Election preview in this week’s R-T
Two Republicans running for state senate
Two candidates are vying for the Republican party nomination in the race for 58th District State Senator, as they seek to succeed longtime Republican State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, who is retiring. The winner in the primary will face Democrat Sheila Simon in November.
Sharee Langenstein, 45, of Murphysboro, works as an attorney who defends firearms rights.
She graduated from Missouri State University in 1995 and Southern Illinois University School of Law in 1998. She has worked for the Illinois State Rife Association writing firearms legislation. Before entering private practice, Langenstein served as an appellate prosecutor and assistant state’s attorney.
Although she has not served in the military, Langenstein said her older sister was killed while on active duty with the U.S. Army.
“I was the person who answered the door when two officers came to our home to deliver the news,” she said. “I will always work hard for our veterans.”
Together with husband, Mike, the Langensteins have six daughters between the ages of 6 and 18 — four by birth and two by adoption.
Langenstein serves as the Eagle Forum National Issues Chairman for Religious Liberty and helps lead Eagle Forum in Illinois. She is an allied attorney with the Christian law group Alliance Defending Freedom and has donated hundreds of hours defending life and religious liberty. She is a former volunteer and board member for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Illinois. Her family attends St. Andrew Catholic Church in Murphysboro.
“I do not want a political career,” Langenstein stressed. “I was recruited to run and agreed because I am disgusted by power-loving politicians who won’t look out for the families of Southern Illinois.”
If elected, Langenstein said she first hopes to educate citizens on how to fight against Springfield’s political games.She also wants to preserve core values such as gun rights and “life without compromise.” Passing a reasonable budget and bringing 21st century jobs to southern Illinois are other goals of hers.
“My focus will be bringing 21st century jobs to southern Illinois while preserving core values,” she said. “My Small Business Coalition and I have developed a plan to bring economic prosperity to our region: workmen’s comp reform, improving our communications infrastructure, and protecting existing pensions.
“I am not controlled by the Cook County power brokers. I have faithfully served southern Illinois for 20 years and I ask for the privilege of continuing that service in Springfield.”
Paul Schimpf, 45, of Waterloo, works as an attorney with the law firm of Stumpf & Gutknecht in Columbia.
He grew up in Waterloo before leaving in 1989 to join the military. After serving in the military, he returned to Monroe County. Schimpf was the Republican candidate for Illinois Attorney General in 2014.
A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Schimpf has 24 years of active duty, serving as a Marine Corps infantry officer and prosecutor before retiring as a Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel.
Together with wife, Lori, the Schimpfs have two children: Ethan and Garrett.
Schimpf is a member of Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Parish in Waterloo, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and National Rifle Association, and is a youth soccer coach in the Waterloo Sports Association.
“The Springfield political class has shown their inability to solve problems faced by our state,” Schimpf said. “We need leaders who can work with others from across the political and social spectrum to find solutions.”
If elected, Schimpf promises to “work hard, tell you the truth, and vote for the values we care about here in Southwestern Illinois: limited government, pro-life, and pro-Second Amendment.”
As for key issues, Schimpf said the challenges facing this district coincide with the state’s two greatest challenges: fixing the budget and bringing wellpaying jobs to the region.
“Fixing the budget requires that we grow our economy,” he said. “I support economic reforms to make our state more competitive. I will be an advocate for our local job creators: agriculture, southern Illinois coal, and the university system.
“Senator Luechtefeld recognizes that I am the best person to do this.”
Republican showdown in county board race
Two Republican candidates are seeking the party’s nomination on March 15 for the right to face Democratic challenger Leo Stephan for the county board seat to be vacated by Republican Terry Liefer.
Mark Altadonna, 61, of Waterloo, is a retired bank president who has served on various committees and boards in the county.
Raised in rural Marion County, Altadonna earned a degree in finance from the University of Illinois and completed a 40-year business management career, including 21 years as bank CEO. He has served on three corporate boards, the Kaskaskia College Board of Trustees, Monroe County Board of Review, Monroe County Economic Development Council, Monroe County Public Building Commission and Monroe County Mental Health Funding Board.
Among Altadonna’s many organizations and affiliations are the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce (2015 Community Service Award recipient), House of Neighborly Service (treasurer and business manager), Waterloo Rotary Club, Human Support Services, Life Network Capital Campaign Committee, United Way, Boy Scouts, Backstoppers, Morrison-Talbott Library Board of Trustees, and the Southwestern Illinois Planning Commission Advisory Board.
A 29-year resident of Monroe County, Mark and his wife of 37 years, Brenda, have two daughters and four grandchildren — all Monroe County residents. He is a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Columbia.
