Q&A: Elburn Village Board
Note: Voters can vote for up to three candidates.
Elburn Village Board
Name: Richard C. Garcia
Candidate did not respond.
Name: Audrey Symowicz
Education and employment background: Elgin Community College graduate; currently customer service, previous experience in retail, office administration and municipality.
Name: William C. Grabarek
Education and employment background: Education: B.A. Roosevelt University—1968; J.D. John Marshall Law School—1975; Registered Patent Attorney-U.S. Patent & Trademark Office—1980;
Employment: Pre-1976—various positions within the chemical industry; 1976 to 1977—Associate attorney with Kolar & Conte, Chicago, IL; 1977 to 1994—Midwest House Counsel-Witco Corporation, Midwest office; 1994 to present—Private practice, Elburn;
Civic experience: Lazarus House—Director/ Secretary and Founding Member; Friends of the Town & Country Public Library—Director/Treasurer & Founding Member; Fox Valley Wildlife Center—Director/Secretary; 2006 recipient of the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award;
Village of Elburn positions held: Planning Commissioner 1993-2003; Planning Commission Chairperson 1995-2003; Trustee 2003-2011
Name: David J. Gualdoni
Education and employment background:
Graduated Burlington Central High School, various FEMA and IEMA classes; Work full-time for city of Geneva, village of Elburn
Name: Ethan Hastert
Education and employment background: I graduated from Yorkville High School, earned my undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and my law degree from the Northwestern University School of Law.
I am an attorney in private practice in Chicago, specializing in complex, commercial litigation in state and federal courts. I also serve as Honorary Consul for the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg for Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Earlier in my career, I served in the White House as Special Assistant to the Chief of Staff and National Security Advisor in the Office of the Vice President of the United States.
How would you define
the role of your office?
Symowicz: The role of a village trustee is somebody that represents the residents. A trustee needs to keep the residents and village’s best interest in mind when considering and voting on issues. Being able to communicate with residents about questions within the village is another important ability of a Trustee.
Grabarek: I see a village trustee’s responsibility as fiduciary by its nature and legislative in its power. As fiduciaries, we must provide the services necessary to protect the health, safety and general welfare of our residents. As a member of the Village Board, a trustee must prudently manage our village’s finances and assets, as well as provide leadership. Leadership is expressed through one’s ability to build consensus at both the board level and amongst our residents.
It is expressed through thoughtful review and support of proposed village projects, whether at the infrastructure level or within the village’s public policy area through ordinance enactments or amendments. And, I suggest, that a trustee’s leadership skill and his or her attentiveness to one’s fiduciary responsibilities are clearly exhibited through intense and thoughtful participation in the development and oversight of our village’s budget.
Gualdoni: My role as a trustee will be to represent the people of Elburn. I will also make sure that the village remains fiscally responsible in these tough times and that village services are not cut. I believe that working with the board and staff as a team that the village of Elburn will be able to offer better services and make our tax dollars go a lot further.
Hastert: I believe that it is the job of our village trustees to ensure that Elburn remains a community where people want to live, raise a family and run a business. If elected, I would do that by: insisting on fiscal responsibility—less spending and more saving produces a more responsible government, lower taxes and sustainable economic prosperity; insisting on smart, measured and well-planned development—I will advocate for smart, measured growth that does not overburden our infrastructure or tax base; exercising an independent voice—I will be an independent voice and advocate for greater openness, transparency and public input; protecting our core values whenever they are challenged.
What are the top three priorities
you would focus on if elected,
and how would you address them?
Symowicz: My immediate goals are maintaining the budget with responsible spending, completing the Village Employee Manual, encouraging resident participation by creating committees which could also aid in the budget, and opening communication lines for residents and village staff with better use of the village website.
Grabarek: The most pressing of issues is how we can successfully manage the operation of the village with decreasing revenues and increasing expenses. The police have unionized and we will be faced with increasing salary demands. The cost of fuel is rising. Salt is getting more expensive. Our squad cars are aging as are our public works vehicles. Our public works folks haven’t had any raises in the past three years. Many of our streets will require substantial repair. Until the economy picks up; until our excess housing stock is sold; I see very slow growth in our revenues.
