Mark Davoust: Candidate profile, Kane County Board District 14
Incumbent Republican Mark Davoust of St. Charles is being challenged by Democrat William K. Bachman of St. Charles for Kane County Board District 14 in the Nov. 3 general election.
Davoust has served on the board since 2004. He is president of a Batavia-based medical supply manufacturer.
To explore his campaign website, visit markdavoust.com.
The 14th district includes parts of South Elgin and northwest St. Charles. For a map of the district, visit www.countyofkane.org.
The Daily Herald recently asked the candidates to answer a series of questions. Here are Davoust's replies.
For complete election coverage, visit www.dailyherald.com and click on "Election Central."
Q. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
A. Kane County is my home. My wife and I raised our son here and now our grandchildren are growing up here. Our family business has been here for over 70 years. Local government plays a key role in making our county a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Providing services in transportation, development, and public safety while also protecting open space is very important to me. It is also of the utmost importance to me to continue to be a guardian of your tax dollars. The county budgets for the past 8 years exemplify my commitment to this cause.
Q. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
A. As President Pro Tem and Chairman of the Forest Preserve Finance and Administration committees, I led the effort to present a referendum that allowed voters to decide on protecting open space. The support was overwhelming. This summer I worked with staff to refinance existing debt, saving taxpayers $3.9 million. As a result, we have over 22,000 acres of open space, a lasting protection against rising taxes.
As Chairman of the Human Services Committee, I directed the overhaul of our county ethics ordinance, which led to the creation of the position of Ethics Adviser for the county. I also led efforts to secure insurance coverage that saved millions of dollars while better protecting the 1,300 employees serving Kane County. I helped to negotiate the launch of our Wellness Program, improving lives and saving money.
Serving on the Administration Committee presently, I have been directly involved with the construction of the new Multi-Use Facility located on the Judicial Center campus. The building will serve the needs of Kane County for decades to come and is being financed with an interest rate of 1.56% due to our excellent bond rating.
Q. Describe your position regarding the balance between county spending and revenues as it exists today, then describe the chief threats you see looming in the future and how the county should deal with them. In particular in the suburbs, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle has set a goal of eliminating unincorporated areas from county oversight. Do you agree with this approach? If so, how should the county go about it?
A. When I view Kane County's spending habits and sources of revenue, I do it through the lens of a small-business owner. We don't deal in campaign promises or slogans. We face customer expectations, employees needs, utilities, insurance and more. County government and its services depend on sound decisions and policy, just as our company has done for more than 70 years. Perhaps, most importantly, we will be faced with capital expense needs for our community. Plans that anticipate those needs in facilities, transportation, heath, safety, and sustainable water supply are what's needed.
In this unprecedented time of COVID, we face challenges not only to our budget, but to our citizens. We are planning for the challenges that the pandemic brings and emphasizes keeping our citizens safe and well-informed. We will ensure our Health Department and Sheriff's Department are properly equipped to protect us.
As to unincorporated areas, this is not Cook County. If we eliminate unincorporated areas from county oversight, some citizens would be without access to service such as roads, policing, land planning, and stormwater management, and other vital services.
Q. How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important.
A. I am proud of our efforts regarding transparency and feel that we do an outstanding job of providing the public with information about who we are and what we do for them. Prior to COVID, we had initiated livestreaming of our meetings to make government more accessible. We hold our Committee of the Whole meeting late in the day each month in order to make the meeting more accessible to those who work. Our Finance Departments on both the county board and Forest Preserve are winning awards for their work in reporting our financial activities on behalf of the people of Kane County. These records are available and posted for anyone who wishes to see them.
Since the pandemic, we are conducting many meetings via Zoom. These meetings are open to anyone wishing to join. Perhaps one of our best efforts to be transparent has been the creation of an online presence, Kane County Connects. This is in addition to the actual county website, which is also very helpful. Improvement is always the goal. The more we can connect with the public, the better informed they can be on the issues we face. An educated constituent is an asset to the county.
Q. What, if anything, should be done to improve automation and customer service in county offices? What steps should be taken to make that happen?
A. During my tenure on the board, we have created a fiber-optic network and it continues to grow and serve the public. We also have an IT Department in Kane County that is second to none. Our director works tirelessly with all departments in order to keep all systems operating smoothly. We are always searching for efficiencies through automation. It has been our IT Department that has made it possible for county government to continue to operate remotely when necessary. There have been efforts to secure new election equipment for future use that will keep Kane County in the leadership position we are known for throughout Illinois. Prior to the onset of the pandemic, we had already instituted e-filing for court cases. This made for an easier transition when we were forced to institute Zoom Court and Zoom meetings. The continued use of these online features may provide future savings.
Q. The county board will undergo redistricting following the 2020 Census. What is the most fair process? Do you support the current number of seats on the board?
A. The fair method for redistricting will be to draw and vote on a new map. We voluntarily did this process some time ago, reducing the size of our board from 26 to 24 members. As our population nears 800,000, we will need to reduce our board size to 18 members. I support looking at further reductions based on the results of the 2020 census.
Q. Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?
A. I support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board. I believe that we as commissioners, are an excellent value for the tax dollar. In DuPage County, for example, board members earn double the pay of our board members and they have a separately elected board for their forest preserve district. The voters there pay for both positions and at more than twice the pay. We have removed IMRF pension from the benefit package offered to newly elected board members. Those who consider being a commissioner a part-time job perhaps do not understand the job's time requirements and responsibilities, this is especially true as we are being asked to reduce our numbers.
Q. What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A. We will continue to work with our Health Department at the forefront, leading us with science and facts regarding health and public safety. We will make certain that our first responders have the training and PPE they need to stay safe while helping to protect us. We must, as a community, continue to follow CDC and state mandates with regard to social distancing, mask wearing, and hand hygiene. We must follow the science.
Q. The new board will take over during a time of unprecedented budget challenges. What is your plan to balance the budget? What will your spending priorities be?
A. While acknowledging the unprecedented nature of the upcoming budget cycle, each year's budget presents challenges. We certainly can't tax and spend our way out of the situation like they do at the state and national levels. We will do in this budget year what we do in all budget years and that is to provide taxpayers with a balanced budget. We will review mandated vs. non-mandated services with our commitments to mandated services coming first. We will make certain that law enforcement, public health and public safety are accommodated. We will work with our elected officials to tighten their budget belts as they have each year. We will meet our obligations and provide services as our citizens have relied on us to do in the past.