Water district candidates spar over tenure

A Republican running for a seat on the North Shore Water Reclamation District board says his Democratic rival has been on the panel for too long.

But the incumbent says his experience benefits the district's customers.

Republican Ken Arnold of Gurnee is challenging Democrat Stephen Drew of Waukegan to represent the district's 2nd Ward.

Drew has held the post since 2002. Arnold is a conservative activist and two-time congressional candidate who has never held public office.

The water district handles sewer services for more than 250,000 people in eastern Lake County. The 2nd Ward includes parts of Waukegan and Gurnee. Arnold and Drew are running for a 4-year term.

Drew's tenure on the board was among the issues the candidates discussed in separate interviews with the Daily Herald.

Arnold also completed a Daily Herald candidate questionnaire. Drew did not.

Arnold slammed Drew for sitting on the board for nearly 16 years, saying that's "far too long." In fact, Drew was elected in 2002 and has been on the board for less than 14 years.

Arnold also erred when, while complaining about political offices that seemingly are passed "from generation to generation," he said Drew's father once served on the water board. He didn't.

Drew's father, also named Stephen, was a teacher and coach at Waukegan High School. It was Drew's uncle, Bernie, who served on the water board in the 1980s and 1990s.

When asked about his tenure on the board, Drew said his experience is good for voters and the district.

Drew said he and the other board members have helped to reduce water rates to pre-1988 levels and are running the district without incurring debt.

The board, Drew said, "is a responsible group of people."

Arnold disagreed, saying the board has been responsible for "less than stellar business management." He cited the purchase of some faulty waste-treatment equipment at the district's $40 million plant in Zion as an example.

Drew responded by saying that purchase was made before any of the current board members were elected.

"We more or less inherited that facility," he said.

The faulty equipment was dismantled, Drew said. The remaining machinery in the plant works fine.