Hello everyone and welcome to what I hope to be the first of many blogs about my time on the Winnebago County Board.
Blogging my experiences and giving people an insight into the “day-to-day” world was something I wanted to do from the very start of my term. Like any new job, you can only imagine the complexities – much less of those in politics and government. Now that I feel a little more comfortable, I’m hoping to find a voice here for people in the community to not only better understand county government, but to be able to ask questions (or have questions asked) in a friendly, informal environment.
You can’t start the journey without the first step, so here we go…
Last week was the 4th week of the month, so we had our regular board meeting as we always do. Since this is my first entry I’ll touch upon the two most notable items that happened last week:
The board approved the appointment of Carla Paschal as Chief Financial Officer, Amanda Hamaker as County Administrator, and Julia Halsted as Deputy County Administrator.
This is the first – and possibly the biggest – push for our new Chairman Frank Haney’s administrative team. Previously, Steve Chapman had been managing both roles of CFO and County Administrator in an effort to save the taxpayer’s a little money. Steve, who had been with the county since 1978 had been doing an absolute yeoman’s job at the helm and would be impossible to replace. With his retirement announced, we knew one person could not handle the many and complex tasks both positions required so the search was on.
While the political season always has it’s ups and down, now that we are in full gear with the new team, I feel it’s very important for me to make clear that I plan on backing our new Chairman 100% on his handpicked team. In fact, the entire board approved his appointments unanimously which speaks volumes about their wisdom.
Chairman Haney needs to have every opportunity to carry out his vision the voters of Winnebago County entrusted him with, and we need to ensure he has every opportunity to do so.
I’m particularly looking forward to working with Amanda Hamaker. She and I (as well as Chairman Haney) go back for years with the young professional group Next Rockford. I’m all about the out-of-the-box ideas I know she brings to the table, so I’m looking forward to working with the her and the new team.
Resolution authorizing the issuance of purchase of new digital STARCOM Radios from Motorola
This caused quite the spirited discussion on the board floor Thursday night and more so speaks to a core philosophic argument the board has been having with many issues – that is saving money vs public safety.
Currently, the county is using outdated analog radios – their end-of-life is nearing soon and is has been apparent for some time Winnebago County needed to join the 21st Century as other municipalities and upgrade to digital radios. These radios would be used by departments throughout the county, with the majority going out to the Sheriff’s department. These digital radios would provide a new level of communication amongst the Shefiff, his team, and other municipalities (like the City of Rockford). They can even provide crystal clear coverage through the entire state if needed!
Many board members felt they needed more time to look over the numbers to see if this was the very best possible deal. While in theory that is very sound, many of us have had weeks to consider this and our vendor was only allowing us end-of-year financing and rates until the end of 2016 to get this done. Had we laid this over to our next board meeting in 2017, it would have been a catastrophic oversight costing the county a lot more money. I am a big fan of saving our pennies, but this could have costed us dollars if we waited any longer.
Again, it all goes back to saving money vs public safety. Which one trumps the other?
As time goes on, you’ll hear a lot on my views on saving money vs. public safety, but it goes without saying that I voted for this wholeheartedly and when push comes to shove I am a HUGE supporter of public safety. Anyone familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs knows that one of our core, basic needs is security & safety. We simply cannot allow people in our community to be shot & killed and pretend that it’s not out problem because it’s not “our side of town” or not in “our city”. It’s our first responsibility as elected officials to protect the people of all the districts we are sworn to represent. Greater communication with these new radios is a no-brainer towards this philosophy and another powerful tool on the crisis in crime we have here in the Stateline.
Well, that’s all for today. Again, thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope to really find my voice on this and many topics in the weeks, months and years to come!