SYCAMORE – The DeKalb County Board officially welcomed seven new members Monday, including four Democrats, resulting in a 12-12 split along party lines for the 24-member body that got off to a divided start.
The even split made it necessary for a bipartisan advisory group of County Board members to come to a compromise on how the chairmanship and committee leadership positions would be filled, but those agreements caused division among members that caused some heated debate.
Ken Andersen, R-Sycamore, and Jeff Metzger, R-Sandwich, were both nominated for chairmanship, which surprised Charles Foster, R-Shabbona, because he believed there was an agreement for Andersen.
“It’s very sad, the lack of integrity involved in this,” Foster said. “This is politics at its worst.”
Metzger defended his decision to accept the other nomination despite criticism from his own party members, who said everyone agreed to support Andersen during the caucus meeting.
“The process is not over with until the vote has been taken,” Metzger said. “There is no personal gain. It’s a lot of work and little pay.”
The board stopped the meeting to “stand at ease,” and it divided into two separate groups to discuss agreements and talk off the public record for 10 minutes after there was some question about the legality of going into a full recess for private discussions during a public meeting.
After the group meetings during the “at ease” period, the board then nominated John Gudmunson, R-Somonauk, and Andersen withdrew his name. Metzger won the chairmanship 12-11 with all Democrats voting for Metzger. Paul Stoddard, D-DeKalb, won vice chair.
Andersen walked out of the meeting after the Metzger nomination.
The County Board was not the only government entity to receive a makeover as the county officially started its new judicial district.
County judges and legal officials were sworn in Monday to serve the newly created 23rd Judicial Circuit. The new circuit includes DeKalb and Kendall counties after both split from Kane County in the 16th Judicial Circuit.
The new circuit will allow DeKalb County to get through cases quicker because the courthouse will now have six full-time judges starting in January.
Kendall County Judge Tim McCann, new chief judge of the circuit, thanked those responsible for making the new judicial circuit a reality by writing rules and procedures and pushing for support of the legislation that allowed the split.
“This is a historic day ... and one that will never be repeated in our lifetime,” McCann said. “We will be more responsive and efficient than we’ve been in the past.”
Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert said the split from Kane County was necessary because Kane grew much faster than DeKalb and Kendall and had different needs. She said the split would never have happened without the support and assistance from judges in Kane County.
“It’s really a momentous day,” Stuckert said. “This is something we’ve worked together on for a long time.”
Both familiar and new names were included in the first class of government officials sworn into office Monday under authority of the new circuit. Officials such as Coroner Dennis Miller, Circuit Clerk Maureen Josh and Treasurer Mark Todd are back for another term, while State’s Attorney Richard Schmack and Regional Superintendent Amanda Christensen started their first official day on the job.
Schmack will have no time to ease into his position because investigations into Northern Illinois University are ongoing, and major court cases such as the William “Billy” Curl trial are weeks away. While Schmack criticized former State’s Attorney Clay Campbell for some of his tactics with NIU, he said he would continue to pursue investigations into the university when warranted.
“I’m not here to run NIU ... but we’re going to be intimately involved,” Schmack said. “We’ll examine anything that happens there in an appropriate way.”
New Board Members
Tracy Jones, R-Shabbona; Mark Pietrowski Jr., D-Cortland; Anthony Cvek, R-Sycamore; Misty Haji-Sheikh, D-DeKalb; Marc Johnson, D-DeKalb; Frank O’Barski, D-DeKalb; John Frieders, R-Sandwich.