By Jennifer Rice
BATAVIA – With years of political experience at the city and congressional level, Sue Klinkhamer, 58, is running against fellow Democrat Bill Sarto for the Democratic nominee of Kane County Board Chairman.
Speaking before members of the Kane County Progressive Democrats Jan. 6 at Panera Bread, Klinkhamer indicated she’ll run on her own terms using a grassroots approach to campaigning — by not taking donations over $100. She’s not sure how it will all work out, because “conventional wisdom will say that you cannot do it without money.”
“I have no doubt, that with my background, out of all the people running, that I’m the most qualified to do the job,” Klinkhamer explained. “I know how to govern. I’m secure in that knowledge.”
On the other side of the aisle, State Sen. Chris Lauzen of Aurora and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns are running for the Republican nomination for Kane County Chairman. All four candidates will face off Friday, Jan. 13 when they meet for the Prior to the Primaries Legislative Lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn in St. Charles.
In the eight years Klinkhamer was mayor of St. Charles and the 2 ½ years she was District Director with former congressman Bill Foster’s office, she said she never lead by intimidation, a fact she’s proud of. “Things are hostile on the Kane County Board,” she indicated. “A board and a chairman are supposed to be working together, and that’s how I govern,” she explained.
The Kane County Board, in Klinkhamer’s opinion, has too many members. Currently, it seats 24 members. It lost two seats last summer due to the decennial remapping process, which Klinkhamer believes wasn’t an adequate reduction.
The board voted to reduce the size of the board in part because of state law that will mandate a reduction in the board’s size to 18 members when the county reaches a population of 800,000, which is projected to occur within the next 20 years. Currently, the population in Kane County is about 515,000.
Klinkhamer would like to hire an administrator for the county. As mayor of St. Charles, she hired the city’s first administrator. “I think [an administrator] makes all the difference. The board needs some non-political guidance,” she explained. It could also help the county better secure funding.
“I think the board spends a lot of time nitpicking and gets way too personal on stuff and in the end, loses a lot of funding,” she said. The use of consultants also is not necessary. “People believe you have to hire consultants to get money from the federal government, but you don’t. And actually, there is not that much money to get,” Klinkhamer said.
Hiring a county administrator comes with a hefty price tag — in addition to the salaries of the chairman and board member’s — as well as benefits paid to part-time board members. “Financially, you have to make the numbers work. Again, 24 board member are too many. And getting benefits as a part-time board members is wrong; when other part-time employees of Kane County don’t get benefits,” Klinkhamer said.
She supports collective bargaining and unions saying she’s worked with organized labor on several city projects during her years as St. Charles mayor.
While fielding question from members of the Kane County Progressive Democrats, Klinkhamer confessed she’d sworn off running for another office. “There are so many things you can’t control,” she explained. Her 2 ½ years working at the congressional level was a disappointment and soured her outlook on public service.
“People were just mean on a daily basis, but it has given me a whole new outlook on running for office. I come from a much calmer place. Running for office is like childbirth, once it’s over, you forget about it. And that’s what makes you want to do it again,” she explained, which drew laughs from the crowd.
She will work towards retaining county services, not cutting services, which Klinkhamer feels is important for residents. “Call me a bleeding heart, but I understand there are people all over the county that need help,” she said. “What you don’t see in politics a lot is compassion and empathy. And that is something I’m full of.”
Jennifer Rice’s e-mail address is Jen@foxvalleylabornews.com.