Photo: Interested citizens and business members alike attended the Sugar Grove Meet the Candidate’s Night on Tuesday evening to ask questions and hear from their local politicians. Here, Sugar Grove attorney Steve Ekker opens the evening. Photo by Kimberly Anderson
by Keith Beebe
Video by Sugar Grove Online
SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove residents on Tuesday evening got a look at many of the village candidates who will appear on the April 9 General Election ballot.
The occasion was Sugar Grove Meet the Candidates night. Held at the Sugar Grove Community House and co-hosted by the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Elburn Herald, the event provided local candidates with an opportunity to introduce themselves to residents and discuss village topics and issues.
Sugar Grove governing bodies, including the Fire Protection District, Public Library, Park District, Community House, Waubonsee Community College Board, Kaneland School Board, Township, Village Board and village president, were represented during the event. During the introduction period, several candidates talked about how they came to live in Sugar Grove. Others briefly outlined their reason for running for local office. Kaneland School Board trustee candidate Pedro Rivas ended his introduction speech by saying “Vote for Pedro”—a nod to the film “Napoleon Dynamite.” Township write-in candidate Laurene Geary stated her belief in open and honest government, and pledged accessibility and availability to the residents in attendance if she’s elected next month.
Library Board candidate Louise Coffman used part of her introduction to endorse another candidate.
“I ask the voters to take the time to write in Pat Graceffa on April 9,” Coffman said. “I have never met anyone more passionate about or dedicated to the library than Pat. She deserves our support and a seat on the board.”
Graceffa during introductions told the audience that she’s a life-long library supporter, an education advocate, and she loves to read.
“My 12-year participation in the Sugar Grove Library Friends group has given me access to the library staff, the library collection and, most importantly, to our Library District residents. So I will not be new to the workings of the library,” she said.
There are five Village Board trustee candidates vying for three open seats. Non-incumbent Village Board candidates Gayle Deja-Schultz, Stephanie Landorf and Sean Herron all shared their background and hopes for Sugar Grove. Deja-Schultz noted that she is an advocate of seniors and a member of the Kane County Senior Resources; Herron talked about how experience working for a Fortune 500 company made him a great candidate for the position; Landorf said she wanted to see board meetings webcast on the village’s website.
Rick Montalto, one of two Village Board incumbents on the ballot this spring, ended his introduction by encouraging residents to “not to replace what works with what sounds good.”
“Your current Village Board and staff are not just about the rhetoric; as a team, we have proved that we can move the village forward while keeping a balanced budget,” he said.
Village President Sean Michels and his challenger, board trustee Kevin Geary, rounded out the first half of the event. Michels said his future goals are to continue working on the Route 47/I-88 interchange project, which will bring in additional commercial development to help further diversify the tax base.
“I’d like to also work with Kaneland School District on an intergovernmental agreement on impact fees to make sure that new development pays for itself, and I’d like to bring fiber-optic service to the community to make our businesses competitive so that they can compete with the rest of the area.”
Geary said he “has concerns with the direction in which Sugar Grove is going,” noting that there are four key areas that can be improved. However, Geary was only able to mention the first two keys—open and honest government and diversifying the tax base—before he ran out of time.
The second portion of the evening involved a question-and-answer session involving candidates for Sugar Grove Township supervisor, Village Board trustee and village president. The four township supervisor candidates—Harry Davis, Scott Jesseman, Curt Karas and Tom Rowe—fielded questions regarding maintaining services while keeping taxes down and working with outside districts.
“As we’ve seen with Rob Roy (Drainage District No. 2) and the village finally getting together on Mallard Point (to solve its drainage issue), a lot of good things can come out of (working with other districts),” Jesseman stated in response to the latter question.
Village Board trustee candidates received questions about their campaign platform, their stance on video gambling machines in the village, and what they would do to attract new businesses to the village while retaining existing ones.
“People want to see growth within the community. I personally don’t only want growth, but I want to see responsible growth in the community,” Deja-Schultz said in response to the first question. “That means businesses that come (to the village) are good for our community.”
“Originally, I was the first one that came out against (video gambling). I came out against gambling in the community due to my 31 years of law enforcement background and some of the issues that gambling does bring,” Montalto said in response to the second question. “However, I was also the one who was a swing vote to change our mind to go back to authorizing it for the (Sugar Grove) American Legion. The only one in our community who has applied for it is the American Legion.”
Montalto said the American Legion came to the Village Board and expressed that the establishment was on its “last legs.”
“They thought video gaming may bring membership back in for them; it’s a private club. I did not want to see the American Legion go away,” he s said.
The evening concluded with Michels and Geary fielding questions regarding what it would take to re-enter an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District , transparency of local government, and each candidates’ vision for the village.
“It isn’t a Kevin Geary vision for Sugar Grove—it’s a collaborative vision that includes every single citizen sitting here, citizens that are not here, but creating an environment where you have input into our processes,” Geary said in response to the final question. “The village does not exist for its own good; it exists because you, the citizens, desire it to exist, and to take care of the things that we, as individuals, cannot take care of.”
“We have to keep moving forward, and I think we have that vision in place. We have our long-range plan that shows where we want retail development, business development, our train stations, things like that. We need to continue to bring in businesses and rooftops so that we can see this vision grow,” Michels said.