Four candidates vie for three Lake in the Hills village trustee seats, race for village president uncontested
Four candidates -- three incumbents and one not-so-new newcomer -- are running for three open seats on the Lake in the Hills Village Board while another trustee, Ray Bogdanowski, is set to become the next village president as he runs an uncontested race.
Village trustees Robert "Bob" Huckins, Stephen Harlfinger and William "Bill" Dustin are all running for reelection in the April 6 municipal election, but former Village President Paul Mulcahy has made his return to local politics to challenge them after four years away.
"They haven't really done much of anything for four years. There's no strategic plan. There's no economic development plan. There's no vision of what the village should be in the future," Mulcahy said last week. "I think I can help and I've said it every time I've run for an office, but I'm the best candidate of the four of us."
Dustin and Huckins pointed to the village's decision to relax restrictions on outdoor dining and waive late fees on water and sewer bills during the pandemic as two recent accomplishments, as well as bringing the first marijuana dispensary to Lake in the Hills, which all four trustee candidates agreed is good for taxpayers.
Mulcahy served the village in various capacities from 1997 to 2017 and was village president from 2013 to 2017 when he lost to the village's current president, Russ Ruzanski, after he was embroiled in controversy surrounding domestic battery charges brought against him in November 2016.
Mulcahy was charged with seven counts of domestic battery, including reports he dragged his then-girlfriend down a flight of stairs, according to reporting by the Northwest Herald. The charges stemmed from one night on Nov. 6 when he had an argument the girlfriend, who he said refused to leave his home.
Ultimately, Mulcahy was convicted on two misdemeanor domestic battery charges, acquitted on the other five, and sentenced to one year of conditional discharge.
"I've got a great deal of remorse over that whole thing," Mulcahy said last week. "I got myself in a terrible relationship and it all built to a head and I should have handled it completely differently. But I'm remorseful and contrite about it and I don't think it has anything to do with the job I did."
"That's my past, it's beyond me, and nothing like that will ever happen ever again," he said.
Before becoming village president in 2013, Mulcahy was chairman of the planning and zoning commission and a village trustee, he said. He and his late wife founded the village's Summer Sunset Festival.
His opponents -- Dustin, Huckins and Harlfinger -- also boast long histories of service to the village of Lake in the Hills.
Dustin also served on the village's planning and zoning commission before being elected as a village trustee in 2017, according to the village's website. He is a member of the Lake in the Hills American Legion and served three terms as president of the Lake in the Hills Rotary Club, Dustin said in a written statement.
"I believe I make a difference by serving the community I live in and want to continue doing so for the benefit of the people who live here," he said.
If elected, his priorities would be to keep taxes flat while maintaining a balanced budget and hopes to raise business tax revenue by supporting new and existing businesses in the community, Dustin said.
Huckins has been a village trustee since 2008 and served on the village's business relations commission, planning and zoning commission, and parks and recreation commission, he said in a written statement. He also is a retired member of the U.S. Army.
He said he his running for reelection to "serve the residents and businesses" after a particularly challenging year. Maintaining a flat tax levy is one way to do this, but the village board should also continue to pursue ordinances that help residents and businesses succeed in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Huckins said.
Harlfinger was first elected to the board of trustees in 2001 and has lived in the village for most of his life, according to the village's website. He also served in the U.S. Army and is a disabled veteran.
In a written statement, Harlfinger said the time he has spent in various parts of the village after growing up here has given him "a clear understanding on how each neighborhood is unique, and what their expectations are for what the village provides to them."
Harlfinger said he would use his professional background to continue pushing for more commercial and industrial development in the area, which he said is one way to bring more revenue to the village at a much-needed time.
Village President candidate Ray Bogdanowski made similar remarks, saying that "being fiscally responsible and exploring revenue opportunities that do not put the burden on the residents" is especially important right now.
Mulcahy said he thinks the village needs to understand the vision it is striving for before the board of trustees can effectively plot the road to getting there, he said.
"I can't say how important things like an economic development plan and a strategic plan are," he said. "We ought to be ... setting goals for the village's future."
He also hopes to boost support of the village's parks department and look into bringing more infrastructure into the village's underdeveloped areas, Mulcahy said.
After serving one term, current Village President Russ Ruzanski decided not to run for reelection.
Bogdanowski said he decided to step up to the plate to run because, after 20 years, he had decided his time as a village trustee would end with his current term but felt he still had more to offer.
"The opportunity to facilitate with the village board, to make informed decisions for the village and its residents has been a goal of mine throughout my tenure," Bogdanowski said in a written statement. "I am optimistic about the future and believe that it's our responsibility as leaders to define, implement and maintain the vision of our residents and village staff."
Bogdanowski said he hopes to collaborate with other local governmental entities through the village's involvement in the McHenry County Council of Governments, which recently entered into a partnership with McHenry County government to identify areas where services can be shared to cut costs.
"We all know that dealing with government agencies can include a lot of red tape -- people ask questions and don't get answers," he said. "My goal on a day-to-day basis is to be readily available to find the answers to people's questions and concerns."