A Full Slate at Mount Carroll’s ‘Meet the Candidates Night’
Video and audio of the entire Meeting is below this article in three segments.
By JOHN HUGGINS | For The Prairie Advocate News
MOUNT CARROLL – Mount Carroll candidates for the April 9 consolidated elections gave residents a chance to learn about them and their platforms. On Thursday, March 21, 2013 the Mount Carroll Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Meet the Candidates” event at the Market Street Commons.
Eleven candidates for the municipal government offices up for election squared off in front of a standing room only crowd of nearly 100 people.
Every seat up for election is being contested. For the office of mayor are Robert Sisler and incumbent Carl Bates; city clerk are Nina Cooper and incumbent Julie Cuckler; alderman ward one are Jeanne Schnitzler and incumbent Douglas Bergren; alderman ward two are Joseph Grim, Wayne Knight, and incumbent Doris Bork; and alderman ward three are Percy Vesperman and incumbent Michael Risko.
The evening started with a welcome from Mount Carroll Chamber of Commerce president Bob Hatheway. He stressed that the chamber wanted this to be a positive experience and no negative comments would be allowed. Venita McConnel moderated the event.
The candidates were given a chance to give an opening statement to tell about themselves and why they were running. After that, they would be asked questions from the Chamber of Commerce. The audience was also given a chance to submit questions. Those questions submitted would be vetted for quality and to ensure there were no redundant questions.
First up was Doug Bergren who stated the reason he was seeking re-election was because of what he has learned from being on the city council and his experience at his day job as economic development director for East Dundee IL. “There are things that can happen with Mount Carroll that a lot of people, really, don’t know how to do,” he said.
According to Bergren, he is a big supporter of public/private partnerships. He believes that if people could see the results from public/private partnerships that he sees, they would be blown away. “When I come downtown on a Friday night and can’t find a parking place, I am ecstatic,” added Bergren as his time ran out.
Next up was Jeanne Schnitzler. She stated she was born and raised in Mount Carroll and lived there all her life. Her maiden name was Miller. “I’m running because of the water,” Schnitzler said. “My platform is to bring the water back to Mount Carroll. Because I’ve heard so many people, over the last couple of years, go on about the water condition. My other platform is the cemetery. We need to maintain our cemetery. We need to stop taking money out of the cemetery fund. That is an endowment fund that people leave for the cemetery. We should not take this money out for other things. And, I want to see the bridge kept up. The Galena St. Bridge is Mount Carroll.”
Doris Bork announced she has been a Mount Carroll resident for 48 years. She has been on the council for nine years. “There are several things I’ve done and worked on,” stated Bork. “Getting the buildings repaired. I want to continue to do that. One of the most important things I’ve done is that I’ve been to Springfield and Washington D.C. to acquire funds for the city. I was able to acquire a $50,000 grant for the city.” She went on to say she wanted to continue on trying to get funding for Mount Carroll. She also thinks enforcing ordinances is an important thing. She thinks the city should work on incentives for when the Thomson prison opens.
Joseph Grim stated he has been a life-long resident of Mount Carroll and takes a great deal of pride in the community. He has served on the Mount Carroll planning commission since 2007. “Through my experience on the planning commission, I have learned a lot as to how the zoning ordinances and special use permits work,” Grim said. “I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to serve my community. I would like to take the next step forward.” Grim stated that he has also served the community as a member of the volunteer fire department and he is active in all of the community events and fundraisers. If elected, he is looking forward to working with his fellow elected official to keep Mount Carroll moving forward.
Wayne Knight stated the reason he is running for alderman is that he is interested in what is going on in the town. “I feel we have a lot of momentum going in the downtown,” he said. “I’d like to see that continue. I just felt that with my experience in business, and being young, that I could be a fresh mind on the board.” Knight noted he has been involved with the Lions Club for thirteen years and involved as a youth 4H leader. “I like to be involved with the community,” he stated. “Not everyone has the time to do that. But at this point in my life, I have time to do that.”
Michael Risko has a master’s degree in business administration. He taught algebra and business management at two community colleges. He is retired from the Army, is a Vietnam Veteran and has received a bronze star. He is a retired federal employee with 37 years of government service. “At my last job I was managing the budgets for eleven Army installations, most of them significantly larger than the Savanna Army Depot,” Risko said, “to the tune of 186 million dollars.”
“What you really need to know is what I’ve done as an alderman, and what I will do if re-elected,” Risko stated. “I got better interest rates on the money the city has in the bank. As the chair of the streets committee I left Eric alone to do his job. Every year, I’ve gone through every line item on the budget. We’ve done a lot to reduce it. If I’m elected, I want to keep this community growing. Last year we had a nine percent increase in sales tax revenues for $20,000. This year, we are on track for a two and one half percent increase.”
Percy Vesperman started by saying, “First of all, I can’t compete with any of this stuff.” The audience chuckled. He moved to Mount Carroll in 1959. “I’ve done a lot for Mount Carroll,” Vesperman stated. “I’d like to get the water and sewer committee under control and the city ordinances enforced.”
Nina Cooper has lived in Mount Carroll for fifteen years. She has a master’s degree in finance. She is also working on a master’s in public administration. She was an alderman from 2007 until 2011. “I’ve worked in the financial industry, in investments and banking for 30 years,” Cooper said. She announced there would be a meeting on April 3 to discuss issues facing the city government. Cooper was cut short on her time by the moderator for negative comments.
Julie Cuckler moved to Mount Carroll in 1966. She has worked as city clerk for more than thirty years. She briefly described the duties of the clerk position. She has attended college for one year and has had a wide variety of training opportunities, conferences, and workshops specifically for the clerk’s office over the years.
Robert Sisler has served in the Army. He graduated from the University of Illinois. He is a member of the Lions Club. He has been an alderman for 2 years. Sisler has worked for the Army Corp of Engineers as a construction representative.
“My sons and I have built three new homes in Mount Carroll, increasing the tax base,” stated Sisler. “And I know how the city is supposed to be run. As mayor I’ll see that it is run that way.”
Sisler, too, was cut short by the moderator for negativity.
Carl Bates was late to the event, but arrived just in time for his turn to speak. He came straight from the Northern Illinois Mayors’ Association meeting, of which he is the current president and past treasurer. Bates has lived in Mount Carroll for thirty-nine years. He has served as mayor for eight years.
“I’ve enjoyed [being mayor] immensely,” Bates said. “Mount Carroll has seen a lot of things up and down, some good, and some bad. The downtown seems to be coming along.”
He spoke about the mandate to fix the water system and other water and sewer projects that the city was unable to acquire any grant money for the projects. “I am at the top,” Bates stated. “So, I have to take the blame.” Bates started to explain how the city government and what the role of the mayor is, such as making the agenda and how the mayor does not get to vote, when he ran out of time.
The event lasted about one hour and forty-five minutes. The candidates answered several questions from the chamber of commerce and the audience. Questions ranged from what are the biggest issues facing the community and their ideas to address them to what the candidates’ position was on having a forensic audit done.
Several candidates were cut short on their allotted time due to negative comments. A couple of times some good laughs from the audience occurred as well.
An exclusive video on the event, in its entirety, is available on the Prairie Advocate’s website at www.pacc-news.com.