Two incumbents and three newcomers will vie for three open seats on the Sugar Grove Village Board.
Robert Bohler was already involved in countless community activities when he took office as a village trustee 16 years ago.
A graduate of Waubonsee Community College and Southern Illinois University, Bohler, 62, has resided in the village the past 28 years. He defines the role of board trustee as an “at large” position in that it represents citizens throughout the whole village.
“As trustee, I make decisions regarding the use of city funds; municipal services such as police and fire, roads and sidewalks, water and sewers, etc.; and oversee the creation and revisions of village ordinances,” he said. “A trustee will make the decisions about such services, and also make the decisions about how they will be financed, usually by property taxes.”
During his time as a village resident, Bohler has coached baseball and girls basketball, started the Sugar Grove Rural Kane County Soccer League, served as vice president and president of the Rural Kane County Girls Softball League, and started the indoor soccer league. He also served as the president of the Sugar Grove Lions Club for six years, and started the Sugar Grove Corn Boil Fireworks, which he continues to support.
“I participated in many of the activities for our kids,” he said. “It also took a huge commitment from other parents in the village to make everything a success.”
Bohler believes his long-term standing on the Village Board is a big reason why he should be re-elected.
“I am familiar with the history and processes needed to move the village forward. The economy seems to be in ‘recovery’; if so, we are entering into a critical stage in the development of the community,” he said. “If the economic slide continues, my knowledge of past practices and the understanding of the future needs for the village of Sugar Grove is an asset moving forward.”
Bohler said the three top priorities he’d like to see the board further address are the addition of new business in the village, fiber optic Internet in the homes of residents and the workplaces of commercial and industrial partners, and the continued effort to fund the Route 47/I-88 interchange and expansion south, from Cross Street to Route 30.
He also notes that the village needs to attend to existing, unfinished subdivisions (Hannaford Woods, Prairie Glen, Settlers Ridge).
Bohler said his stance on video gaming will be determined by the result of the non-binding referendum on the Tuesday, April 9, General Election ballot.
“I do know that to any business, the bottom line is profit, and is often the difference between staying in business or shuttering the windows,” he said. “If we don’t allow equal turf to the local businesses, it puts them at a huge disadvantage. Is Sugar Grove business friendly or not? April 9 will tell.”
Bohler’s feeling regarding the current state of business and growth in Sugar Grove is that the village has done well during the recession with the number of businesses recently opened up, the likes of which include: McDonald’s, Walgreens, Rush-Copley Convenience Care Center, Couture Tan, Air Logic, Microbloc Solutions, No. 1 Fan Sports and Runway to Galway Irish Eatery.
“The (village’s) Economic Development Corporation is growing. They are currently looking at holding a spring luncheon at Waubonsee Community College to try and attract new business to the village,” Bohler said. “Village President Sean Michels, Community Development Director Rich Young and Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger met in February with IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation), Kane County and state legislators to try and get some of the Prairie Parkway money committed for the Route 47 & I-88 interchange, (and) the village continues to be visible at the International Shopping Center Convention held in Chicago.”
According to Bohler, Sugar Grove already has an existing IGA (intergovernmental agreement) with the Kaneland School District, and that the village’s refusal to re-sign the agreement in December 2011 had no impact whatsoever on the School District.
“It changed nothing. Every new home built in Settlers Ridge, Prairie Glen, and Hannaford Farms are all paying the normal rates we agreed upon four years ago,” he said. “Sugar Grove has led the way. I was on the committee that brought the idea forward. I think it’s important in reaching an agreement. However, it’s not critical.”
Bohler said he disagreed with entering into an agreement with the Kaneland School District on fixing impact fees for the next five years, as he felt five years was too long to commit to anything, and the agreement only covers new development.
“There is no new development on the horizon for Sugar Grove,” he said. “We have 1,200 lots to build on before that would happen.”
Bohler cited several reasons for his decision.
“One, the existing subdivisions where the new development would take place already has a full impact fee structure in place. Therefore, it would not impact the School District,” he said. “Second, the economy was in turmoil and property values were dropping. I felt a new impact fee study was needed to explore the viability of impact fee reduction.
“Third, I did not know what the Elburn Village Board was going to agree on with the ShoDeen Project and wanted all impact fees to be the same. As it turned out, I believe they signed an agreement at 50 percent of the proposed fees.”
Sean Herron’s new to this whole election thing.
