David Rickert: Candidate profile, Kane County Board Chair
With two-term Kane County Board Chair Christopher Lauzen choosing not to seek another term this year, voters will choose Nov. 3 between a former school board leader and the county's longtime treasurer to replace him. Corinne Pierog, a Democrat from Batavia who previously served on the St. Charles Unit District 303 school board, is facing David Rickert, a Republican from Elgin who in 2018 was elected to his sixth term as treasurer.
Q: The new chairman will take over during a time of unprecedented budget challenges. What is your plan to balance the budget? What will your spending priorities be?
A: As a certified public accountant with over 20 years of experience working for the county, I have the knowledge necessary to lead during this financial challenge. Kane County currently faces a 14.1 million dollar budget deficit due to revenue shortfalls and additional expenses related to COVID-19. Our first priority is to address the health concerns of our citizens. The Health Department, Sheriff and Emergency Management need to receive necessary supplies in our effort to battle COVID-19. Our second priority is to ensure the 92.9 million dollars in CARES Act Funds we received from the Federal government are promptly distributed to our municipal partners and to the many small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose resources are stretched to the limit. As county treasurer, I am already providing investment, disbursement and other financial expertise to the CARES Act Allocation Committee. Fortunately, Kane County is financially sound with a AA+ bond rating and cash reserve funds already set aside. Due to the financial hardship currently facing our citizens, I would vigorously oppose any property tax rate increase in 2021.
Q: What role do you believe the chairman has in the day-to-day operations of the county?
A: The chairman serves as the chief executive officer of the county board, supervising the implementation of the board's policies and programs. The chairman also chairs county board meetings, prepares the agenda, schedules meetings of the board, and oversees the preparation of the proposed annual budget. A successful chairman should have extensive knowledge of county operations, strong working relationships with key board members and department heads, and thorough knowledge of employee management, budgeting and strategic planning. I have successfully served as county treasurer for the past twenty-one years. By length of service, I am the senior countywide official. I have a bachelor's degree in finance from Northern Illinois University and a master's degree in accounting from Roosevelt University. I have a proven track record of accomplishment and a solid reputation for working constructively with staff, board members, department heads and elected officials. I have also attended approximately 1,200 board and committee meetings during my career. In addition, I have authored over 80 resolutions passed by the county board.
Q: What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A: The county has a responsibility to ensure that first responders have the necessary tools available to combat COVID-19. This includes staff, technical assistance, personal protective equipment and other logistical support. The County also needs to coordinate relief efforts with local government and other social relief providers. These efforts are already taking place. In addition, information needs to continue to be regularly communicated in a clear and concise manner to media outlets and the public. COVID-19 relief efforts will place a significant strain on county financial resources. Budgeting and cash flow management will be critical to ensure we have funding available when and where it can do the most good. Proper financial planning prepares for emergencies and the county is well positioned to meet our responsibilities. Fiscal year 2021 will present significant budget challenges. As treasurer, I am already supplying investment and cash flow projection information to the county finance committee. In addition, we are shortening our investment durations in order to supply the liquidity necessary to meet these obligations.
Q: The county board recently approved a resolution calling on all local police departments to pursue reform efforts. Does the county need to act to reform the policing practices and jail operations of the sheriff's department? If so, what role should the chairman play in those efforts?
A: I served in the military police corps both in the Army and Army Reserve. In addition to law enforcement training and use of force protocols, we also had extensive training on de-escalation of confrontational situations. We were held to a very strict code of professional conduct. All contact with the public was professional and conducted with the utmost respect. I have had the opportunity to work with Sheriff Hain, and I find him proactive in improving conditions at the jail and providing training to his staff that will enhance their ability to do their job. As chairman, my role would be to support Sheriff Hain with these reform efforts. Ensuring properly trained law enforcement personal reduces our exposure to liability and improves our ability to serve the public.
Q: The county board will undergo redistricting following the 2020 Census. What is the most fair process? Do you support the current number of seats on the board?
A: I would make the following recommendation to the county board. A five member committee of county board members be established to make map recommendations to the full county board. This committee would consist of three members of the majority party and two members from the minority party. In the event the board is evenly split between parties, then a lottery draw for a fifth seat on the committee would be conducted. The committee would be directed to prepare a map with the following goals: Districts would be concentric and follow precinct and political boundaries where possible. Geographic as well as population demographics would be given priority. I would also request the board consider what number of members would be necessary to meet all their obligations in the most efficient manner possible. I believe an efficient board can operate with 20 members.