Editorial: Deborah Wilson and the second-guessing she provokes

 
Updated 3/23/2019 2:23 PM
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  • Deborah Wilson, candidate for the Wheeling trustee, brings attention to a controversy in this image taken at a village board meeting in October 2017.

    Deborah Wilson, candidate for the Wheeling trustee, brings attention to a controversy in this image taken at a village board meeting in October 2017. Edgar County Watchdogs/Kevin Dujan

We evaluate hundreds of candidates during every election and offer scores of endorsements.

We arrive at most of our recommendations with certainty and arrive at some only after a degree of hand-wringing. We're probably not unlike most voters as far as that's concerned.

Then, there are the occasional few endorsements we second-guess. It's not that we wish we had them to do over, but we at least find ourselves debating in our heads whether we should be wishing that.

Let us reflect today on one of those we reluctantly passed over in the April 2 elections: Deborah Wilson.

She's not the only one who falls into this category. We wonder also about Prospect Heights Mayor Nick Helmer, Mount Prospect Trustee Paul Wm. Hoefert, school board candidate Mark Cramer in Schaumburg-Palatine High School District 211, to name a few. All strong candidates in one way or another; all passed over for endorsement.

Consider Wilson's case: She is a near-lifelong resident of Wheeling, a proud graduate of Wheeling High School, a former elementary schoolteacher. In recent years she has been what you'd call a rabble-rouser. Whether you think that's good or bad depends mainly on the side of the rousing you sit. The village manager of Wheeling is no fan; then again, Wilson is no fan of the village manager, either.

Now in her early 50s, and after several years of recent exposure to village hall, Wilson has decided to run for village trustee. That she has a passion for cleaning up local government in Wheeling there is no doubt. That it needs cleaning up, well, there isn't a lot of doubt about that, either.

She describes herself as "the local watchdog" and it's tremendously accurate. She submits scores of Freedom of Information Act requests for records. She pours through financials. She follows up on hunches. She does the legwork, and it has made an impact. Just one of many examples: Former Village President Dean Argiris was booted out of office largely because of Wilson's watchdogging.

Make no mistake about this: We are greatly sympathetic to her candidacy. Or about this: We think she has contributed greatly to the public good in Wheeling.

We refrained from endorsing her, quite frankly, out of concern whether she gets too wrapped up in her cynicism about village government.

In 2017, village officials said responding to the volume of her public records requests cost more than $144,000. The Illinois Attorney General's office received 13 complaints from her charging possible violations of the Open Meetings Act. Only one was found to be valid.

We, and ultimately the voters in Wheeling, must balance that against all the good Wilson's efforts have undeniably wrought. It's enough to make any of us second-guess, though of course if we chose differently, we'd have different reasons to question ourselves. Finding such balance is often difficult in so many suburban towns where multiple talented, dedicated and experienced candidates step up and offer to serve.

On that point, we can be thankful for decisions that are so hard.

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