Greg Schwarze: Candidate profile, DuPage County Board District 6
Democrat Greg Schwarze of Carol Stream is challenging Republican incumbent Robert "Bob" Larsen of Wheaton for the DuPage County District 6 board seat in the Nov. 3 general election.
Schwarze, a Carol Stream firefighter/paramedic, has served as Carol Stream Village Trustee since 2007. He has been a Wayne Township precinct committeeman since 2016 and Bloomingdale Township precinct committeeman from 2009-13.
To explore his campaign website, visit gregschwarze.com.
The district covers all or parts of Bartlett, Hanover Park, Carol Stream, West Chicago, Wayne, Roselle, Bloomingdale, Glendale Heights, Wheaton, Winfield, Naperville, Warrenville, Aurora and St. Charles.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates a series of questions. Here are Schwarze's responses.
Q: What have we learned as a county from the COVID-19 pandemic and what changes should be made looking forward as a result?
A: I am glad the county board has taken the pandemic seriously. As a firefighter/paramedic, I have seen up close and personal, the horrific effects COVID has had on our residents. Wearing masks and social distancing should not be partisan issues. The pandemic has harmed our residents in so many ways, from illness and death to mental health problems stemming from social isolation and reduced access to community resources, as well as economic hardships due to job losses.
We need to protect our residents by putting systems in place to ensure ongoing support for all. This includes taking care of our most vulnerable populations, our senior citizens and low-income families.
In addition to providing PPE to these groups, we need to provide financial assistance; open up additional mental health, addiction and community service hotlines; ensure the safety of our front-line health care and essential workers; help parents find affordable child care so they don't have to quit their jobs to home-school their children; continue offering grants to small businesses; extend property tax deadlines to help the unemployed stay afloat; and ensure all residents know the resources available to them.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A: I am running for County Board District 6 for the first time because it's so important to give back to this wonderful community that gives so much to me and my family.
I've spent most of my adult life as a passionate public servant. I've served as a Rotarian and in the Lions Club. I've coached my daughters in youth sports and taught Sunday school. I am serving in my 27th year as a local firefighter/paramedic, and I also serve as the public education coordinator of the fire district.
And I'm in my fourth term as a Carol Stream Village Trustee. It's in these roles that I've seen firsthand the challenges our residents face on a daily basis -- from senior health and living issues to the front-line effects of the opioid crisis, to the struggle of working-class families trying to make ends meet.
I will be a strong union and working-class voice on the board.
I will fight for our seniors and bring a different perspective in fighting the opioid crisis.
I will use my 14-year experience as a village trustee to make fiscally smart decisions in fighting for those who are struggling economically due to the COVID pandemic.
Q: If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A: As a challenger, I will bring an empathetic and compassionate voice that represents everyone in our county. I will be the voice of that senior citizen who can't live without her Meals on Wheels delivery. I will be the voice of that mom who has seen, not one, but both of her sons die due to opioid overdose. I will be the voice of the parent who was laid off due to COVID and is worried about keeping a roof over his family's head. I will be the voice of the high school senior who is fearful about the state of our environment.
Q: Describe your position regarding the allocation of resources in the recorder of deeds' office. Are personnel allocated as they should be? Are there capital expense or other budgetary items that the office must address, and, if so, how do you propose to address them?
A: The county board had been discussing consolidation of the recorder's office with that of the county clerk as a way to cut costs, and planned to put this merger idea out as a referendum. However, just recently, the county board abandoned those plans to have voters decide. This was based on an independent study, which showed that the savings would not be as prominent as originally expected.
With that being said, I am a big believer in keeping this decision in the hands of the voters. The county board will need to continue monitoring the costs associated with keeping the recorder's office independent and should revisit the merger idea again next year.
Q: Name one concrete program you'll create or personnel move you'll make to improve efficiency in the office or make it more successful. Explain how it will be funded and how you will overcome any obstacles to initiating it.
A: With the senior population aged 65 and older expected to double over the next three decades, and the population over 80 actually tripling, it is very important to be proactive with our senior social services programs to be sure the county is able to keep up with the expected demand of our most vulnerable residents. And while the majority of the senior budget is funded by grants, the monies budgeted by the board are essential and will absolutely need to be increased as the senior population expands.
One way to cover the expected costs could be realized by lowering the senior care staff turnover rate. Since these are typically lower paying jobs, there is a lot of turnover and with this, comes constant training costs and overtime. Increasing wages will increase job retention and curtail the cost of continued retraining of new employees and in the long term, save thousands of dollars, as well as improve services.
Q: Describe your position on transparency in the office and the ease of access to records by the public. If you believe improvements are needed, what are they and how would you go about achieving them?
A: Overall, I believe the county does a good job at transparency. Many public records can be found online. But there is always room for improvement. Transparency in the appointment process to county agencies could be improved. Having county-appointed agency positions and applications clearly indicated on the homepage of the website would be a benefit.
Also, those appointed positions that have a stipend should be posted not only on the homepage, but also on the job board. The county could post online all benefits including pension, health care, car stipend, insurance opt-out incentive, and travel expenses received by all county elected officials.