McHenry County Board GOP challenger rips Democratic incumbent's priorities

A Republican candidate for the McHenry County Board hopes to unseat a Democratic incumbent who she said has seemed "very distracted" with things not relevant to the prosperity of the county.

Crystal Lake Republican Terri Greeno, who earned the second-highest vote total in June's Republican primary, criticized Kelli Wegener of Crystal Lake, who along with fellow incumbent Stephen Doherty, a McHenry Republican, is running to represent McHenry County's District 5 on the county board.

The district they're looking to represent includes parts of Cary, Holiday Hills, Lakemoor, McHenry, Oakwood Hills, Port Barrington and Prairie Grove. The board's districts were redrawn this past year, with officials also voting to transform the board's makeup by reducing it from six four-member districts to nine two-member districts.

Greeno, second to Doherty in the Republican primary, has criticized Wegener's attempt to end the county's contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After months of debate, the county board voted to keep the contract, although a state law ultimately killed the deal.

"[Wegener] becomes very distracted with things that are not of relevance to the well-being and the prosperity of this county and burns up a lot of people's time and energy," Greeno said. "Our biggest issue in county government will be fixed when I'm elected."

Greeno, who owns a business that helps companies fill positions and provide training as well as other services, said she's worried lost revenue from the ICE contract could hurt the McHenry County sheriff's office and lead to an increase in crime locally.

"It happens so fast, and we just don't want to be one of those stories," she said. "Predators look for opportunities."

Under the ICE contract, the county held immigration detainees in its jail and, in return, was paid $95 per detainee per day.

McHenry County received $9.7 million in 2018, but the revenue dropped in recent years, county chief financial officer Kevin Bueso told the county board during its budgeting process last fall. The county planned on receiving $8.7 million during the 2020-21 budget year.

Wegener, who has worked as a bank auditor at one of the Federal Reserve banks and then in the accounting department of a trading company, noted those revenue figures do not include how much the program cost.

Greeno also named safety as an issue that is "front and center," listing it as her top priority next to finances, while Doherty and Wegener said they did not think it was an issue.

Wegener, a Peoria native who moved to McHenry County 19 years ago, said crime is not an ongoing problem in the area. She credited the sheriff's office and local police departments with keeping crime rates low.

Crime rates have stayed at a steady level in McHenry County for about the past decade, according to data from the FBI. Since 2010, property crimes locally have declined by more than 70% in the past decade, while violent crimes have stayed relatively the same.

"I don't fear crime is going to creep into here," Wegener said. "We don't want to put things in place just because we're fearful."

Doherty said he doesn't know what effect not having the ICE contract may have in the future. He said he supports bringing departments together to best address worries.

Being transparent with decisions and information, which Greeno said goes hand-in-hand with the county's finances, is something she thinks the county has done well.

"This is our government," she said. "We want a good, clean government. Let's keep it that way."

Wegener said she thinks the county's administration has been transparent but would like to see more transparency in certain departments. One example she gave was the McHenry County clerk's office, which she said created confusion with new polling locations close to the June primary.

This is criticism other McHenry County Democrats have raised as they look to unseat McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio in November.

Doherty said transparency at the county has been improved through its website and by offering all documents the county board sees to residents. He didn't add a list of areas in which he thinks improvement could happen.

"Transparency is the buzzword today," he said. "I don't have any issues with it [in the county] at all."

Doherty said priorities for him are the expansion of affordable housing and bringing a new dementia wing to Valley Hi Nursing Home.

"We really have to watch that part of our society and make sure that marginalized part is taken care of," Doherty said.

Wegener said she wants to see the county invest in alternative energy to reduce its carbon footprint. She said she also would continue promoting partnerships between the county and organizations meant to help residents, she said.

Wegener said she has a track record of working with everyone and described herself as a moderate.

"I try not to take sides, and I try to lead by example," she said. "I would hope that's the kind of person that wins."

Doherty, who became more active in local government after retiring from his job as a controller at Sherman Mechanical in Cary, said he feels there's currently accountability and respect on the board. He said he isn't sure how that may change once the new board is seated.

"I think we have a great board right now," he said.

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