Mary C. Krueger: 2021 candidate for Wheeling village board
Six candidates for three seats
Occupation: Executive assistant to the deputy general counsel at UL LLC
Civic involvement: Trustee for eight years, marketing director for Wheeling Helping Hands (NFP).
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: I choose "provide leadership even if unpopular" with a little "defer to state and federal authorities" thrown in. In Wheeling, I supported the relief we provided our restaurant and business community by way of waiving business and liquor license fees in 2020 as well as the 50% reduction we granted for 2021. We also mitigated outdoor food service in creative yet safe ways so restaurants had a real chance at survival -- all while adhering to the guidelines of the Restore Illinois plans submitted by the governor's office, ILDPH, CCDPH and CDC. Some may have felt these decisions were "giving away the farm" but I see it as investing in our business community in a time of crisis. I'd rather see them come back stronger than close their doors. Leadership helps in that effort.
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: Wheeling decided early on to mitigate the needs of the community while simultaneously protecting the employees that provide core services. We added additional, more intensified, cleanings to our janitorial service contract spanning all village buildings. We equipped our public buildings with hand sanitizing stations where appropriate, signage re: wearing masks and social distancing, encouraged our staff to communicate remotely as much as possible with residents and each other, and built (in house) plexiglass separators between each board member seat at the dais in the board room. We communicated with and encouraged the public how they can continue to engage with their village by electronic means and, if they had to meet in-person, an appointment was required. We halted all nonessential travel and training, we developed rotating/split-shift/remote working plans allowing for our offices to have at least 50% of staff on site to provide services to our residents and businesses. We reminded all village of Wheeling employees that their call to public service requires that we be present and available to serve at all times.
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 that the mitigations the village of Wheeling executed throughout the pandemic -- during each of the phases and tiers of the Restore Illinois guidelines -- should be a benchmark to other communities and, therefore, would not suggest additional safeguards/guidelines. We have an outstanding team of staff leaders who took each phase of this unprecedented public health crisis seriously as well as expeditiously in spite of the ever-changing mitigation instruction and climate.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: I am proud that the village of Wheeling never ceased providing services to the public, provided financial relief and safe accommodations for outdoor dining to our restaurants, among many other effective mitigations to manage our community during the pandemic of 2020 -- and still closed the 2020 books without a deficit. What we did do to reduce the burden to our taxpayers was approve a 0% levy for 2021. As much as I understand and supported the remedy, I do believe budgeting for 2022 will result in a levy discussion about adjusting for our portion of the diminished 2021 real estate tax revenue. I am a proponent for equal, reasonable and standard annual levy increases to account for the regular course of increased costs everyone faces every year. 2020 was not that kind of year ... but recovering possible losses from 2021 in 2022 (or, perhaps, spread out over a couple years) will need to be considered by the board.
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: The beauty of the village of Wheeling's five-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) is that it is addressed and reviewed annually so adjustments can be made before any item on it becomes a financial difficulty due to unforeseen economic conditions. The board approved the current CIP with Resolution 20-133 on Dec. 21, 2020. That said, the largest project for 2021 is the rebuilding of Fire Station 23. Since this project is already underway and paid for without issuing any debt/bond, it will not be delayed. The second largest project is our Water Main Replacement Program. This project is paramount for our ability to provide clean and safe water to all our residents and businesses; therefore, I can't justify it being delayed. As far as what could go on the "back burner," I am confident in our approved plan and trust our engineers will advise which projects should be eligible for deferment in the event of an unforeseen economic impact to our community.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: As I responded in Question 1, I am in the help our business community as much as we can within the guidelines of the state camp as opposed to the hinder their successful recovery and operations camp. Of course, if a business is operating in an unsafe manner that puts lives at risk, I would support enforcement and adjudication as it relates to our existing municipal code.
Q: 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?
A: I agree with the decisions made to permit this use in the village. There were robust deliberations by the board of trustees when we approved the ordinances for proper zoning and other requirements for this industry when the prospects were for the state's medical only pilot program as well as after the state approved recreational use back in July of 2019 (effective Jan. 1, 2020). My paramount concern with every petitioner who wished/wishes to bring this use to our community has always been safety, followed by appearance/image. I am consistent with my questions to petitioners regarding safety and security of this, virtually, cash business for its customers and employees.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: To take a positive recognition program already enacted by the village -- the George Heiber Citizenship Award -- to another level. I would like to see the village of Wheeling work closer with Community Consolidated School District 21 (of which six of 13 of their schools are within our village limits) and High School District 214 (Wheeling High School) in an effort to recognize and showcase the talented and accomplished students at our village board meetings throughout the school year. It is uplifting to a community when its youth (and their parents) are supported and honored for exceptional achievements. It also encourages them to be more involved members of their community. Especially post-pandemic, I think we need to find ways to uplift our kids so they come out of this strong, resilient and confident in their abilities.