The number-one issue for this campaign, therefore, is insuring that we maintain our basic services for our residents at a consistent level given our reduced revenues.
We can discuss the Shodeen concept plan/Anderson Road Bridge conundrum ad nauseum and will later address this issue in question eight, but let’s first look back and then look 10, 15 or 20 years down the road at our vision for the village.
The continuing slack in construction gives us the time and opportunity to look back on and evaluate our prior development and, perhaps, amend our vision for future development: what should we change—what should we support—what areas did we ignore while the boom was going that we should look at now?
This period of slow growth also has given us time to review our assets—not only those within our village borders, but those outside our borders—to help form this vision. Let’s look at our available assets: at our center we have an attractive old town business core, a magnificent library, our Metra station; on our north border, Jewel/Osco and Walgreens; to our west, ready access to a magnificent university; to the south, an excellent and growing community college; to the east, regional medical facilities matched by few other areas in Illinois and, of course, Fermi Laboratory. We are contiguous to 1,080 acres of open and recreational Forest Preserve land. And, all around us, we are graced with some of the richest soil in the world. After about 20 years, however, and given our development patterns over those years, it is definitely time to review and, perhaps, amend our vision for the village as expressed through our comprehensive plan.
Now is the time to work together; to brainstorm; to think outside the proverbial box on such projects large and small. What we need now is to exercise our collective imagination.
We should continue in our efforts to preserve our cultural heritage.
The sense of community and place of any city, town or village is built upon the work of those that preceded us. It is that history that forms the verbal and visual mythology of any special place. It is found in the names of the roads and streets, on the tombstones of the local cemeteries, in the architecture of the older homes and buildings in the historic section of town, and in the stories of our older citizens down at the local cafe or tavern. It is preserved through our institutions, whether it is the old class photos and athletic trophies in the main hallway of the high school, the display cases at the library, the dusty collections of a defunct historical society or the township burial records.
While Elburn will never return to that quaint little farm town on the prairies of 30 years ago, through our cooperative efforts with the townships, with the library, with our old-timers, with our other keepers of the records, we have begun assembling, cataloging and digitizing old photographs, burial records, and many other historical documents. Eventually, a digital record of our unique history will be available to everyone.
In order to allow our interested residents to participate in this effort and because of the large volume of records that need be reviewed, we should create a historical records committee.
Gualdoni: My top three priorities will be to make sure that the village remains fiscally responsible and that all projects are done in an efficient and cost-effective manner. I would also like to work on our downtown redevelopment plans to see if we could come up with a realistic plan such as new lighting, parking and sidewalks. I think that these updates would bring new businesses and consumers back to Elburn’s downtown, making it a destination point. I would also like to see the employee manual completed and put in the hands of the employee’s.
Hastert: My top priority is fiscal responsibility—a balanced budget produces smaller government, less spending and lower taxes. At a time when the village cannot rely on ever-increasing property tax revenues or for full and prompt payment of the village’s share of state-collected tax revenue, it is important that the village budget reflect this near-zero-growth reality and make sure that the village is able to continue to provide the essential government functions at the municipal level—e.g., keeping our streets and community safe and clean.
I appreciate the efforts that Elburn officials have recently made to get the village’s fiscal house in order, and, if elected, I will advocate for a continuation of this kind of fiscal discipline. I would also advocate that the village evaluate and prioritize the village’s known capital improvement requirements in order to ensure that, in the face of stagnant tax receipts, the village can continue to provide essential government services without having to raise taxes.
Secondly, as the economy rebounds, Elburn will be faced with increasing pressure to approve developments in the face of uncertainly that there will be sufficient demand to support those developments. Therefore, Elburn must balance responsible economic growth against the risks associated with that growth so that developments do not alter Elburn’s fundamental nature or overburden our infrastructure or tax base. To that end, I would advocate that the village convene a committee of village officials, members of the public and business interests to evaluate development proposals to ensure that they would not alter Elburn’s fundamental nature or overburden our infrastructure or tax base.
