Candidates make their case ahead of primary

Pictured, from left, are Tom Vercese (for State Rep. Jerry Costello II), Republican county board candidate Frank Kohler, county assessor Carl Wuertz, Republican sheriff candidate Neal Rohlfing, Republican county board candidate Bob Elmore, Regional Superintendent of Schools Kelton Davis, Republican sheriff candidate Joe Brauer, Monroe County Treasurer Kevin Koenigstein, Democrat sheriff candidate Dennis Schreder, Democrat county assessor candidate Barrie Scott and county commissioner Mike Kovarik. Not pictured is Mike Bost, Republican candidate for U.S. Congress, who also attended. (Alan Dooley photo)

More than 60 interested voters came to the Monroe County Annex in Waterloo last Wednesday evening for the Monroe County Farm Bureau’s “Meet the Candidates” forum ahead of the March 18 primary.

Each candidate was afforded the opportunity to speak for four minutes.

The evening kicked off with Republican Mike Bost, who is running for the 12th District U.S. Congressional seat in Washington. Bost is currently a State Representative in the 115th District, and said he was born and raised in Murphysboro and served three years in the Marine Corps.

Bost said he felt current government spending policies are driving jobs away.  He included experience trucking farm products, FFA membership and activities with Farm Bureaus in a list of activities strongly involving him with supporting agriculture.

Incumbent Democrat U.S. Congressman Bill Enyart, Bost’s likely opponent in November, was unable to attend due to duties in Washington.

Tom Vercese, a staff member for District 116 State Representative Jerry Costello II (D-Smithton), stood in for Costello, who is engaged in sessions in Springfield.

He said Costello is a strong supporter of concealed carry and is working to identify and make available grants that will support farm bureaus.

Farm Bureau member George Obernagel read a statement from Dennis Knobloch, current Monroe County Clerk, who was unable to attend due to being in classes for election judging. In the statement, Knobloch promised to continue providing the same level of service he has offered in previous terms.

Three candidates running for the single county board position up  this November were next on the slate.

Republican Bob Elmore told of his business experience managing warehousing, shipping and receiving for a media firm, and how he would use that experience and knowledge to better manage expenditures.

He noted that Illinois suffers the third highest unemployment rate in the nation, has a crushing pension debt, and even with a 66 percent tax hike, has still been unable to catch up on paying its bills.

Republican Frank Kohler, who faces Elmore in the primary, noted he was born and raised in Waterloo and told of his 35 years of law enforcement experience at various levels.  Stating that agriculture is the leading industry in the region, Kohler said he is also interested in promoting employment in the crafts and trades to help reduce unemployment in the county.

Incumbent Democrat county commissioner Mike Kovarik called agriculture the backbone of Monroe County. He expressed pride in his achievements in office, including implementation of in-house management at Oak Hill and issuing new bonds for the elder care facility — moves that together will save $250,000 a year starting next year.

Kovarik also said he was proud of helping eliminate expense accounts for county commissioners.

“Citizens should not have to pay for me to eat lunch five minutes from home,” he said.

Three candidates for Monroe County Sheriff were next up.

Republican Joe Brauer told of his extensive experience in the law enforcement field. He said he has talked to citizens and learned that they want better patrol coverage, and he has devised a plan to ensure better coverage of rural areas.

Brauer said educating citizens about drug perils and other programs to promote crime awareness would be priorities, as well as working to promote and support mutual aid agreements between area and state law enforcement agencies.

Brauer’s Republican primary opponent, Neal Rohlfing, stepped up next, and after briefly noting his Monroe County family ties and his law enforcement experience, addressed the recent spike in drug abuse as a major issue.

He said education is a key need, and that he strongly supports the growing work of the new county coalition against drugs. Rohlfing said better school security is also a priority.

Democrat sheriff candidate Dennis Schreder, current Monroe County Sheriff’s Department captain, told of his 23 years with the department, including seven years as second in command behind retiring Sheriff Dan Kelley.

Schreder listed the county’s 911 dispatchers, superb deputies and corrections officers as strong assets for the future.  He said his experience means he would not need training, but that he could indeed train others.  He said his goal would be to continue to keep the county as one of the safest in Illinois.

Two candidates for Monroe County Assessor stood up next.

Democrat Barrie Scott opened, telling of his experience as a professional architect here for 20 years. He noted that farmers are business persons, and they need to be able to rely on equitable, fare and timely assessments. Late assessments can cause cash flow problems for taxpayers and for elements of the government that depend on timely disbursement of tax receipts.

He acknowledged there will be errors, and some people might not be happy.  But he said everyone would receive respect and “taxpayers will be treated as employees.”

Current assessor Carl Wuertz, a Republican, briefly ticked off lifelong family and local ties, and said he has worked in the assessor’s office for more than 12 years including seven as assessor.

During this time, Wuertz has accumulated more than 400 hours of related training from various state agencies and participated in several assessor groups statewide. He noted that under his leadership, the assessor’s office has automated record keeping, making data available on the web, and has provided fair assessments for all.

Kevin Koenigstein, current Monroe County Treasurer, told how he has brought many technical updates to his office, helping ensure more efficient customer service.

Kelton Davis, running to retain his position as Regional Superintendent, said he has been involved with the office since 1997. Davis said he has a strong belief in what he does, and holds that schools must follow laws, and one of his biggest jobs is to assist them to do so.

(A primary election preview of contested races will appear in the March 12 edition of the Republic-Times.)

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