“The county faces many of the same issues that the business community has struggled with for years, including fiscal challenges, liability exposure, and providing services in efficient ways,” Altadonna said. “I have the experience to face these challenges.”
If elected, Altadonna said he hopes to increase local employment opportunities, maintain local control of county services, find new commercial property opportunities to lower the tax burden on homeowners and give local law enforcement support to maintain quality of life.
“Almost all county officials and department heads were kind enough to meet with me so I could learn the issues they face now and in the future,” he said.
As a result of these meetings and interaction with the community, Altadonna identifies key issues as finding ways to keep Oak Hill and county EMS services on sound fiscal footing, dealing with less state and federal assistance, integrating county information systems, improving financial reporting to commissioners, supporting existing economic development efforts and limiting county liability using standard policies.
Vicki Koerber, 57, of Waterloo, is the current county coroner and has served more than 11 years as an alderman in Waterloo in addition to nearly 20 years of service with Monroe County EMS.
Koerber, a lifelong resident of Waterloo, has served more than five years as coroner and has worked as an EMT/EMT-Paramedic with Monroe County EMS.
“Given the positions I have held, I bring a solid, workable knowledge to the commissioner’s position,” Koerber said.
Among the organizations, committees and affiliations for Koerber include the Executive Board of the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities; Finance, Economic Development, Sewer and Water, Safety committees for the City of Waterloo; ambassador for the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce; liaison with the Waterloo Park District; Monroe County Local Emergency Planning Committee; Critical Incident Stress Management Team with the Southwestern Illinois Region; Monroe County Bicentennial Planning Committee; Monroe County EMS Association; and Great Ladies of Waterloo (G.L.O.W).
Together with her husband, John, the Koerbers have three children, Kyle (Brooke), Kate, and Kelly Koerber, and two grandchildren: Grant and Garet Koerber.
“I would like to further serve my community by using the experience gained in municipal government and as county coroner,” Koerber said. “I have solid first-hand knowledge working with numerous entities that the commissioner governs. I am proactive, a problem solver, and dedicated to our community. I will bring a fresh approach to county government for you.”
If elected, Koerber hopes to maintain balanced budgets without compromising the integral services that Monroe County citizens require, as well as proactively working for new growth in business and jobs.
A priority is a balanced budget, Koerber stressed.
“Achievement of this goal will be accomplished through transparent communication and collaboration with departmental heads,” she said.
As the economy strengthens, Monroe County’s rich access to rail, river and highway makes this area advantageous for potential business, industry and job growth, she added.
“These types of developments in our area can have a direct positive effect on our property taxes,” Koerber said.
Local businesses, old and new, who have been the economic mainstay are also crucial to Monroe County, she said.
Republicans make their case for state’s attorney
There are two Republicans running for the office of Monroe County State’s Attorney, Myron Hanna and Chris Hitzemann, both of Columbia. The winner of this primary will face the winner of the Democratic primary between Heather Dabler and Dennis Field for the office to be vacated by retiring longtime state’s attorney Kris Reitz.
Myron Hanna, 58, of Columbia, is seeking the office of state’s attorney after having served as assistant state’s attorney for Monroe County since 2003.
Hanna graduated from Kinmundy-Alma High School, McKendree College and the University of Illinois College of Law. He has worked as a partner in the law firm of Hanna & Volmert, LLC, and is a former partner at Thompson Coburn and The Stolar Partnership.
He is a former board member and chair of Hoyleton Youth and Family Services, Hospice of Southern Illinois, and the YMCA of Southwest Illinois. Currently, he is a board member of Southwest Illinois Health Ventures, Inc. and Memorial Group, Inc., current chair of Memorial Group, Inc., member of Sister Cities of Columbia and member and past president of the Monroe County Bar Association.
Myron and wife Diane (Koch) have two children: Allison (Alexander) Wolfe and Steven Hanna.
“I want to keep the county safe,” Hanna said. “My substantial experience as assistant state’s attorney makes me uniquely qualified to fulfill the extremely important duties and responsibilities of this office.”
If elected, Hanna said he hopes to keep up the continued efficient, responsible and fair prosecution of all criminal offenses in Monroe County in cooperation with all law enforcement agencies, under existing law.
“The key issue for any state’s attorney is the effective prosecution of crime,” he said. “The duties of the office are highly technical in many respects, but also require sound judgment in all cases. The state’s attorney is responsible to the people of the county, but being responsible does not mean pandering to popular opinion. If elected, I will use all of my experience, training and judgment to vigorously and effectively prosecute all criminal offenses in Monroe County.”
Chris Hitzemann, 35, of Columbia, is a Red Bud native who has spent the last seven years litigating cases around the country for Thompson Coburn LLP.
A high school valedictorian, Hitzemann earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois, and graduated cum laude from John Marshall Law School.
