there was enough support to put the issue to referendum in April.

Michael Walkup, a new board member representing District 3, campaigned on the idea of letting the public pick the county chairman. He said it was important to keep things fresh and to ensure the county chairman was accountable to the public.

District 1 board member Nick Chirikos said creating another elected position would mean candidates could have up to a year to run sometimes costly campaigns. He said candidates could be beholden to corporate and wealthy donors, and that the eventual chairman would have to balance county duties with the need to raise money for re-election.

The public rejected a referendum in November that would have allowed the people to elect a county board executive.

"This may be seen as a mandate to maintain the stability and focus of this body, rather than to burden the voters with yet another complicated electoral decision," Chirikos said.

Walkup says the issue may be gone for now, but it's far from over.

"If we don't do something to get it on the election cycle for 2014, then someone may go out and get the 500 signatures to put the county executive (issue) on the ballot," Walkup said.

"What we need to do is develop some other system for appointing the committees that isn't the prerogative of the chair."

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