Herron, a Kaneland School District teacher, will make his first foray into politics this spring as a candidate for Sugar Grove Village Board trustee. He is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army, and served two combat tours in Iraq and one peacekeeping mission to Macedonia. He is a member of the Sugar Grove American Legion, and serves as assistant precinct committeeman for Sugar Grove PC 5.
Herron, 35, and his wife, Sarah, volunteer at the Between Friends Food Pantry in Sugar Grove and Equine Dreams Therapeutic Riding Center in Newark, Ill. He has also led after-school literacy and reading programs for children in East Aurora with a group called Triple Threat Mentoring., and has volunteered with Sarah in the children’s ministry and welcome teams at The Orchard Community Church in Aurora.
Sean defines the role of village trustee as someone who works on a team under the village president to manage the property, finances, safety, and general welfare of the village, and he believes the position requires a level head, a good moral compass, and the ability to make decisions based not on emotion, but instead with the best interest of the village in mind.
“I am passionate about serving my community. I truly enjoy working with groups to help make the world around me a better place,” Sean said. “I see the village trustee position as an opportunity to serve my community at the highest local level. Given my experience in business, the military and in my volunteer work, I figured that I have a lot to offer the village. I feel that I can provide a fresh and unique perspective and a fresh voice for the community as a trustee.”
According to Sean, the combination of his education, work experience and service—both overseas in the military and in the local community as a volunteer—make him an outstanding candidate to serve as village trustee. He has also learned the values of discipline and service after 10 years in the Army. During the four years between his roles in the military and the Kaneland School District, he worked as an account manager for a major manufacturer, and completed his college degree and mentoring at-risk elementary school students. In his words, he is “passionate about serving.”
“Perhaps of even greater importance are those things I won’t bring to the Village Board,” he said. “I have no personal political agenda, so I am only responsible to the taxpayers. I have no preconceived ideas as to what will or will not work. so I am willing to consider all options. I have no potential conflicts of interest.”
Sean’s top three priorities on the Village Board would be financial accountability to Sugar Grove taxpayers, the continued focus to make the village a more business-friendly environment, and an investigation into potential cost savings through the re-issuance of general obligation bonds.
“Recently, the Kane County Forest Preserve District was able to save taxpayers millions of dollars in interest by re-issuing certain bond issues through an innovative bidding program,” Sean said. “Kane County is in the process of evaluating similar options that could save between two and three million dollars, depending upon market conditions. Not all of the village’s bond issues would be viable options for such a program, but it is quite possible that some would qualify and potentially save tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments annually.”
Sean said he and Sarah have seen their home property taxes rise by 11.6 percent over the past five years. At that same time, the assessment on the property has decreased by 15.3 percent.
“Clearly this represents some sort of disconnect, and I will do everything I can to freeze or reduce property taxes here in Sugar Grove until this ratio is more balanced,” he said.
Sean doesn’t have a stance regarding the “hot button” topic of video gambling in Sugar Grove. He feels that one of his strengths in the Village Board trustee race is that he doesn’t have a personal political agenda.
“I am only responsible to the voters whom I represent,” he said. “I have no preconceived ideas as to what will or will not work to bring revenue to Sugar Grove, so I am willing to consider all options presented to me in detail before I make a decision.”
As for his stance regarding the Route 47/I-88 interchange project, Sean said that it, along with the proposal to widen the stretch of Route 47 from Sugar Grove to Kendall County to four lanes, are great ideas being presented by village president candidates Sean Michels and Kevin Geary.
“Both options will help support not only the businesses that we already have here, but it would also help support future business and make trips south and east much easier,” Sean said. “Although I am in total support of construction proposals beneficial to the village, I will have to see all the details before committing to any project.”
This will be a busy spring for Sean and Sarah, as the couple is expecting their first child—a son—sometime within the next few weeks.
“This is the community my wife and I chose to be our home,” Sean said. “Naturally, we are excited to be parents, and I am committed to making Sugar Grove the best possible community for my family and for yours.”
Stephanie Landorf is one of three newcomers seeking a seat on the Sugar Grove Village Board. An administrative assistant in the legal department of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, she believes a trustee has a responsibility to the community to provide residents with every opportunity possible to be able to voice their opinions and concerns; to be open in the goals and decisions for the village and use common sense when creating policies; and to encourage growth within the village while maintaining a safe community where people will want to live and raise their families.
