Protecting rural character, financial management keys for Mettawa mayor hopefuls
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With Mayor Jess Ray not seeking re-election, the campaign for the top spot in tiny Mettawa features two candidates who differ in the level of community experience but agree on several points involving village business.
Village Trustee Jeffrey Clark, who served on the plan commission for about 10 years before being elected in 2011 to a four-year term on the village board faces Casey Urlacher, who has no experience in politics and is making his first run for elected office.
Clark has lived in Mettawa since 1991. He is retired from the construction industry publishing field and for several years has been director of the Waukegan Regional Airshow. He also serves as public safety commissioner and manages the administrative functions of village security.
Urlacher played arena football for three years until 2006. He said he bought a house in the village in 2004 and works in construction.
The following information was gathered from candidate responses to a Daily Herald questionnaire and from interviews. Clark was interviewed in person and Urlacher by phone.
Urlacher, the brother of Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, said he is running because he thought Clark would be unopposed and wanted to give voters a choice. He said he admires Ray, who asked him "in a roundabout way" to seek the office.
He said transparency would be the cornerstone of his administration, and he was committed to keeping residents fully informed and seeking their input.
"My whole life has been a collaborative effort of being a team player," he said.
Clark, who would keep his seat on the board if he lost the mayor's race, said he is running because there is a need to be filled. He said his top priorities are to have an open, team-based approach to management of village business.
"Jess (Ray) is not one that has embraced a team atmosphere on the village board," according to Clark.
While village finances are "very sound," providing better financial management is another goal, said Clark, who advocates a "refreshed look at our finances."
Urlacher said the village is on "very sound financial footing" and he would focus on living within the means of what taxpayers provide.
"What's important to me is what a mayor can do to hold the line," he said.
Both agreed the mayor should not be a paid position and advocated the possibility of a village manager. Mettawa had a contracted administrator for about a year until August 2011.
"I would like to bring that back into play. We can have consultants, we can have independent contractors, we can have part-time employees that have terrific value," Clark said.
"Hiring a village manager would be good," Urlacher said, adding there are experienced, retiring managers who would like to work a few hours a week.
Both also favor the village having a municipal facility.
"I am for a village hall," Urlacher said. "I think we have the means to do it. What they call us is a paper village."
Clark was a proponent of an unsuccessful idea to convert the former Korhumel home to a village hall.
"We need a home," he said.
Both said they were committed to protecting open space and preserving the village's rural character by buying property if necessary.
Costco, which opened a few years ago, divided the community but has provided substantial revenue. Neither Clark or Urlacher favored further retail development.
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