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updated: 3/20/2017 5:41 PM

Campton Hills trustee hopefuls differ on how to calm contentious board

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Candidates seeking one of three, 4-year terms as Campton Hills village trustee in next month's election offer differing approaches to improving the often-contentious atmosphere on the board.

Sniping and outright bickering often occur between trustees and President Harry Blecker at meetings.

Incumbents Mike Millett and Michael Tyrrell hope to win another term, while challengers Joe Carpenter, Nick Girka, Robert Santoro and Wendy White-Eagle are seeking to serve.

At least one new person will be elected to the board during the April 4 election. Trustee Jim McKelvie, who was appointed to fill a vacancy, has decided not to seek a full term.

All candidates agree dissent and discussion are part of a healthy village board, as long as its civil and not personal.

Millett, who is one of the original trustees since the village was incorporated 10 years ago, said disagreements are good but elected officials need to respect differences, too.

"Lead by example is always the best thing to start with," he said.

Tyrrell said relations on the board have stabilized and trustees are passionate about their views. The key, he said, is communication in a civil fashion, but that doesn't always happen.

"I think the board as a unit is pretty well aligned," Tyrrell said. "In the very end result, it must be to focus on what the citizens want."

Carpenter, who serves on the village's plan commission and is zoning board of appeals chairman, said the board as a whole must focus on what's best for the community and be respectful.

"In any healthy relationship, there's conflict," he said. "Learning how to compromise and come to some sort of resolution in a fair, respectful manner is really the best way to handle it."

Girka said his last two years serving as village clerk have given him a chance to observe how the board interacts and establish positive relationships with elected officials. He said he will work to keep communication lines open, be a voice of inclusion and a sounding board for healing.

"I think I can be a conduit to hopefully repair some of the damage that's been done," Girka said.

White-Eagle, who also serves on the plan commission, says it appears to her that most of the acrimony is between Blecker and trustees, and not necessarily trustees fighting among themselves. She said the board needs to focus on the work at hand and re-establish trust among members.

"The biggest thing I've seen is a lack of trust," White-Eagle said.

Santoro did not respond to requests for comment.

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