by Susan O’Neill
Both candidates running for Sugar Grove village president have experience with village government. The challenger, Perry Clark, served on the Village Board for six-and-a-half years, and the incumbent, Sean Michels, has been the village president since 1999 and on the board since 1995.
Village President Sean Michels said he is running for re-election because he wants to continue working to realize the current vision of Sugar Grove. He said he thinks he has done a good job during his terms, but there is a lot more that Sugar Grove can do.
He cites the recent recognitions the village has received, including Business Week’s choice for best affordable town in Illinois in 2007, an increase in Sugar Grove’s Standard & Poor’s bond rating from A to A+ in 2008, the Governmental Financial Statement and Budget Award from 2001 to present, Environmental Protection Agency Conservation Design Award for Settler’s Ridge Subdivision and Chicago Region Public Works Project of the Year Award in 2007 for its innovative water system in Settler’s Ridge.
Among his accomplishments, he counts $65 million in capital activity in commercial infrastructure improvements, including the Galena Boulevard and Municipal Drive extension and the water main extension to the Kaneland Harter Road Middle School.
He prides himself on the village’s planning for the future, including the creation of water, transportation and land use plans. He said the village has worked aggressively to bring federal and state tax dollars to the community, and has obtained more than $5 million in grants for infrastructure improvement. He said the village has improved its water quality, resurfaced roads, built new wells, all without raising residents’ property taxes.
His top three goals, if he is re-elected, are to continue to work with retail developers and developers for the High Point business park to diversify the tax base; work toward a full interchange for Interstate 88 and Route 47 and find funding sources to attract additional businesses; and increase two-way communication with all residents.
He said he wants to link all of the bike trails in the area together, and build a bridge over Blackberry Creek. He said open space is important to Sugar Grove, and does not think the 40 percent requirement for every development has been a big issue.
He said that although many people think Sugar Grove’s fees are too high, the village can justify its impact fees with research on the costs of development. He said he wants to make development pay for itself.
“Residents are tired of paying higher taxes,” he said.
He said his banking experience has helped with handling the village’s finances and the budget processes. He said the village is in good financial shape, even with the down economy, and the village has a surplus because he and other village officials have been proactive in cutting staff and other expenses.
He said he has relied on his building experience to help establish standards for good architectural designs and features, and the village has created an architectural review committee to hold developers to high standards.
He said Sugar Grove is a very desirable place to live. He said high-end developers such as Forest City have recognized Sugar Grove for its median income, which he said is the fifth-highest in the area. He said he is not in favor of reducing the impact fees, which are needed to pay for infrastructure improvements, and that each household would have to spend $250,000 in Sugar Grove to offset a $5,000 reduction in impact fees.
Clark said he is running for village president because he feels the processes by which developments are approved are too lengthy and costly to both the village and developers. He said the village of Sugar Grove is not looked upon as a business-friendly community, and it needs to change that image.
He said that in order to diversify the tax base, the village needs to aggressively market itself, and approve development that will increase the daytime population. However, he said that retail and commercial development will not come without rooftops, and so an emphasis should be placed on bringing in residential development. He said the demographic criteria for attracting retail development has only increased during the last 18 months.
If elected, he said he would work with the Village Board to create a negotiable and non-negotiable list for staff to use in working with developers. He would reduce the approval process to no more than 45 days, at which point the village would tell the developer yes or no. Then, the annexation agreement could be negotiated.
He said he would work to provide true quality of life in Sugar Grove, and would work to fix a failing storm water management system. He said the village needs to take the lead on these issues, and create a cost-sharing method to identify and fix the problems.
He wants to provide residents the opportunity to shop in Sugar Grove, and said the village will have to use incentives to bring retailers into the village. He said that there are creative ways of accomplishing this without giving away too much. Examples of this could include the provision of water and sewer systems, an incentive package based on bringing in stores within a certain timeframe, or a waiver of half the building fees.
He said he is the best candidate because he has been on both sides of the fence, both as a village trustee and as a businessman, and he feels he can speak on behalf of both. He said his strong leadership skills can bring people together to work on a shared goal. He believes he is a good communicator and a good listener as well as speaker.
He said he is enjoying campaigning for the job. He said with himself and Michels, the village has two passionate people that love Sugar Grove and have similar visions for its future. They just have different philosophies for how to get there, he said.
â€¢ Birthplace: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
â€¢ 19 years in Sugar Grove
â€¢ Occupation: General contractor for McCue
Builders, Inc.; builds custom and
â€¢ Education: Associate’s Degree, Business,
B.S. Finance and Economics, MBA
â€¢ Family: Married, 4 children
â€¢ Community involvement: Coach,
Sugar Grove Park District, Board of
Directors, Silver Stars Girls Basketball,
Junior Achievement instructor, Sunday
school teacher, St. Mark’s; Elburn Lions
Club member, Metro West Executive
Board member, Kaneland School District
Finance Advisory Committee member.
â€¢ Previous offices: Sugar Grove Park
District trustee 1995-1997, Sugar Grove
village trustee appointed in 1995,
elected 1997-1999, Sugar Grove village
president appointed in 1999, elected 2001
â€¢ Birthplace: Aurora
â€¢ 12 years in Sugar Grove
â€¢ Occupation: VP, Innovations Consulting
(helps convention and business bureaus
bring sporting events to town), President,
Coaches’ Backyard Grill, Inc. (owner,
several bars and restaurants). Executive
Director, Sugar Grove Economic
Development Corporation from
â€¢ Education: Attended College of DuPage,
Western Illinois University
â€¢ Family: Married, one daughter in college
â€¢ Community involvement: Head Women’s
Softball Coach, Waubonsee Community
College, Sugar Grove Chamber of
Commerce and Industry member, Sugar
Grove Corn Boil volunteer, Past
President, Sugar Grove JayCees,
coached various youth sports for Sugar
Grove Park District, Sugar Grove Library
â€¢ Previous offices: Sugar Grove Village
trustee 6.5 years