Finally, I believe it is important to protect Elburn’s family-oriented nature. Therefore, I will fight to protect our core values whenever they are challenged.
What prompted you
to seek this position?
Symowicz: I am a lifelong member of the area and have been an Elburn resident for almost 11 years. I enjoy being involved within the community and have a strong desire to see the village prosper. As a former village of Elburn employee for over eight years (until a reduction in force), I will bring a different perspective and insight to the board.
Grabarek: I was taught that if we have been given much we must give back by helping others. As a lawyer I have been given much, perhaps not necessarily in money, but in skills. I have the desire, the experience, the skills and the time to devote to the position. I have deeply enjoyed my past service as trustee and, at the same time, humbled by the honor that our residents have granted me by their votes.
As a trustee and a lawyer, I have been able to more intensely participate in large and small cooperative projects and partnerships with various governmental and non-governmental entities that have been beneficial for our village and in which I could not have were I not an elected official. I am running for re-election, as there are a number of projects yet started or completed and that I want to work on.
Gualdoni: I am seeking this position because in the past 12 years, I have seen Elburn change in many ways. I feel that my years of working as a village employee will help the board in planning for the future.
Hastert: I am running for trustee so I can work to ensure Elburn remains a great place to live, raise a family and run a business. Like many Elburn citizens, my wife, Heidi, and I chose to make Elburn our home because of its proximity to regional assets like major metropolitan areas, employers and transportation infrastructure. Perhaps more importantly, Elburn provides us the opportunity to raise our children in a community with the same small-town feel we enjoyed while growing up.
How do you plan
to achieve your goals?
Symowicz: Through honesty, accountability and education. As a team player, I look forward to working with the board and staff on addressing issues within the village.
Grabarek: Though it sounds silly to even mention it, but I promise to continue to thoroughly read our weekly board packets. In my experience, there have been a number of trustees who do not pick up their packets until shortly before the meetings or read them beforehand on the internet and, consequently, attend the meeting nearly completely uninformed. Also, I promise to remain open to inquiries and criticisms of our residents.
Gualdoni: I plan to achieve my goals with good communication with staff, residents and my fellow board members. I believe that the board and staff need to work together as a team to come up with new inventive ideas in order to promote Elburn as great place to work, live and raise a family.
Hastert: If elected I will: advocate for continued fiscal discipline in the village’s budget; advocate that the village post the budget prominently on the village’s website for public review and comment; advocate that the village post the Elburn Station Development Concept Plan prominently on the village website for public review and comment; advocate that the village convene a committee of village officials, members of the public and business interests to evaluate the Elburn Station Development Concept Plan to ensure that it will not alter Elburn’s fundamental nature or overburden our infrastructure or tax base; advocate that the village convene a committee of village officials, members of the public and business interests to evaluate and improve the public review and comment process for future stages of the development at Elburn Station; and advocate that the village evaluate and prioritize the village’s known capital improvement requirements in order to ensure that, in the face of stagnant tax receipts, the village can continue to provide essential government services without having to raise taxes.
Why are you the best candidate
for this position?
Symowicz: I have hands-on experience working in three of the village’s departments. I was also a past president of Elburn Countryside Condo Association, which during my term remained under budget and in good standings. I am committed through hard work, creativity and dedication to helping Elburn succeed.
Grabarek: As I stated in question 3, I have the desire, the experience, the skills and the time to devote to the position. I know experience matters. As the sole incumbent, I have the greatest historical perspective on the operation and development of the village. All the other candidates have never sat in one of the trustees’ seats, nor do any of the other current sitting trustees have any intense experience beyond their current two years on the board. I have 18 intense and continuous years between my time on the Planning Commission and on the board.
Gualdoni: I believe that I am the best candidate for the position because of my vast experience with the village of Elburn part-time for the past 12 years and my full-time experience with the city of Geneva for over nine years, which has given me a different perspective on how other communities work.
I also believe I am the right candidate for the position, because for the past eight years, I have actively attended the Village Board meetings as a resident that was concerned about the future of the town and was never afraid to speak up when I felt something needed to be pointed out.
