New era begins as four Democrats take office on DuPage County Board
Democrats formally took control of the DuPage County Board at a brief -- but no less historic -- swearing-in ceremony Monday, marking the start of a new political era in the traditionally ruby-red Republican stronghold.
Four freshman Democrats officially began their terms to cement their party's first board majority since the Great Depression. Voters in last month's election also returned two veteran Republicans to their board seats.
The county's inauguration event normally would have been an occasion for more fanfare, but pandemic restrictions meant political observers had to witness the change in power virtually.
County judges administered the oath of office for the six county board members and five countywide elected officials during a ceremony attended only by close family members.
Democrats now hold 11 of the 18 seats on the county board, breaking the GOP's iron grip on the panel. The freshman Democrats are Amy Chavez, Paula Deacon Garcia, Lynn LaPlante and Greg Schwarze.
"We can look forward to a very productive session coming up," Chavez said. "This is a historic shift of power to the new Democratic majority and, with it, you'll see exceptional leadership and diverse experience coming to the DuPage County board room."
The newcomers all say the COVID-19 crisis will dominate their 2-year terms. Indeed, at their first board meeting Tuesday morning, the county health department will outline preparations for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
"I believe the top priority for all board members -- regardless of party affiliation -- is steering our constituents safely through this pandemic," LaPlante said ahead of the ceremony. "This public health emergency and the myriad ways it is affecting everyone takes precedence in terms of board business. I am honored to be able to help our community in this time of great need."
The county board has directed millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 relief funds to help support restaurants and small businesses. Another relief package proposed by congressional lawmakers is critical to efforts to continue helping businesses and the entire county with PPE supply, Schwarze said.
"And I also want to help our residents who need mental health and addiction services during these isolating times," he said.
Deacon Garcia said she's also looking forward to working on stormwater plans to address flooding problems and hopes the board leads discussions on the topic of racial justice.
"I am so honored to be a part of this historic change on the DuPage County Board," Deacon Garcia said. "Unfortunately due to COVID-19, the first year of my term will be dedicated to public safety and health, economic recovery and finding solutions to problems associated with COVID-19."
In his inauguration address, board Chairman Dan Cronin focused on bipartisanship and compromise.
"In order to meet the needs of our residents during this pandemic, we will need your best," the Elmhurst Republican said. "We'll need you to bring carefully crafted and thoughtfully considered ideas to the table. We'll ask for your most patient, cordial, team-oriented approach to creating solutions."
Cronin also highlighted a 2021 spending plan that keeps the average homeowner's property tax bill flat.
"In the middle of this COVID-19 pandemic, with other governments around us furloughing and laying off employees, facing deficits, we just passed a balanced budget," Cronin said.
The two GOP incumbents who began new terms on the county board are Don Puchalski and Brian Krajewski.
Countywide elected officials who were sworn into 4-year terms include State's Attorney Bob Berlin, Circuit Court Clerk Candice Adams, Auditor William "Bill" White, Coroner Richard Jorgensen and Recorder Kathleen Carrier.
Adams, White and Carrier are Democrats. White's predecessor, Bob Grogan, has filed for a partial recount of election results that left him just 75 votes shy of victory.