When Landorf, 44, and her husband moved to Sugar Grove nine years ago, they were looking for a community where they could raise their daughter—a community that had the values and an environment similar to where she grew up.
“We enjoy the feeling of community in our town, yet in talking with friends and neighbors, many feel the board doesn’t really hear them,” she said. “I want to be their voice and help our town to grow while maintaining our ‘family’ community.”
Landorf knows she may not have the political background or experience some of the other Village Board candidates possess, but as a working mother, neighbor and member of the community, she is open and receptive to hearing from residents, and has the desire to bring the board to the people of her community. She sees the obstacles facing the village, and believes she can bring a fresh approach to the board.
If elected to serve on the Village Board, Landorf’s chief priorities would include making the board more open and accessible to residents, working toward more growth in commercial and industrial areas, and further addressing community infrastructure.
“Poor roads, sidewalks and flooding are all issues,” she said. “We need to be creative and aggressive in seeking grants for repairs, as well as looking at all opportunities to fund the needed repairs.”
Landorf said Sugar Grove needs to change its reputation of “being difficult to work with,” and believes the board needs to look at every opportunity as a chance to grow the community.
“If the sidewalks belong to the village, why, when they are in need of repair or replacement, are the residents required to pay for 50 percent of the cost?” she said. “In the older part of town, the sidewalks are cracked, heaved up and of varying widths. I have a couple neighbors that use motorized scooters, and the state of our sidewalks hinder their ability to get around. So, if I could pass one ordinance, it would be that the village is responsible for costs for the repair and replacement of their sidewalks.”
Landorf sees the desire of local businesses for video gambling as a way to increase revenue, “especially as some neighboring towns allow it.”
“I am glad the board is letting (the video gambling item) go to an advisory referendum. I think this is the kind of decision that should be put to the residents,” she said. “I hope the board listens to the voters on Tuesday, April 9.”
Landorf is happy with the growth in business Sugar Grove has experienced over the past few years, but doesn’t think it’s been enough.
“The economic downturn slowed or stopped many projects, but that just means we need to work harder, not make it harder for businesses to come to Sugar Grove,” she said.
Rick Montalto has served on the Sugar Grove Village Board the past four years, but his experience in community involvement goes far beyond his time on the board.
A retired law enforcement official and current Criminal Justice instructor at Waubonsee Community College, Montalto, 58, has coached youth soccer, basketball and baseball, participated in Kaneland Music and Sports Boosters, served seven years on the Village Public Safety committee and five years as the chair of the Village Police Commission.
He defines the role of village trustee as representing citizens by providing input for the short- and long-term planning of village operations.
“We work closely with the village department heads and staff to see that funds are appropriated properly to provide the day-to-day services to enhance the quality of life for our residents like police, fire, water, sewer and snow plowing,” Montalto said. “In addition, we work to promote the village with the business community to encourage future growth and tax revenue.”
Montalto has been in public service most of his life and has been a resident of Sugar Grove for the past 19 years. He feels it is important to give back to the community, and has volunteered his time and energies in various capacities during his time as a village resident. He was encouraged to run for board trustee by some friends and neighbors as a means to address issues they felt were lacking in the community at the time.
He believes every trustee should bring something to the board that will benefit the village.
“I have over 34 years of emergency services background, as well as a master’s degree in management and organizational behavior,” Montalto said. “My background assists in emergency preparedness planning, emergency equipment purchasing, emergency staffing, traffic issues for special events and so forth. My educational background is valuable with the organizational culture of the village and its employees, and I believe that we currently have a dedicated staff of employees that provide great service to our community. (I) would like to see us stay that way.”
If re-elected to his second term, Montalto’s priorities on the board would include continuing controlled, sustainable growth along Route 47; working toward providing affordable housing for apartment dwellers, first-time home buyers, and seniors looking for alternative living when their single-family homes become too burdensome; and continuing to invest in new technology to enhance the level of services that can be provided to the community and encourage new growth.
During Montalto’s first term in office, he pushed for the village to adopt an administrative towing program, which offsets costs that the community incurs through the process of making arrests of certain types of criminal and traffic offenders.
“I felt that these costs should be passed onto the offenders instead of being paid for by our taxpayers,” he said. “Since this ordinance was passed, we have generated about $200,000 in revenue at no cost to the average taxpayer.”
Montalto said his personal opinion toward video gambling in the village is that the community doesn’t need it. He noted, however, that his vote will not be what his opinion is based on.