I have chosen to raise my family here, so I have a vested interest in this community. I have seen how past boards have handled things and learned from that past history. I feel that I have the knowledge and understanding of how everything works, which will help me if I’m elected.
Hastert: In these uncertain times, the village faces difficult economic challenges and decisions that will determine what kind of community Elburn will become over the next 20 years. The challenges we face require someone with the desire, experience and determination to see Elburn through these uncertain times and guide it to a prosperous future.
I bring a powerful blend of experience as an attorney in private practice and a lifelong involvement with government at all levels that will serve the village well. As important, I am also not afraid to make the tough decisions or to fight for what’s best for Elburn and its taxpayers.
With our current struggling economy, should Elburn change
its short and long-term plans,
and if so, how?
Symowicz: Nothing is ever final with planning. Revenue is no longer as easily attained as in the past and could continue that way into the future for some time, so Elburn has needed to adjust their planning for it. Prioritizing projects will be helpful in the long term planning of the budget.
Grabarek: Let’s get through the next fiscal year or two and conduct a review of our comprehensive plan before we consider any significant changes to our long-range plan, which is to continue to allow development within our “Emerald Necklace” formed by Blackberry Creek on our east, Welch Creek on our west and Virgil ditch on our north.
Gualdoni: I think that now is a good time for the village to review its short-term and long-term plans; to make sure that we follow current market trends and that Elburn retains its small-town charm.
Hastert: Every entity, public and private, benefits from continuously evaluating its current position and plans for the future. While growth is currently stalled, growth will one day return to Elburn.
Indeed, the current development being proposed at Elburn Station would add another 2,281 homes to the village. However, the village must ensure that future growth does not change the quaint nature of the village or overburden our infrastructure or tax base. Therefore, it is important to realign the village’s long-term plan with the realities of today’s slowed growth rate so that it can take advantage of the economic recovery when it occurs while protecting against the potential harm that can accompany growth.
The Kaneland School District
connects Elburn to a number
of neighboring communities.
How should Elburn help foster
a spirit of cooperation among them?
Symowicz: Elburn will continue to honor the agreement with the School District and other communities by paying the school impact fees collected in new housing. When considering new developments, making sure the needs of the school district will be satisfied.
Grabarek: The School District is developing a new impact fee schedule, which will be incorporated into a new intergovernmental agreement between all the municipalities within the School District and will replace the existing one that was slightly modified and extended for one year. This is the principal mechanism to prevent inter-municipal tugs-of-war by prospective developer. A boundary agreement is another possible mechanism between municipalities.
Gualdoni: Elburn and the surrounding communities should continue to honor the agreements they made with the Kaneland School District. Every couple years, the schools meet with the villages and negotiate impact fees. I think this should continue.
Hastert: Frequently, schools serve as the hub of a community, particularly for those families with young children. The village of Elburn can support Kaneland and help foster a spirit of cooperation by ensuring that Elburn remains a community where people want to live, raise a family and run a business. The better village officials do that, the better off Kaneland will be, because Elburn will attract families interested in their children’s education and the success of the School District. As trustee, I will fight to protect and enhance the qualities that make Elburn attractive to businesses and families alike.
What are your views on the proposed
Elburn Station development?
Symowicz: Positives I see in the most recent approved concept plan is less residential units, more commercial and park/open space, and a pedestrian bridge, making the train station more user-friendly for those north of the tracks. I still have questions regarding the impact on the School District, the need for high housing density, the capability of the treatment plant to handle more residents, the street connections to existing Elburn, and where the infrastructure will go and who will be paying for it? I understand this is a 20-year build-out plan and things will change along the way, but I would like assurance this isn’t going to be another project left half-way completed with the village left to fund the finish.
Grabarek: Returning to the Shodeen concept plan, with the deletion of the commercial development north of Route 38 at Anderson Road, the project is not very appealing, as the proposed density is very high at almost 2,300 units on 506 acres, and not much commercial space is proposed for that density.
In a more perfect political world (where we and the county are not being held apparent hostage by the spectra of losing $18,000,000 in funding for the bridge because Shodeen holds 85 percent of the needed right of way and apparently won’t talk until we, Elburn, give Shodeen its demanded density), the county would take the necessary right of way for the Anderson Road bridge by eminent domain and remove Shodeen’s Damoclesean sword of development density hanging over Elburn’s head.
