When did Campton Hills governance go off the rails? Hard to tell for sure. Don't ask Village President Patsy Smith and Trustee Harry Blecker. You'll get two different answers and be right back at Square 1.
One thing is certain: The village needs to move on to Square 2 and leave the last year or so in the rearview mirror.
How to accomplish that? Get a new president or get new trustees? Or both? The board is so divided that Smith and Blecker, who wants to succeed Smith, have their own slates. Nothing inherently wrong with that, it's just that both sides have seemingly dug in with a my-way-or-the-highway posture.
Blecker says that's one reason the president needs to go, because she refuses to compromise. "It's her way or no way," he said.
Smith, a write-in, doesn't see it that way.
What we see is a village going through exceedingly painful growing pains. The semirural community was incorporated in 2007 by referendum. Smith was among the leading proponents. She is the only president the village has ever had.
Things were relatively calm until a few years ago when the board voted down a drug treatment recovery center. Since then, Smith and the four-vote board majority have been on different teams when it comes to the employment of the village administrator, that of the police chief and whether one trustee should keep his seat even though he's moved from the village.
The majority has also hired its own legislative attorney, with the unbudgeted bill north of $20,000 and counting. And the never-opened drug treatment center? The village insurance carrier recently negotiated a $500,000 settlement with the group, which had threatened a $4 million lawsuit.
"Our image is tarnished," Smith says. "Everything is a fight," Blecker said.
It takes two to fight. And two attorneys is one too many. Smith is not always wrong and Blecker and the majority are not always right. And vice versa.
When the village incorporated, some opponents disconnected. There was a follow-up referendum to dissolve the village. It failed, thanks to Smith. The village, under Smith's leadership, was basically stable the first six years. The budget is in good shape and reserves are in excellent shape. The road to incorporation was rough, and this battle, in many ways, has proved to be a bit rougher.
Smith said the village needs to give the people a voice and a vote. We agree, and expect her to practice what she preaches with whoever ends up on the new board. Write-in Smith's name. She is endorsed.
For village board, six candidates are vying for three seats. Incumbents Laura Andersen and Susan George are joined by Michael O'Dwyer on one slate, and Steven D. Galloway and write-ins Don Sheluga and Mike Turgeon were asked to run by Smith. We think all candidates in the village race can learn something from the Rotarians' motto, "Service Above Self." Turgeon, a Northwest suburban Rotary Club member for 21 years, says it's his guiding principle in all endeavors. We heartily encourage his endorsement. "People have differences. But it's been a little too acute," he says of all the head-butting. "There is total discontent," says O'Dwyer, who, like Turgeon, has the financial background and acumen to steer the village in the right direction and eliminate needless spending. Both also agree two attorneys is one too many, and that the village can save money by not having even one attorney at every meeting. George and Andersen blame Smith for virtually every village ill, and seem to have no intention of seeing things any other way, which is one thing for which they criticize Smith. That's unsustainable for a village that needs to return to getting things done and end "Tuesday Night at the Fights," as Sheluga calls it, adding, "And I aim to fix it." Sheluga, chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals and a member of the Plan Commission, has a level-headed approach the village desperately needs. Turgeon, O'Dwyer and Sheluga are endorsed.