Champaign County Gets New County Board & Executive

 
Champaign County Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana, IL.

The Champaign County Brookens Administrative Center in Urbana, where the Champaign County Board holds its meetings.

Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Democrats will gain an additional seat, when the Champaign County Board holds its organizational meeting Monday night at 6 PM. Six newly elected members will be sworn in, along with those elected who were already serving on the board. Five of the newly elected members are Democrats: Leah Taylor, Mike Ingram, Charles Young, Eric Thorsland and Tanisha King-Taylor, plus Republican Jodi Wolken.

With a 13 to 9 majority, and a sweep of county-wide offices in the November election, Ingram says Democrats will have a new political landscape to explore.

“We’ve kind of been handed a pretty strong mandate by the county, as far as the Democratic Party is concerned, to enact our vision,” said Ingram, who will represent County Board District Six along with fellow freshman Charles Young. “So I guess now, we have to actually go out and do it.”

The county board will choose its chair tonight. New county board member Eric Thorsland wants someone like the outgoing chairman, Pius Weibel.

“I think he was a very effective and pragmatic person,” said Thorsland, who is representing District 7, along with Democrat Kyle Patterson, who was elected in 2016. “So those are two characteristics we’re going to look to, going forward.”  

The new chair will shape the agenda and committees. But presiding over county board meetings will now be the job of Champaign County’s first County Executive, Democrat Darlene Kloeppel.

Kloeppel says presiding over the county board’s organizational meeting will be her first major official duty, following her swearing-in, scheduled for Monday morning at 8 AM.

Kloeppel will have veto power at county board meetings. She will also be appointing members to county board and commissions such as drainage districts and the Mental Health Board, a duty previously held by the county board chair. Kloeppel’s main duty as county executive will be to manage Champaign County government on a day-to-day basis. She says one of her goals for her first year in office is to develop a long-term strategic plan for all of county government.

“I’m hoping that we have some strategic plan in place that goes out six years, so that we have a direction to go,” said Kloeppel. “And that we’re going to do that by the end of summer, because the next budget cycle will be starting. I’m hoping that we can base our budgets on that plan about a direction that we want to be moving together for the next four years.”

Champaign County is the first county in downstate Illinois to institute a county executive. Kloeppel says there are still logistical matters to work out on how her office will work with the county board.

Incoming county board member Eric Thorsland says new rules that the county board will vote on Monday night will help to define the county executive’s role in Champaign County. But he believes the county board will work with Kloeppel much like they’ve worked with the county administrator. Thorsland says he hopes that Deb Busey, who came out of retirement to serve as interim county administrator following the departure of Rick Snider, will stay on for a while to help with the transition to the new county executive.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to show that Tanisha King-Taylor is one of the new members taking their seats on the Champaign County Board Monday night, not Maria Vasquez. - JM 12/4/18

Story source: WILL