The Anderson Road bridge is as essential for Shodeen’s project as it is for the county and for Elburn. Without the bridge, Shodeen is left with one acre well and septic rural estate lots.
Gualdoni: This project would have received better response from the public if it was made more readily available via Elburn’s website, handouts or some kind of town hall meeting. I also have questions on how it will affect schools, public safety, and current infrastructure. I still would like to see some changes, such as the apartments changed to condos or even reducing the number of them. This project is still a long way from being started and plans will change with the engineering of water, waste water, and rights of way.
Hastert: I support the concept of a transportation-oriented-development at Elburn Station. However, I have some reservations about the current plan. My three main concerns with the concept plan are that: it relies too heavily on multi-family units; whether the development will be appropriately phased in so supply does not outstrip demand; and whether the village’s current infrastructure can support the additional burden, e.g., as I understand it, the village’s waste water treatment facility would need to be expanded and it is unclear where the village would get the funds to pay for such a project.
Without satisfactory answers to those questions, I would not have voted to approve the concept plans. I believe it is essential that Elburn remains a community where people want to live, raise a family and run a business. Therefore, the village must carefully analyze developments (like the one proposed at Elburn Station) so that such developments do not alter Elburn’s fundamental nature or overburden our infrastructure or tax base.
What should the village do to help
revitalize downtown, as well as expand
its overall economic base?
Symowicz: The village could help with downtown revitalization by improving the streetscape and finding grants to off-set the costs. By replacing the sidewalks and lighting, Elburn could make the area more pleasing for potential new businesses. Building owners can take advantage of grants available to help keep their buildings visually appealing as well for customers and businesses alike. Future proposed developments must encourage commercial growth to help offset the residential.
Grabarek: Until the economy picks up; until our excess housing stock is sold; I see very slow growth in our revenues. It is difficult to attract new business into the village when so many store fronts are vacant. As I stated in response to priority no. 2, now is the time to work together to brainstorm; to think outside the proverbial box. What we need now is imagination. We also need to showcase our destination businesses—Reams, the hobby shop, Schmidt’s, our library. We need a pedestrian/bike bridge over the railroad tracks from the Metra station to our downtown. We need to make our downtown core become everyone’s neighborhood to hang out in.
Gualdoni: Elburn needs to focus on improving lighting, parking and sidewalks in the downtown. This would be a good start to attracting new businesses.
Hastert: The most important thing the village can do to attract business is to act like one itself by living within its means and exercising fiscal discipline. As trustee, I will fight to protect and enhance the qualities that make Elburn attractive to businesses and families alike by: Insisting on fiscal responsibility—Less spending and more saving produces a more responsible government, lower taxes and sustainable economic prosperity; Insisting on smart, measured and well-planned development—I will advocate for smart, measured growth that does not overburden our infrastructure or tax base; Exercising an independent voice—I will be an independent voice and advocate for greater openness, transparency and public input; Protecting our core values whenever they are challenged.
Overall, do you believe the village is
currently on the right track?
Symowicz: I do believe the village is headed in the right direction. There have been some bumps in the road that Elburn has had to adjust for and learn from, but is continuing to positively move forward.
Grabarek: Overall, given the current economic environment, I believe the current board is on the right track—careful management of revenues against our needs and, at the same time, planning for the future. No idea, however, should be rejected out of hand for sounding too silly or dumb. And the Village Board should not be considered the sole holders of development wisdom. I invite ideas from our residents. I believe it is perhaps time to reinstitute our economic development commission.
Gualdoni: I do believe the village is headed in the right direction for the most part. However there is always room for improvement. I think that the board really needs to open lines of communication with the employees to find out what they do and what they need to function in an efficient manner.
Hastert: Yes, however we need to remain vigilant, plan for the best and prepare for the worst. I especially appreciate the efforts that Elburn officials have recently made to get the village’s fiscal house in order, and, if elected, I will advocate for a continuation of this kind of fiscal discipline.