Tom Wilbeck: Candidate profile, McHenry County Board District 1
Incumbent Republicans Tom Wilbeck of Barrington Hills and Yvonne M. Barnes of Cary face a challenge from Democrat Theresa Meshes of Fox River Grove for two seats on the McHenry County Board District 1 in the Nov. 3 general election.
Wilbeck, a retired financial services executive, served as a Seneca Township board trustee from 2001-2005 and a McHenry County College board trustee from 2013-2014.
District 1 represents Algonquin, Barrington Hills, Cary, Fox River Grove, Huntley, Lake in the Hills and Trout Lake.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Wilbeck's replies.
Q: What do you bring to the table that your opponent does not?
A: Experience of public service and successful business experience. I bring the necessities of honesty, integrity, and character. I am dedicated to represent my constituents and working collaboratively to get things done. I strive to always be prepared for the task at hand and take my representative responsibility very seriously.
Q: What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how do you propose tackling it on the county board?
A: Population exodus, which equates to higher property taxes. As the exodus continues, the people who are left carry a larger burden. We must continue to keep a sharp eye on expenses and work collaboratively with other taxing bodies to streamline and consolidate.
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: It's hurting individuals and businesses. Looking forward we should learn by the mistakes that have been made and don't let them happen again.
Q: Do you support a 10% salary reduction for McHenry County Board members? Why or why not? Are there other cuts to the budget you would pursue first?
A: I do not support this measure. The county board position salary has not changed in almost 10 years.
In order to attract good, professional people you need to fairly compensate them. I believe in the adage that "you get what you pay for."
We cut the board size down to 18 (12 would be optimum) which equates to savings. If we eliminate wasteful expenditures like lobbyists (which I opposed and still do) we would have actually saved taxpayers over $200K (more than 4 years of this proposed 10% cut in savings). We must look forward and be practical today for savings tomorrow.
For example, we can save money by improving purchasing policies and taking a look at 401ks to save on future pension costs.
Q: Should the McHenry County Jail keep its contract to house U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees?
Q: Should on-duty McHenry County sheriff's deputies wear body cameras?
A: Yes. I fully support this expenditure and said so recently as a member of the Law & Government committee. It will benefit the public and law enforcement. Transparency is always beneficial. The sheriff's department is currently exploring this capability.
Q: Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them. In particular in the suburbs, President Toni Preckwinkle has set a goal of eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. Do you agree with this approach? If so, how should the county go about it?
A: Spending and revenues must be reviewed annually and they must be balanced. The threat of decreased revenues due to the pandemic is relevant today.
The county needs to adapt and adjust its expenditures to not increase taxes. It may not be easy but it must be done. The Preckwinkle directive really doesn't pertain to the realities of McHenry County. I do support eliminating/consolidating taxing bodies. This state has more taxing bodies than any other state in the union. Efficiencies can always be accomplished. We must take action in this very important area.
Q: How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important.
A: The county does a good job related to transparency and access to records. The clerk, recorder, treasurer, and the court system has done an excellent job in this area. One of my primary objectives upon taking office 4 years ago was to broadcast board meetings to allow constituents to observe the workings of the board. This has been accomplished.
Q: What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
A: The county places a priority on automation and information technology. I have supported all of the technology requests presented to the board. We continually look to improve and I feel the county is a leader in this area.