A Quiet Candidate Night at the Egyptian Theatre

    Matt Duffy (DeKalb Chamber) and Eric Olson (Daily Chronicle) discussing last minute details for the candidate forum at the Egyptian Theatre

    Every candidate that attends a local forum deserves a medal of valor. It’s first earned by stepping up to become a candidate. Then by attending, preparing and presenting at the forum itself. It does come with the territory but there are few people willing to enter and a whole lot of people willing to let them.

    The November 4, 2014 election is a month away and many are looking forward to that day because that’s when the Quinn versus Rauner commercials will end. Other than that, locally, there are few statewide races in doubt or even contested. Ditto for countywide and county board races. But in the passing decades of covering local candidate nights I’ve yet to speak to one participating candidate who didn’t have their game face on.

    The DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, the Egyptian Theatre, the Daily Chronicle and WLBK 1360 AM teamed together to produce a forum that provides voters with the opportunity to get know a little more about the candidates who will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

    If attendance is an indicator of voter turnout then the polling places will not be busy.

    Daily Chronicle editor Eric Olson moderated the event. WLBK news director Scott Zak ran a live broadcast of the question and answer sessions for contested DeKalb races and the contest for DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder.

    In the only contested countywide race on the ballot Trent Taylor-D is challenging Doug Johnson-R for DeKalb County Clerk and Recorder. Johnson was appointed in midterm to replace John Acardo who abruptly resigned to take a position with Kishwaukee Community College.

    The DeKalb County Clerk’s office provides numerous services for business, residents, and property owners including access to vital records, register a business under an assumed name, become a Notary Public, obtain or renew a passport, research genealogy and review all County Board proceedings from 1837 to the present. Plus the Clerk’s office basically runs the election process in the county and is responsible for the annual processing of Ethics Statements for all elected and some appointed officials in the County.

    Taylor works at Fox Title in DeKalb as a Title Examiner Specialist. It’s an occupation that requires a lot of contact with the County Clerk’s office. Taylor has more than 10 years direct experience with the office of county clerk in Arizona, Kansas, Missouri and northern Illinois.

    If elected he’ll work to expand the after work hours accessibility of the office and the proper records through technology. Taylor believes technology can be better employed to improve elections and that the office needs to use social media as a tool to reach out and get the public more informed and involved with the office. He criticized Johnson for sending him erroneous information when he requested candidate information packets after deciding to run for the office as an example of the need to improve accuracy in the office.

    Doug Johnson who owned a company called Tax Lien Investments for about 24 years served 10 years on the DeKalb County Board of Review, which hears property tax assessment appeals and evaluates disability exemptions. He also was a Sandwich police commissioner between 2003 and 2008 and a Sandwich School District 430 board member between 2000 and 2004.

    Johnson said he would embrace and implement technology that made sharing information with the taxpayers more convenient and less expensive. He stressed online security as an essential element to any consideration of technology.

    There are several contests for seats on the county board but only those representing districts in the City of DeKalb were invited to the forum. Six of the twelve county board districts are fully within or encompass part of DeKalb. Only two of those districts are contested. There are two elected representatives for each district (4 year terms) but elections are staggered.

    District 8 has a contest between Dianne Leifheit-R and Christopher Cole Porterfield-D. Leifheit did not attend the candidate forum.

    Porterfield expressed confidence in his ability to communicate and build consensus. He’s concerned with the public’s lack of understanding of what the county board does and believes his communication skills can help address that issue.

    District 9 is a contest between polar opposites.

    Jim Luebke-D is a party loyalist and involved in local politics since moving to the area around 1988. He has been a dedicated campaign worker for several local candidates and was elected to serve as DeKalb Township Trustee. Luebke has had unsuccessful bids for DeKalb Township Supervisor losing to Eric Johnson-R in 2013 and for DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder falling short to John Acardo-R in 2010.

    Craig Genteman-R is a newcomer to politics. He is pursuing a degree in public administration at NIU. He said he would refuse to walk the party line and would remain an independent thinker as a member of the county board.

    Luebke thinks a recent Chronicle report on a decline in the county’s unemployment rate and the fact that the county has a reserve fund is proof that the county board is doing well. Genteman said DeKalb County has among the highest property tax rates in the state and that people he is talking with is unhappy with the county board.

    Genteman served 11 years in the U.S. Army including three deployments in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. Luebke served for six years in the U.S. Navy.

    The candidates for clerk and the contested county board seats have been invited to another Candidate Forum hosted live on air by WLBK AM 1360 radio on October 22 and 23 at 7pm each night. The League of Women Voters is discussing a candidate forum at its upcoming board meeting.

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