Lael Miller: 2021 candidate for East Dundee village president
City: East Dundee
Occupation: Self-employed antique shop and home decor co-owner
Civic involvement: 14 years of public service in local government
Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A. Leadership means that whatever you do, some decisions will be unpopular with some people. At the very beginning of this pandemic it became obvious that there was going to be very little actual assistance, and that the guidance was a moving target. I based my reactions on data from the CDC, NIH, John Hopkins, as well as other science based resources from the White House and others. While I disagreed with some of the guidance from the State, my number one priority is the health and safety of the residents and I would rather err on the side of caution.
Q. Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. I am not aware of any disruptions to service. We reacted swiftly and had a plan in place within the first week as to how we were to operate, and that has served us well. As a small town, residents are used to just stopping by Village Hall to chat or ask questions. We had to move to a call first, email, or let's do this over zoom, so that was a change that both residents and staff had to adjust to, but it was a necessary precaution.
We only have 8 people that work at Village Hall, so we can't really afford having several out due to illness or in quarantine.
Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A. I think this shows the need for an Emergency Preparedness Plan that is constantly revised.
Fortunately, ours worked. As a municipality, I'm not sure what other actions we could take.
I do believe this shows cracks at the County, State, and Federal levels as to how they coordinate services. I was on a million conference calls with all levels of government, but as I told my staff last March, assume we are on our own with no actual help. This was a national crisis, not an East Dundee crisis.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. I realized immediately that the first worst hit sector was going to be the bars and restaurants, so I extended the liquor license fees, allowed curbside pickup and delivery, and put a hold on water and sewer shut-off due to nonpayment. I also worked with owners to achieve outside space for service, and in some cases closed down streets and parking to achieve this. We also provided free PPE for any of our businesses that wanted it in the beginning when it was harder to find sources for.
Q. What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A. Roadwork, water and sewer are always the most important infrastructure that we need to maintain, and it is and always will be constant. These are paid for from a wide variety of sources, and we maintain reserves for long term projects. We have a few new roads going in this year as well, so I don't believe anything needs to be put on hold.
A. Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
Q. Our policy has been to notify the Kane County Health Dept if we see businesses that are clearly not in compliance, and it is their function and authority to work with them to try to gain compliance.
A. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
Q. Our board has approved recreational marijuana growing, distribution, sales, and other sectors.
A. I fully support that as long as each of these is located in the proper zoning, as does this current board.
Q. Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions with your village board or city council.
A. I see my job as two fold: As Mayor, my responsibility is to help residents and business owners and to remove the red tape and problems that they have, and to work with them to be successful. As Village President, my job is to chair Village meetings and to pass legislation to achieve the Village's goals and objectives. In doing so, I believe all Trustees need access to all of the information necessary to make an informed decisions and to vote their conscience. If you look at what East Dundee has accomplished during the last eight years I think I can make a strong case that my leadership has been effective.
People need to remember that for all that's wrong with the world, local government is really good. We are just residents that care about the Village, and this is public service.
Q. What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A. The thing I'm most proud of is that we've changed the culture of both the board and staff. Board meetings used to be long contentious shouting matches. While we may disagree on some issues, we can all agree to disagree and then go out for a beer. Additionally, our goal is to be the most business friendly Village to work with, and I think the results have shown that we have moved strongly in that direction. From an economic development perspective you can literally see the changes we've made all around us. Also, we are in the best financial shape we have been in many years. The future looks bright, and I feel that we need to continue in the direction we are heading. This has certainly been a year of once in a lifetime challenges, and I think experienced leadership is what will get us through this.
I believe that my performance shows that I have the best experience to continue to lead, and I would be honored to do so if chosen.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. One of the things on my wish list has been the connection of Piemonte Drive to Rte 72, and the connection of Christina Drive to Rte 68, but due to the costs involved, the Village has waited for development to occur that will allow the developer to bear the brunt of the costs.
What this does is allow access to vacant land for commercial development that could not occur without such access. Piemonte Drive is under construction now due to the Althofer Caterpiller project, and that has already led to another company looking to purchase land and build a building. This project led to 29 acres of land being annexed into the Village, and will create sales tax and property tax as well as good paying jobs. This means that businesses pay the lions share of the tax burden, which in turn means less increases to residential. I expect that the Christina Drive extension will do the same when that starts.