Will Sandy Hart be the Lake County Board's first Democratic chairwoman?

 
 
Updated 11/21/2018 6:15 PM
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  • Sandy Hart

    Sandy Hart

Support is growing among Lake County Board members to name Lake Bluff Democrat Sandy Hart the panel's next chairwoman.

If selected by a majority of the 21-person panel, Hart would be Lake County's first Democratic board leader.

She also would be the second chairwoman in the county's 179-year history. The first, Republican Suzi Schmidt, led the board from 2000 to 2010.

"I believe she has the votes," said Waukegan Democrat Diane Hewitt, who represents the board's 2nd District.

Several commissioners -- and some newly elected ones -- said they're backing Hart.

"Sandy Hart has shown phenomenal resilience fighting for ethics and transparency on the county board and would be an outstanding chairwoman," said commissioner-elect Adam Didech, a Buffalo Grove Democrat. "I think her progressive, good-government values exactly reflect the changes voters asked for this year."

Hart has support from across the political aisle, too. Veteran Republican Steve Carlson said he'll back her for chairwoman.

"The Democrats have the majority. The Democrats have the right to name the chair," said Carlson, who is from the Gurnee area. "Now is the time for both parties to unite for the benefit of this county. It's now or never."

Hart said she's looking forward to working with the new crop of board members but didn't confirm she'll seek the big chair.

"I'm sure the board will continue to work together as we always have in the best interest of our residents," Hart said.

Of course, some board members and members-elect aren't ready to declare whom they'll support for chairman.

"I'm open to hearing people out," said Hawthorn Woods Democrat Jessica Vealitzek, a newcomer who won the 10th District seat. "I'll be looking for someone who has a clear vision on ethics reform and transparency, and who will make those a priority."

Board member-elect Julie Simpson, a Vernon Hills Democrat who won the 18th District seat, hadn't committed to a candidate, either.

"I think Sandy, as well as many other board members, would be great leaders and are capable of moving the board forward," she said.

By electing Vealitzek, Simpson and seven other Democrats on Nov. 6, voters handed Democrats a 12-9 board majority. The final votes -- from provisional ballots and ballots that were mailed on time but arrived after Election Day -- were counted Tuesday.

The majority gives Democrats the political might to name the board's chairman and vice chairman, as well as the president and vice president of the Lake County Forest Preserve District board.

The forest board consists of the 21 county board members.

The newly elected board members will take office Dec. 3 in Waukegan. At that same meeting, commissioners will choose a chairman and vice chairman. They'll then reconvene as the forest board to elect a president and vice president.

Libertyville Republican Carol Calabresa, who lost a re-election bid, now serves as the board's interim chairwoman. She was named to that post after Chairman Aaron Lawlor began an extended leave of absence in late July.

Lawlor's departure coincided with treatment for an unspecified drug addition and a police investigation prompted by improper use of a county credit card. No charges have been filed as the investigation continues.

Hart first was elected to represent the county board's 13th District in 2012, and she was re-elected in 2016. She wasn't up for election this year.

Lincolnshire Republican Ann Maine has been president of the forest board since 2010. Maine won re-election to the county board and forest board this month, and on Wednesday she said wants another 2-year term as the forest board president. Maine's tenure as that group's leader would end, however, if she can't secure 11 votes.

A Democratic favorite for forest board president hasn't yet surfaced.

The vice chairman of the county board and the vice president of the forest board largely are ceremonial roles. They fill in as leader if the chairman or president is absent, as Calabresa has done for Lawlor.

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