Endorsements: Our picks for Lake County Board seats
Preservation and maintenance of open space, curbing tax increases, addressing flooding and the rising cost of living, and implementing the SAFE-T Act provisions are among the challenges Lake County Board members will address in the coming months.
Candidates chosen by voters in the Nov. 8 election will join the 19-member panel to address those and other issues over the next four years. County board districts' boundaries were redrawn and the size of the board was reduced from 21 to 19.
Here are our recommendations in races of interest in the Daily Herald circulation area.
District 1: Pedersen
Republican Linda Pedersen of Antioch, a 14-year incumbent, faces Democratic challenger Brian Hayden of Wadsworth in District 1. We commend Hayden, a self-employed handyman and recovering opioid addict, for turning his life around. While Hayden's life experiences would make him a valuable asset on the board, Pedersen also has expertise in opioid addiction, serving on the board of the Lake County Opioid Initiative helping reduce the use of opioids and other substances countywide. That combined with her deeper government experience makes her the stronger candidate. Pedersen is endorsed.
District 2: Schlick
Republican Adam Schlick, a battalion chief for the Wauconda Fire District in his second term as a Wauconda village trustee, faces Democrat Linda Troester of Round Lake, a retired research biologist/toxicologist, in District 2. A court-appointed special advocate, Troester is making her first run for public office. Before being elected to his village board in 2017, Schlick served on the Wauconda Park District Board for four years, including two as board president. Schlick is endorsed.
District 3: Maine
Republican Ann Maine and Democrat Wendy Meister are facing off in Lake County Board District 3. We like Maine's current experience on the county and forest preserve board, and we think she can bring those same smarts to District 3. She has done solid work with the forest preserves, finances and taxes, and she understands the challenges that lie ahead. Meister is also a good choice, but we endorse Maine for her comprehensive understanding of the issues in Lake County.
District 5: Hunter
Incumbent Republican J. Kevin Hunter is facing Sharon Smith-Terry in Lake County Board District 5. Hunter was appointed in 2021, and his experience and work on the board give him a leg up in this race. Additionally, his past experiences as a committeeman, trustee, school board member and sanitary district president are impressive and show he works constructively with others. Democrat Smith-Terry also has experience as a precinct committeeman, but her understanding of the issues facing District 5 seemed limited by comparison to the incumbent. Hunter's detailed plans and knowledge of the issues earn him our endorsement.
District 6: Wasik
Republican Justin Kaechele is challenging incumbent Democrat John Wasik for a seat on the Lake County Board District 6. While we admire Kaechele's passion, understanding of the issues and his background in business, it's hard to beat Wasik's experience on the board and the good work he's done. His commitment to tax and environmental issues is impressive, and he'd like to continue making progress on stormwater management and reducing the county's carbon footprint. He deserves that chance. Wasik is endorsed.
District 7: Casbon
Incumbent Democrat Carissa Casbon and newcomer Republican Dave Ulrich are vying for a seat in District. 7. Casbon's understanding of the specific issues in her district, paired with her experience on the board and as a school board member and president, show she deserves to retain her seat. While we appreciate Ulrich's passion, he his positions on many issues feel general and unrefined. Casbon's specific plans addressing issues such as preserving open land, property tax rates and stormwater management are impressive. She earns our endorsement.
District 10: Vealitzek
Newcomer Republican Tucker Olson is challenging incumbent Democrat Jessica Vealitzek for a Lake County Board District 10 seat. Olson's experience running a small business would bring a good perspective to the board, but it's hard to ignore all of Vealitzek's work as a current board member. She has started work on single-use plastics prohibition, the Old McHenry Crossings transportations project and with the Children's Advocacy Center. She deserves to see those projects through. She offers great detail about the most important issue facing her district -- transportation. We're impressed with knowledge and experience. Vealitzek is endorsed.
District 13: Hart
Democratic incumbent Sandy Hart, who was elected to the board in 2012 and named chair in late 2018, is being challenged by Republican Richard Ruzich, a patent attorney, former trial attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and lieutenant commander with the U.S. Navy Reserves, in District 13. Hart, of Lake Bluff, has 10 years of experience over her opponent who is seeking elected office for the first time. During Hart's time as chair, the board has kept property taxes flat, started video-recording meetings, eliminated board credit cards and dissolved outdated taxing bodies. Hart is endorsed.
District 15: Clark
Democratic incumbent Jennifer Clark of Libertyville, who is seeking a second term representing District 15, is up against Republican challenger Dawn Abernathy, a Mundelein resident and former two-term village trustee who left that board in 2021 after an unsuccessful run for mayor. Abernathy is a homemaker who says county government has become too partisan. Clark is an assistant professor of economics at Carthage College. She has helped the county board keep the tax levy flat for the past three years while maintaining a AAA bond rating, without decreasing vital services. Clark is endorsed.
District 16: Campos
Round Lake Beach resident Esiah Campos, a Democrat in his first run for public office, faces Republican Edward Liberman, a school board member from Round Lake Heights in District 16. Liberman, a self-employed trainer in the tech field, has served on the Lake Villa Elementary District 41 school board since 2017. Campos, a 26-year-old Navy reservist and a pension analyst for Local 705 International Brotherhood of Teamsters, seeks to be the first Latino and youngest member on the county board. The heavily Hispanic district is concentrated around the four Round Lake communities in west central Lake County. Campos is endorsed.
District 17: Danforth
Incumbent Republican Mike Danforth of Fox River Grove faces a challenge from Democrat Alicia Timm of Lake Zurich in District 17. Timm seeks to preserve open lands and green spaces and work on flooding issues in the county. Danforth, an attorney, previously served on the DeKalb County Board and as a forest preserve commissioner there. He was appointed to the Lake County Board in February 2017. He wants to repeal the new county tax on gasoline and fuel because it is hurting lower-income residents in the district. Danforth is endorsed.
District 18: Knizhnik
Hawthorn Woods Republican Kim Lynch and Vernon Hills Democrat Sara Frederick Knizhnik would both bring local political experience to District 18. Lynch served as Hawthorn Woods village trustee from 2002 to 2007 before being appointed director of the village's parks and recreation department and running the village's aquatic center. Knizhnik is a Vernon Township trustee and gun violence prevention advocate. She helped establish the office of violence prevention in the Lake County state's attorney's office and has advocated for three gun safety bills signed into law in Illinois. Knizhnik is endorsed.
District 19: Altenberg
Incumbent Democrat Marah Altenberg of Buffalo Grove faces challenger Joseph Janicki, a Lake Zurich Republican, in District 19. Janicki, a former management consultant in the automotive industry, says he is running to stop political fighting and to promote economic development. Altenberg, a former journalist, was appointed in March 2020 to fill the vacant District 20 seat on the board. Her contributions include creating a 100-person volunteer call center to help seniors during the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with the county health department. She also worked with Treasurer Holly Kim on a four-payment property tax option for COVID relief. Altenberg is endorsed.