No more GOP majority on Lake County Board: Sandy Hart named its first Democratic leader

In the most significant symbol of the blue wave that swept over Lake County on Election Day, Sandy Hart has been named the county board's first Democratic leader.

Hart, of Lake Bluff, was elected chairwoman Monday during a special re-organizational meeting of the panel in Waukegan.

Voters sent enough Democrats to the board on Election Day to give the party a 12-9 majority, ending decades of Republican Party dominance. They also elected a Democratic sheriff, clerk and treasurer - all of whom participated in swearing-in ceremonies Monday.

The only Republican who won countywide office was veteran Regional Schools Superintendent Roycealee Wood, who ran unopposed.

With a majority on the board, Democrats had the political strength Monday to elect members of their party as 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 same 21 politicians.

Hart, a six-year board veteran, defeated Lake Forest Republican Mike Rummel 13-8 for the chairmanship. Republican Steve Carlson had pledged to support Hart and was the only member of his party to do so, joining all the Democrats in backing her.

Upon taking her seat on the dais at the front of the boardroom, Hart joked about the new position.

"It's a different view from up here," she said.

Remarking on the recent and historic election results and the shift to Democratic control of the board, Hart noted that "every election brings change." She expressed confidence board members "will work together as a team" for the people of Lake County.

"When there are differences of opinion, we will listen to understand, debate respectfully and seek common ground," Hart said.

Hart thanked her peers on the board and her family for their support. She also thanked the women who've mentored her in politics, including state Sen. Melinda Bush and former state Sen. Susan Garrett.

Minutes later, Waukegan Democrat Mary Ross Cunningham was named the board's vice chairwoman. She defeated Fox River Grove Republican Michael Danforth 12-9 for the post.

Hart is the second elected chairwoman in the county's 179-year history. The first, Republican Suzi Schmidt, led the board from 2000 to 2010.

Hart's predecessor, Libertyville Republican Carol Calabresa, had served as interim chairwoman since the summer. Calabresa ascended to that post because she was the board's vice president when Chairman Aaron Lawlor took an extended leave of absence to seek treatment for an unspecified drug addiction.

Lawlor, a Vernon Hills Republican, never returned to board duty and didn't seek re-election in November. He also is the subject of a state police investigation stemming from repeated improper use of a county credit card.

At the start of the meeting, Lake County Chief Judge Jay Ukena swore in the 14 county board members who were elected last month. Six of them are newcomers to the board, and six of the seven are Democrats.

Angelo Kyle, a Waukegan Democrat, rejoined the board after a six-year absence.

Round Lake Beach resident Dick Barr is the only Republican newcomer.

In a subsequent meeting Monday, the forest board elected Kyle as its president and Vernon Hills Democrat Julie Simpson as vice president.

Kyle unseated longtime President Ann Maine, a Lincolnshire Republican. Simpson defeated Antioch Republican Linda Pedersen.

The twin 11-10 votes were mostly along party lines. Waukegan Democrat Diane Hewitt sided with the Republicans in the minority both times.

Kyle served as forest preserve vice president from 2006 to 2008. After his ascent to the presidency Monday, Kyle said a government office is bigger than the officer. He also noted voters wanted change in November.

"And we're the change they were looking for," Kyle said.

Also Monday, Ukena swore in Treasurer Holly Kim and Clerk Robin O'Connor at the Lake County courthouse. Kim is a Mundelein Democrat and O'Connor is a Libertyville Democrat.

Sheriff John Idleburg, a Democrat from Zion, also was part of the ceremony, but his involvement was ceremonial. He took the oath of office privately Saturday.

• Daily Herald staff writers Lee Filas and Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.

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Lake County Board Vice Chairwoman Mary Ross Cunningham
Angelo Kyle, Waukegan Democrat and new president of the Lake County Forest Preserve District board.
Julie Simpson, a Vernon Hills Democrat and new vice president of the Lake County Forest Preserve District board.
Lake County Board member Sandy Hart was elected the panel's first Democratic chairwoman Monday.
  New Lake County Treasurer Holly Kim was sworn into office Monday. Lee Filas/
  New Lake County Clerk Robin O'Connor was sworn into office Monday. Lee Filas/
  New Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg took part in swearing-in ceremonies Monday. He officially assumed office Saturday. Lee Filas/
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