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Article updated: 4/17/2013 3:09 PM

O'Kelly won't quit county post despite township win

Diana O'Kelly

Diana O'Kelly

 
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Veteran Lake County Board member Diana O'Kelly on Wednesday said she won't resign that post once she's sworn in as Fremont Township's supervisor in May.

O'Kelly, a Mundelein-area Republican, said she'll finish her two-year county term and let voters choose her successor. She promised not to accept a salary for the remainder of her county board service.

She also won't accept pay for her service on the Lake County Forest Preserve District board, which consists of the 21 county commissioners.

If O'Kelly were to resign before her term ends in December 2014, the county board would appoint her replacement in the 10th District.

O'Kelly was elected township supervisor last week, defeating Glenn M. Garamoni. Incumbent Pete Tekampe didn't seek re-election.

When campaigning door-to-door for the township post in recent months, O'Kelly said the residents she met wanted the power to elect their county representative.

"(I'm going to) let the people in District 10 pick their own replacement, rather than having the county board go through the political process of picking it for them," O'Kelly said.

O'Kelly expects to be sworn in May 20, along with the other victorious township candidates.

State law doesn't prohibit a township supervisor from also serving on a county board.

After O'Kelly announced her candidacy in December 2012, she told the Daily Herald she "will not double dip." On Wednesday, she clarified that remark by saying she meant she wouldn't take salaries for two elected offices.

O'Kelly earns $40,945 annually as a county board member. Forest board commissioners are paid an additional $3,000 annually.

The township job pays an estimated $65,872 a year, but that figure will increase to $67,189 after the May turnover.

Tekampe, the township boss since 1993. endorsed Garamoni in the race over O'Kelly. In December, he told the Daily Herald, "I don't support double dippers."

By law, the county agencies must issue paychecks to board members. However, they are free to return the money if they don't want to accept it.

That happened a few years ago when many county board members opted to reject planned pay raises because of the struggling economy.

O'Kelly has served on the county board since 1994. She's led the county board's public works and transportation committee for many years.

O'Kelly also led the committee that redrew the district boundaries in 2011 and reduced the board's members from 23 to 21.

She was elected to her latest county term this past November. She ran unopposed.

Letting voters elect her successor is "the fairest thing," O'Kelly said.

"I've served these people for 18 years. I think I owe it to them to let them pick (my) replacement," she said. "I heard that loud and clear from them."

In addition to their salaries, all county board members have access to personal expense accounts of $4,500 a year. Some use the cash, while others don't.

O'Kelly said she would still use that account to create mailers for residents or to cover other job-related expenses.

"I don't want to limit myself if the district needs to be informed on issues," she said.

O'Kelly won't be the only Mundelein-area politician serving in two offices at once.

State Rep. Ed Sullivan Jr. also is Fremont Township's assessor. Additionally, Tami Forman was elected last week to both the Fremont Township and Mundelein High School boards.

The practice is relatively uncommon across the Northwest suburbs, however.

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