Winfield United comes under attack at board meeting

Updated 3/18/2011 12:34 AM

A Winfield political group came under fire at a village board meeting Thursday for what residents say are divisive tactics that have split the town politically and made it "a joke" to other municipalities.

Winfield resident Randy Voss, who has lived in town for 22 years, said the six-year-old group, Winfield United, has been a drain on the town's unity since its creation.


"We have a plague that is devouring our lifestyle," Voss said. "The plague is Winfield United. We are all pawns and puppets to a smarmy group of activists and I'm sick of it. This is not a quiet little group of people organized to make a community better. They are a political action group, involved in mob-thinking, drone-type mentality, and it's dangerous."

Group officials said the attacks were unprovoked and that they show that the people most critical are the problem.

"Seems to me that some of the rants we have heard explains to people what is wrong with the village," said Craig Casino, a member of the group's board of directors. "It's not Winfield United."

The village is in the middle of a hotly contested campaign that has included calls of partisanship by village administration and attacks in a local paper launched by both sides of a political divide.

Winfield United has successfully backed the campaigns of four of the village's five trustees, as well as Village President Deb Birutis. In the April 5 election, it has endorsed two incumbents, Cliff Mortensen and Glenn VadeBonCoeur, and political newcomer Jim Hughes. They will face off against Tim Allen and Tony Reyes for three seats.

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One of Winfield United's major platforms has been a desire to keep commercial development from taking place along Roosevelt Road.

Winfield United member Jed Skillman said his viewpoint is based on what he was drawn to Winfield for in the first place.

"It's a competing view of the future of Winfield," he said. "Our view of Winfield is not as a shopping center, not as a retail center. We moved here from Cook County and the first thing we saw were the trees. The view of Winfield United, that's what we want. We all moved here for that. We want what we paid for."

During the meeting, several residents said the group has a closed-minded vision not accepting of any viewpoints other than its own. Skillman said listening to viewpoints he disagreed with was one of the things that led to the group.

"We were listening to them then, and that's why we threw them out," he said. "Our visions are incompatible."

Winfield United was created in 2005 and a Winfield United-backed candidate has not lost a campaign since. But 43-year resident Sean Conley said at the meeting -- which drew a standing-room only crowd that spilled into the village hall lobby -- that he has grown tired of the group and criticized recent tactics that have attacked the two candidates in the April 5 election that Winfield United did not endorse, Tony Reyes and Tim Allen.


"We have to understand, we all live here," he said. "This is our town. Where have we gotten off track? The things that used to divide us are the railroad tracks. Now, it's whether I'm with this group or that group. What have we gotten to?"

Meanwhile, Voss said Winfield has become a joke.

"Winfield United and their vision of Winfield is destroying us," he said. "Winfield United and some on the board call Winfield a gem in DuPage County. It is not a gem. It's a joke ... Our progress is stalled between four thriving communities and it's all because of a vision of Winfield United and the people they support."

Village President Birutis said after the meeting that she was disappointed with the comments that attacked the village. She said the more anger that makes its way through a community, the worse a community appears to other cities.

"I love Winfield," she said. "I don't think it's a joke. I have met mayors of other communities, county board members, local representatives and I have never heard those comments."