Geary plans to make communication a priority for the future
by Ryan Wells
Sugar Grove—Sugar Grove Village Trustee Kevin Geary announced this week that he will run for village president in 2013.
Geary began his 13-year tenure on the Village Board because of his relationship with the community, and he is seeking to take that relationship one step further. He joined the board in May 1999, just over three years after moving to the village.
“When we first moved to Sugar Grove, my wife and I thought we’d found heaven,” Geary said. “We really love the fact that we are surrounded by cornfields, and we were so happy to be here.”
He said that shortly after the couple closed on their house, the developer went bankrupt, and soon, many homes in the neighborhood had issues to be solved.
“I happened to be more vocal than the rest,” Geary recalled. “As we worked through those issues (with the village), a number of residents suggested that I get on the board, that I could somehow be their catalyst to getting their issues and concerns heard. I believe I’ve done a good job of that over my tenure.”
He said that his desire to listen to Sugar Grove residents and address their concerns is what led to his decision to oppose current Village President Sean Michels, who announced his intention to run for re-election at the end of July.
“The biggest issue over the next term isn’t the big-box growth that has been talked about in the past, it is merely addressing current residents’ issues,” Geary said.
Geary pointed out multiple examples in the past that he said demonstrate the need for improvements in that area. One example is the ongoing Mallard Point issue, in which some residents of the subdivision have faced extensive drainage problems for years. As a fellow Mallard Point resident, Geary knows about the issue from both perspectives—as a resident and as a government official.
“For it to take five years to get a project done, when the residents were begging the village for some form of assistance, it’s way too long,” Geary said. “I didn’t feel the village engaged all the possible tools at their disposal to help with the problem.”
He said there are a number of streets in the village that need repair, but no money is allocated in the budget for them until the situation becomes such a problem that it cannot be ignored any longer. The process that led to Perry Street’s repair is an example of this problem, he said.
According to the candidate, the lack of meaningful communication with residents was also apparent following a series of small-group discussions with residents. With partial funding from the state several years ago, the village engaged in what was called the Community Cares Initiative, designed to give residents a chance to help develop a plan that reflected the community’s wants and needs for the future.
“A lot of residents put in a lot of time, only to have the project fail,” Geary recalled. “The plan was thrown on a shelf and ignored … In the years I’ve been on the board, that plan has never been referred to again.”
Geary said that the communications problem extend to the village’s relationship with the other municipalities in the area as well.
“Sugar Grove does a terrible job of building relationships with sister communities,” he said. “Pick any one of them, and you ask them about Sugar Grove, and they go ‘Well, OK …’ We just don’t have a good working relationship with any of them.”
If elected as village president, communication would become the priority, he said.
“I lead by consensus, hearing what the people want to say,” Geary said. “My belief is that the village government is the people, and if you have residents coming and asking about stuff, you shouldn’t give them a short, curt answer; you should be listening to them and trying to figure out how to answer their questions and address their problems.
“It is a service type of job. It isn’t for the glory or a stepping stone to higher things. The residents are asking you to work for them.”