He is a member of the Illinois, Missouri, American and local bar associations, Monroe County Farm Bureau, Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities, Helping Strays-Humane Society of Monroe County, NRA, ISRA and Ducks Unlimited.
Hitzemann said his parents, Gerald and Bonnie (Stellhorn), are his role models and taught him that success is earned, not given. He and wife, Beth (Sienkiewicz), have two children: Ella, 4, and Evan, 2.
“I believe victims deserve justice and Monroe County deserves a zero tolerance policy for drug dealers and violent criminals,” Hitzemann said. “I will work to ensure Monroe County remains a great place to live and raise a family.”
If elected, Hitzemann said his office will send a “loud and clear message” that Monroe County will not tolerate criminals who manufacture, sell, or traffic drugs, or commit violent crimes.
“I will fight for you,” he said.
Hitzemann said that while Monroe County is a great place to live, it faces an influx of drugs and violent crimes.
“I will proactively and vigilantly fight to keep our communities safe from these threats and will prosecute those who manufacture, sell, or traffic drugs, or commit violent crimes to the fullest extent of the law,” he said. “It’s time to send a message that we’re going to support law enforcement and stand up to those who’d love to see us fall.”
Two Democrats running for state’s attorney
There are two Democrats running for the office of Monroe County State’s Attorney, Heather Dabler of Columbia and Dennis Field of Waterloo. The winner of this primary will face the winner of the Republican primary between Myron Hanna and Chris Hitzemann for the office to be vacated by retiring longtime state’s attorney Kris Reitz.
Heather Wescoat Dabler, 34, of Columbia, has been working as an attorney for several years. She has a degree in psychology from the University of Missouri (2003) and earned her Doctor of Law in 2006 from Southern Illinois University School of Law.
Dabler started her law career at Freeark, Harvey & Mendillo, P.C. in 2006, where she handled a variety of cases from initial investigation and discovery through trial or final appeal. Since 2012, she has worked at Susan Wilson Law, concentrating primarily on domestic litigation.
“My diverse experience is beneficial in prosecuting criminal cases and advising the county in all legal matters,” she said.
Dabler’s husband, Nick, is a high school math teacher. Together, they have three children: Tucker, Tyson and Truman.
Dabler is a member of the Illinois Bar Association, Missouri Bar Association, Monroe County Bar Association and Columbia PTA.
Asked why she wants the position of state’s attorney, Dabler said she wants to ensure her children and all residents of Monroe County continue to live in one of the safest communities in the midwest.
“I also enjoy litigating a variety of cases and being in a courtroom,” she said.
If elected, Dabler hopes to see a decrease in methamphetamine and heroin use, as well as incidents of domestic violence through appropriate prosecution, in conjunction with available treatment for defendants and victims.
The increase in methamphetamine and heroin use among young adults and domestic violence in the community are among the key issues facing the office, she said.
“Grandparents are now caring for their grandchildren as a direct result of parental drug addiction,” Dabler said. “Victims of domestic violence are scared to report abuse over concern that their abuser will suffer no consequences. I plan to work with law enforcement and the court so that defendants are appropriately prosecuted and all parties involved receive any treatment available to them.”
Dennis Field, 60, of Waterloo, has worked many years as an attorney in this county, handling a variety of cases.
A journeyman ironworker since 1978, Field is a 1986 graduate of the SIU School of Law. He moved to Waterloo in 1988 and partnered in a law firm with Jack Strellis. His primary practice has been personal injury and criminal defense, with cases dealing with murder, murder for hire, wrongful death, sexual violence, various controlled substances and racketeering. He has handled numerous jury trials in state and federal courts.
Field is a member of the Illinois State Bar Association, National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, Monroe County Bar Association, St. Clair County Bar Association and East St. Louis Bar Association, and is a member of International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Iron Workers Local #392. He is admitted to practice in Illinois, the Southern District of Illinois and Eastern District of Missouri.
The son of Lial and Virginia Field, he has three children: Carrick, Lucas and Selah.
“In my 27 years here in Monroe County, the state’s attorney has been a zealous advocate for the people with even-handed treatment for the accused,” Field said. “I want to and will carry on that tradition.”
Field said the relationship between the residents of Monroe County and their law enforcement officials continues to be based upon mutual trust and respect. “’Serve and Protect’ continues as a way of life for law enforcement in Monroe County,” he said.
Field said Monroe County needs a new prosecutor to convince juries to convict and judges to impose fair sentences.
“Humiliating the perpetrator’s family is never the answer,” he said. “Monroe County averages 150 felony cases per year. Monroe County’s prosecutor must have the skills to zealously prosecute criminal behavior. Many people who make mistakes accept fair consequences. