Members sworn in to streamlined Lake County Board
The number of Lake County Board seats officially has dropped from 21 to 19, but leadership roles remain unchanged as Democrats maintain an overwhelming majority.
Three new and 16 returning board members were sworn in Monday. Afterward, Sandy Hart of Lake Bluff and Mary Ross Cunningham of Waukegan were selected by their peers as board chair and vice chair, respectively, for a third consecutive 2-year term.
Hart as board chair makes a base salary of $97,408 plus a $7,000 auto allowance. Cunningham as board vice chair makes a salary of $43,018 with nothing more on top.
County board members also serve as Lake County Forest Preserve District commissioners. On that body, Angelo Kyle of Waukegan was reelected by colleagues as president for a third term. Kyle receives $25,000 while other commissioners get $3,000.
John Wasik of Grayslake was selected vice president to replace Vernon Hills resident Julie Simpson, who did not run for reelection Nov. 8.
Wasik was the only unanimous choice for a leadership role as the others were along party lines. Each party picked up a newly available seat Nov. 8, leaving Democrats with a 14-5 majority.
Hart was elected to the county board in 2012 and named chair in 2018 -- the first Democrat to hold the position. That capped a historic rise by Democrats to seize a majority on the county board.
Hart easily won reelection Nov. 8 to represent District 13. In October, she outlined a roster of board accomplishments including dozens of flood control and road improvement projects, launching a countywide paratransit service, creating a gun violence prevention initiative and allocating $90 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds for affordable housing, homeless support, infrastructure and technology upgrades.
"Over the years we have really accomplished great things and it was done in partnership with other government entities, with nonprofits and volunteers, but it is really done through the guidance and support of our tremendous Lake County government employees," she said Monday.
She said disagreements are part of the process.
"Always, we must listen to understand, we must debate respectfully and seek common ground because by working together, we'll deliver a government that our residents deserve, one that is responsive, innovative, fiscally responsible and environmentally forward thinking," she added.
The board will begin its strategic planning process in 2023 to serve as a guide for the next few years, Hart said.
Republican board member Michael Danforth nominated J. Kevin Hunter of Ingleside for board chair, saying Hunter would "actively pursue a bipartisan environment" and foster compromise. Hart was elected 14-4 with Republican Linda Pedersen of Antioch absent.
It was same vote for Cunningham, who has represented the Waukegan area since 2002.
Kyle served on the county/forest boards from 1990-2012 and returned in 2018. He was lauded for managing the district through the coronavirus pandemic as facilities experienced the highest, sustained visitation in history and also recorded the highest approval rating from visitors.
Kyle also was credited for leadership in pursuing net-zero environmental building initiatives and carbon credits for tree planting, as well as securing $1.1 million to repair the historic Adlai Stevenson home.
Republican Ann Maine, a former board president, was nominated for the post as a "passionate environmentalist" but fell well short in a 14-4 vote.
Wasik received universal 18-0 support.
Hart nominated Wasik and described him as an "incredibly committed environmentalist" who has helped raise millions of dollars for the district's preservation foundation.
Newcomers to the county/forest boards are Republican Adam Schlick, a battalion chief with the Wauconda Fire District, and Democrats Esiah Campos, who will represent the Round Lake communities as the first Latino elected to the county board, and Sara Knizhnik, a Vernon Township trustee.