Lake County Board District 5 candidates cite public safety, mental health among priorities

An incumbent with extensive experience in local government is being challenged by a newcomer to countywide office to represent District 5 on the Lake County Board.

Republican J. Kevin Hunter, a retired firefighter/EMT and longtime sales professional who lives in Ingleside, is facing Democrat Sharon Smith-Terry, a Lake Villa resident and executive director of the Orthopaedic Research Society.

Both say their backgrounds translate well to the county board. District 5 covers all or parts of Antioch, Fox Lake and Lake Villa. County board members also serve as Lake County Forest Preserve District commissioners.

Hunter was appointed in July 2021 to replace retiring veteran board member Judy Martini. He served as a Fox Lake village trustee from 1997-2001, Grant Community High School board member from 2015-2018, and president of the Lake Region Sanitary District, 2017-2021.

He said he'll continue to focus on public safety.

"Having those real-life experiences allows me the opportunity to advance the public concerns for great quality public safety," he said. Hunter added that 40 years in sales and marketing "allows me to bring real-world solutions that work in small and large businesses into the people services industry called your local government."

Smith-Terry said her 30 years of business experience, encompassing operational efficiency, management and building relations with stakeholders, will translate to the county board.

She said she knows how to negotiate and compromise and would collaborate with the board to ensure issues like mental health, fiscal responsibility and environmental responsibility are addressed to improve the well-being of the county as a whole.

Hunter said stormwater management and taxes are continuing issues in the district.

"Nobody wants our taxes to go up. We want to live within our means. That's tremendously important," he said.

Hunter opposed a county ban on leaf burning, which took effect June 1, saying residents will pay more to have them removed. He said that 3,200 people opposed or asked for a compromise and that board members should listen to voters who elected them rather than acting on personal agendas.

He also voted against a 4-cent-per-gallon county gas tax. He said the dissolution of the Lakes Region Sanitary District saved taxpayers $150 to $200 per year.

Smith-Terry said her biggest concern is mental health. Addressing the opioid crisis and providing access to support are important, she added. "We need to find ways to help those individuals," she said. "Keeping people healthy in mind, body and soul is huge."

Managing the budget, environmental issues and infrastructure relating to flooding and traffic were other issues in District 5, she said.

Hunter said he would support asking voters whether they want to pay more in taxes to improve the forest preserve system or acquire property.

"I'm an absolute proponent of listening to the people," he said.

Smith-Terry didn't commit.

"I'm not sure yet," she said. "I want all the information in front of me of what the needs are around the community,"

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