by Martha Quetsch
Elburn voters will elect the first new Village President in more than 12 years on April 7. Vying for the seat being vacated by Jim Willey are Dave Anderson and Patricia Romke. Both candidates have experience in business and local government. Romke is a Realtor and an Elburn village trustee and Anderson is the former owner of The Grocery Store in Elburn and is the Blackberry Township Supervisor.
Anderson decided not to seek re-election in April to the Blackberry Township Supervisor seat he has held for more than 10 years. Instead, he is running for Elburn Village Board president at the encouragement of local residents, he said.
“I have been approached by so many people who have asked me to run,” Anderson said.
If elected, he will encourage more involvement by trustees, which is his style, he said.
“I am a hands-on type of person and would take a very active role in what’s happening in the village,” he said.
Another reason he is running for the office is that he loves the town and its people, he said.
Anderson owned The Grocery Store in downtown Elburn for 28 years. During that time and since, he has gone to the Kountry Kettle every morning for about an hour, talking with other residents about community issues, he said.
One issue that residents have asked him about is recreation in the village.
“I have been asked what my feeling is about a park district. I say, yes, someday we’re going to have one. No way at this point in time. It would require a referendum, and nobody is going to vote for another line item on their tax bill right now.”
Anderson is not a newcomer to village government. He was a village trustee in the 1970s when the Village Board established a land-use plan, built the wastewater treatment plant, and hired its first village administrator.
His other local government experience includes serving as past president of Kaneland District 302 Board of Education and being a three-term member of that board; as a member of the former Kane County Criminal Justice Commission; and as a member of the Kane County Regional Planning Commission and the Kane County Zoning Board of Appeals.
His other community involvement includes being a longtime member of the Elburn Lions Club and the Elburn Chamber of Commerce.
“I am an advocate of when new folks move in, they will come to some Lions Club functions and other Elburn events and observe the village and how it does things,” he said.
If elected, he will work toward updating the village’s land-use plan.
“That plan is over 15 years old. Does it, in fact, recognize what is going to happen in the future?” Anderson said. “We seem to be looking at what is going to happen next year. I don’t want us to do that. I want my grandchildren to have things molded for the next 20 years.”
Anderson wants residents to know that he is forward-thinking.
“Forward ever, backward never,” Anderson said.
He said the village needs improvements and has for some time in its stormwater system.
“We need to put some emphasis on it, and take care of it,” Anderson said.
Toward that goal, the village should do more basic maintenance of its infrastructure, which he feels has been lacking.
To help Elburn meet financial and other challenges, he wants the Village Board to return to its former committee structure so that trustees become more involved in the village’s operation and direction, he said.
“I’d like a finance committee and on the finance committee, I want the village treasurer, in addition to board members,” Anderson said.
Another board committee he wants to establish is development. He said he would expect the village development director and building and zoning director to be involved in that committee. He also would create a public safety committee that would include the police and fire chiefs.
“The more minds and the more people you get involved in the committee structure, the better,” Anderson said.
With the village facing declining revenue, he recommends that it do a needs assessment and zero-based budgeting.
“All village departments should establish a budget without looking at the last year’s,” Anderson said. “Maybe the board wouldn’t want that, but I would put it out there.”
When he was on the Kaneland School Board in the 1980s, the teachers were on strike. He said that during the negotiations, his main consideration was, will it be good for the kids?
Anderson said if he becomes Village Board president, the question he always will consider is, is it good for Elburn?
Romke, an Elburn trustee for the past two years, said after Jim Willey decided not to seek re-election to the village president seat, she would run for the position.
“Having been on the board for two years, I have gotten a feel for what the issues are, what we’re facing-and I thought I could help make a difference in Elburn,” Romke said.
Aside from her board experience, Romke would bring commitment to the position, she said.
“Whatever I tackle, whether it be working with clients, the community or on the board, has my full attention” Romke said. “I take this very seriously.”
