Cherryl Fritz Strathmann: Candidate profile, Kane County Board District 20
Democrat Cherryl Fritz Strathmann of Elgin and Republican Lucio Estrada of Elgin are newcomers vying for Kane County Board District 20 in the Nov. 3 general election. The incumbent Penny Wegman is leaving the board to run for Kane County Auditor.
Strathmann sits on the Citizens Advisory Committee for Elgin Area School District U-46.
To explore her campaign website, visit www.cherrylforkanecounty.com.
The 20th District includes the near west side and the northeast side of Elgin. 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 Strathmann's replies.
For complete election coverage, visit 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. Although this is my first time to run for any political office, I have been active and engaged in my community all of my adult life. Running for the county board would allow me another way to serve, working to find ways to improve life for the citizens of Kane County. What motivates me is working in a collaborative way to set policies that enhances life in Kane County.
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. I have lived and worked in this district, raised and educated my kids here, and opened a small business in 1991. My first political involvement was with the ERA amendment in 1973. It was there that I learned how to use my voice as an instrument for setting policies that affect many. I served on the Citizens Advisory Board for U-46 schools, became a docent for Kane County Forest Preserve District, and am currently a Master Gardener through the University of Illinois Extension service. It is hard to chose a priority, when there are so many issues affecting so many. Whether it be income inequality, adequate health care, or the very pressing issue of addressing climate change, there is much work to be done.
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 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. Right now is a very challenging time for any governing board to try to work within its budget. With the demands from response to a pandemic that has affected the lives of us all, emergency priorities have to be met while trying to maintain the projected budget items. Revenues has decreased dramatically while expenses have risen. Non ordinary times require the hard work of finding creative ways to serve the immediate needs of the people. Kane County is unique in being both a rural and urban area. Many of the unincorporated areas could not be adequately served by being absorbed into nearby municipalities. I do not agree with this idea.
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. Access to public records for the most part is available, however the process of obtaining them can be arduous and complicated. A countywide website would be helpful to expedite the process for the citizens and the government worker alike. Transparency is a foundation to fair and sustainable practices for all who are affected by the decisions made by this body. Not everyone is interested in the everyday policies and functions of this board, but for those who are, information should be readily available.
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. A long term plan for putting in place a system of comprehensive interdepartmental access to information could streamline this process for both the employees and the public.
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 process of creating a board that adequately represents its citizens needs to be addressed so that when changes in the number of residents in any district, the representation remains equal. Each district is to have approximately the same number of residents. Development and rezoning can change these numbers significantly in a ten year period. I support the district representation rather than the county at large apportionment. That way all areas have representation, rather than only the high population areas.
I would like to see the redistricting process in the hands of a nonpartisan committee, or a bipartisan committee with equal representation from both parties. The number of seats was reduced from 26 to 24, with the goal to further reduce the number to 18 seats as the population approaches 800,000. As Kane County grows, this can be a working number for the board to best serve the people.
Q. Do you support the current salary and benefits structure for the county board?
A. The current salary structure should be updated in order to bring to the board those who have the necessary time to devote to this position. The board meetings are just one part of the commitment board members make to their constituents. To be up to date and informed on issues and policies requires dedication and time. This should be a full-time commitment and compensated as such.
Q. What actions must the county take to continue to address COVID-19?
A. The Kane County Health Department has been doing a good job in these very difficult times. Their website has provided up-to-date information on the number of cases, number of deaths, and testing locations. Any department of health should be able to operate without interference of politics, and be allowed to rely on science and medical sciences to address the needs of the public. The next big step in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is free and available testing to all in order to track the spread of this virus.
The stimulus relief package should have been addressed in such a way to address the needs of small business owners, the economic engine of our economy, and social services to make sure people do not go hungry. Mortgage and bank holidays, although not in the jurisdiction of the county board, could help those who find themselves facing eviction.
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. I truly believe this is not the time to demand a balanced budget. This should be a time of focus on the health and well-being of the people of Kane County. As we work to help in this time of crisis, which is not over yet, we need to help the most vulnerable people among us.