SYCAMORE – DeKalb County's top Democrat will try to win a seat on the county board as he faces off against two incumbent Republicans.
Mark Pietrowski Jr., who was named chairman of the DeKalb County Democrats in May, will challenge six-year member Ken Andersen and four-year member Riley Oncken in District 3. The two candidates with the highest vote totals represent the district.
District 3 includes a large portion of Sycamore and a northern section of Cortland. It extends south from Base Line Road to North Street and west from East County Line Road to Route 23 where it snakes around Main Street, Bethany Road and Webster Road.
Pietrowski, who failed to make the board in 2010, said he wanted to run for office to improve communication with constituents in the district and offer long-term thinking to major projects, such as the county's jail expansion.
He said both incumbents failed to communicate sufficiently with residents during the county's decision to expand the landfill – a decision Andersen opposed – and have yet to engage in meaningful discussions about the long-term funding that will be needed to increase the staff size in the expanded jail.
Andersen also has voiced concern about the scope and cost of the jail expansion.
"We need more forward thinkers," Pietrowski said. "We want to make sure that we're preaching responsible growth."
Responsible growth is a cause Andersen said he has supported since taking office in 2006, noting he has not voted in favor of any budget that includes a tax increase and will not vote for this year's budget for the same reason.
For Andersen, the budget process is his biggest concern every year and believes board members need to hold taxes and be more aggressive in looking for cuts. If the county needs as much as it has been spending in recent years, Andersen said reserves should be exhausted before asking residents for more tax revenue.
"We have to make cuts, as hard as it might be on people," Andersen said. "I don't buy into when auditors say we need to maintain a certain amount of reserves. Let's take money out of reserves and spend it down before going ahead and taxing people more."
Oncken, a local attorney, said his legal expertise offers a different perspective on the board, and that he too would look to reform the budget process. Oncken said he would like to talk to department heads about using zero-based budgeting in future years to see what is really needed.
Oncken also previously proposed reducing the size of the county board from 24 members to 18 members and said he is always looking to cut where it can be done, though added the county has done well to maintain services on tighter budgets.
"I'm a big proponent of reducing government as much as possible," he said.
Meet the candidates
Mark Pietrowski Jr. Affiliation: Democrat Age: 29 Town: Sycamore Education: Associate's Degree, Kishwaukee College Bachelor's Degree, Communication, Northern Illinois University Master's Degree, Communication, Northern Illinois University Career: Associate Director for LA&S External Programming and Instructor, Northern Illinois University Marital Status: Single
Ken Andersen Affiliation: Republican Age: 69 Town: Sycamore Career: Retired Marital Status: Married, Wife, Bess
Riley Oncken Affiliation: Republican Age: 33 Town: Not available Education: Bachelor's Degree, Law Enforcement & Justice Administration and Political Science, Western Illinois University; Juris Doctor, J.D., Northern Illinois University College of Law Career: Attorney, Self-Employed Marital Status: Not available