Lauzen gets his way on new leadership appointments
With buzz of a potential mutiny in the air, Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen successfully avoided walking the plank Tuesday in crafting county board leadership assignments that met approval by the majority of his crew.
But the appointment also showed the haves and have-nots of Lauzen's next term of office.
Before the meeting, a small bipartisan team of board members plotted to table the appointments indefinitely and/or propose their own plan for leadership positions if they didn't like Lauzen's picks. But Lauzen withheld his proposed appointments until just before the actual vote, blocking any real effort to organize a move against him. The board did vote to take an unprecedented 10-minute recess to contemplate Lauzen's plan before approving it 21 to 3.
Ascending the ranks are county board members like Republican John Martin. He is the new chairman of the board's judicial and public safety committee. The committee oversees the county departments that spend the vast majority of non-transportation tax dollars. Martin also retains a role on the county development committee where he can keep an eye on the pending redevelopment of the former Settler's Hill landfill.
Fellow Republican T.R. Smith will have the designation of busiest county board member. Lauzen appointed Smith to eight committees, more than any other board member. Smith will also retain his chairman position on the agriculture committee.
Republican Bill Lenert is not far behind Smith with duties on seven committees, including being chairman of the human services committee. Lenert is a longtime friend of Lauzen's with a relationship that dates back prior to either man serving in Kane County government.
Democrats in elevated positions include Deb Allan. She will serve as chairman of the administration committee as well as serve on five other committees. Brian Dahl is the only other Democrat on the board to be appointed to more than five committees.
In a somewhat unusual move, Lauzen named freshman county board member Penny Wegman to an immediate leadership position. As chairman of the energy and environmental committee, Wegman will be charged with shepherding Lauzen's plans to create a waste-to-fuel facility through the legal and regulatory hurdles that have blocked it from becoming a reality thus far. Lauzen shifted the care of that plan over to the county board after his efforts to hire an outside law firm to consult on the project were deemed an illegal use of taxpayer dollars.
Fellow freshman Democrat Barbara Hernandez also will have a leadership role. The assistant chief of staff for state lawmaker Linda Chapa LaVia, Hernandez will be co-chairwoman of the county board's legislative committee.
The appointments also showed which county board members are in Lauzen's political doghouse. Barbara Wojnicki and Mark Davoust are two of the longest-serving Republicans on the county board. However, they both lost their chairman roles in Lauzen's appointments. Lauzen also appointed them to only two committees, the least of any county board member besides John Hoscheit.
Davoust said he wasn't surprised by the downgrade. He was one of the most vocal critics of Lauzen's push for a raise and the hiring of the outside law firm without the permission of the board or state's attorney.
Hoscheit is also on two committees. However, will serve as chairman of the finance committee, which oversees the entire county budget. Hoscheit's peers also elected him to serve as the county's board's vice chairman, ending a two-term run by fellow Republican Drew Frasz.
"As the dean of the county board, who has the longest tenure, I do think he is the most respected member of the board," said Kurt Kojzarek, whom Lauzen had promoted behind the scenes to be the next vice chairman. "I can't think of a better person to be vice chair."