“I see both arguments (regarding video gambling), and understand that it may negatively affect certain businesses in town if it is permitted in county areas at both ends of our community, and that our businesses should be given a level playing field to play on,” he said. “The (Sugar Grove) American Legion claims that it will have to close its doors without (video gambling), due to their lost revenue. I agree that putting this on an advisory referendum is in the best interests of the community. We represent the entire village, and my vote will be based on what the majority of the people want, not my personal opinions, because that is my obligation as a trustee.”
In terms of current business and growth in the village, Montalto believes the village has done very well during the last four years while many surrounding communities have suffered.
“We have stuck with our vision of controlled, sustainable growth, and have encouraged many new businesses to come into our community,” he said. “During the last four years we have seen businesses liike McDonald’s, Walgreens, Rush-Copley Medical Center, Jimmy John’s, West Suburban Bank, hair salons, tax service providers and on and on.
“I think we need to continue doing what we are doing, because it is obviously working.”
Gayle Deja-Schultz is the third of three newcomers to the Sugar Grove Village Board trustee race this spring.
The director of Special Events for The Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago, Deja-Schultz, 43, holds an associate’s degree from Williams Rainey Harper College in Palatine, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University that she received this year. Her community involvement includes work with the Kaneland W.I.N.S. (Women in Networking Service), Kane County Senior Resources and Corn Boil. She also has an active membership in the Sugar Grove American Legion, as her husband is a veteran and firefighter.
Deja-Schultz defines the role of Village Board trustee as the honor of public service and the responsibility to represent all citizens honestly and equally. She believes no one board member has the authority to act on his or her own, and that it’s imperative that trustees have a team-player attitude and work in a positive manner with all members of the village team.
“It is the trustees’ responsibility to be knowledgeable about all village, county, state and national issues, as well as laws governing municipalities,” she said.
Deja-Schultz has been involved as a community activist for several years. In previous election seasons, village residents asked her why she wasn’t on the ballot, and encouraged her to run for public office. She has gained additional experience participating in the government process by assisting in writing state legislation, creating ad hoc committees for the village when needed and giving her “solicited opinion” from time to time.
In the last year and half, she has attended nearly every Village Board meeting. As a result, she developed a passionate opinion about how the village is managed, and believes that she could make a positive difference and assist in the future development of Sugar Grove.
“Sugar Grove is truly a great place to live, work and play,” she said. “With my diverse background, I hope to implement my many years of business experience and community involvement to help the village of Sugar Grove achieve their goals in a responsible manner that will be beneficial to all residents.”
If elected to the Village Board, Deja-Schultz’s priorities would include working to help the village “grow in a manner that will keep its small town atmosphere, yet welcome new and exciting businesses”; using a common-sense approach to streamline local government processes in order to develop a reputation of being a “business friendly” community; and communicating with residents on a regular basis in order to gain a clear understanding of what their needs and expectations are regarding the future of Sugar Grove.
“While I understand that some information may be privileged or confidential, I would implement programs in a responsible way to keep the residents informed and welcome more community involvement,” she said.
Deja-Schultz believes her stance on the video gambling referendum, which will appear on the April 9 General Election ballot, is “irrelevant.”
“I would take into consideration that if there is a low turnout on election day, the public opinion would only be representative of those who choose to participate, (which) may not dictate a true majority,” she said. “However, as an elected village trustee, I would honor the majority opinion of the referendum and vote accordingly.”
In terms of the current state of business and growth in the village, Deja-Schultz believes Sugar Grove could benefit by attracting more small retail businesses to complement its community, and notes one recurring complaint that she frequently hears.
“Due to the village’s variety of lengthy or overly complicated procedures, many businesses have found Sugar Grove difficult to work with, ultimately giving the impression that Sugar Grove is not business friendly,” she said. “If elected, I would passionately investigate these allegations and review all government processes to insure that they are streamlined as effectively as possible to provide businesses with a welcoming environment, yet still facilitating responsibly grow within our community.”
Deja-Schultz envisions the village benefitting from the Route 47/I-88 project, and said she would also want to further investigate any and all possible effects the interchange could have on local businesses and households, as a way to ensure that the project would, in the long run, be beneficial for the whole of Sugar Grove.
“I will continue to work to set the ground work for this and other projects by securing additional grants for our community and trying to further simplify the government processes so that these types of projects can move forward in a timely manner,” she said.