If elected, her foremost goal for the Village Board is that it “maintain a vision of what Elburn is and can be,” Romke said. “We need to be visionary, be innovative, and look forward, to move the village to another level.”
She believes during the economic downturn, Elburn officials should take the opportunity to take a step back and consider the village’s future.
“While we’re not dealing with rapid expansion, we should plan carefully to make sure that when the economy does turn around, and it will-it’s cyclical-that we’re prepared and that we’ve made good decisions,” Romke said.
For example, when village officials are working with developers and going through the pre-annexation process, they should make sure to do planned unit development so that the village does not have sprawl and disconnected growth, Romke said.
“We need to work within the framework of the village’s long-range plan for where housing and commercial development are slated to go,” Romke said.
She said she wants the village to keep an “open dialogue” with developers who want to build in Elburn in the future.
“We need to try not to have any contention with their plan versus what we’re requiring. We have to figure out how to work together,” Romke said. “If we do that, I strongly feel if we do that and plan well, that when the economy recovers we will be perfectly positioned.”
One project Romke hopes that the village can do is to connect the Metra station and its proposed development to the downtown by building a pedestrian bridge at the end of Third Street.
“We have submitted a request for stimulus funds hopefully to construct a pedestrian bridge that will allow for pedestrians to walk from the train station to the downtown,” she said.
She wants the community to be more pedestrian oriented, as a whole.
“We need to continue to develop our bicycle route plan, to be able to move people around the village without having to drive, and let people know how they can get from one point to another,” Romke said.
Romke said the village should take advantage of all the resources it can to obtain information and funding.
“We need to work with our legislators, our congressmen, and our county, state and municipal officials,” Romke said.
“We have Northern Illinois University; we’ve got Waubonsee Community College; we’ve got Fermilab-all of these are sources of innovative thinkers.
Although the village does not have a park district, it could work with other communities on exchanging some recreational opportunities, Romke said.
Romke wants village officials to have a more open dialogue with the Elburn and Countryside Community Center Board, because the center has a lot to offer, she said.
A nine-year resident, Romke lives in the Cambridge subdivision, where residential flooding has been an issue. She wants the village to solve the problem there and elsewhere in the village.
“It’s time to take some corrective action, do whatever is necessary to correct the water leaking into the sewer lines that overwhelmed the wastewater treatment plant,” Romke said.
She said when the Village Board does its budget, it must prioritize paying for any needed stormwater and sewer system repairs.
The village should continue to seek government grants, Romke said.
“We need to be more proactive. We need to write legislators, letting them know what Elburn needs.”
In her job as a Realtor, Romke lobbied for tax credits for home purchases. What she learned was that what gets a response from lawmakers are phone calls and personal letters to them, she said.
Romke said revenue will be Elburn’s biggest challenge during the next few years. As Elburn’s village budget tightens, the solution should not be to cut staff, which she considers the village’s most valuable resource, Romke said.
Instead, she wants each village department to make the appropriate adjustments so that the village can get through this time, such as cross sharing, and group purchasing for supplies.
Romke said the village must make the most of its existing staff.
“If I am elected, something I will want to put into place is that every employee is going to write their own job description, what they do, how much time they spend doing it, and other ways they feel they can contribute,” she said. “I feel that that is critical. We may have some people that may have some talents that we’re not even aware of and not using.”
She also wants village staff to create a new policies and procedures manual for employees.
Before becoming a Realtor, Romke was in healthcare corporate sales and marketing for more than 20 years.
Romke said she gained experience that she brings to the Village Board.
“I am able to read and understand a budget, to work within budget constraints, and to bring creativity and insight to the board,” she said. “I bring a lot of enthusiasm and energy.”
To boost revenue, the village must bring more businesses to the village, and toward that goal, it will have to promote the village more, she said.
“We are going to have to start doing more getting out and sell Elburn as a place to bring your business, because we are the next western suburb,” Romke said.
She believes that the downtown could be revitalized by connecting it to Metra, with the pedestrian bridge.
“People could take the train out to Elburn for all the events that we have, and walk downtown.”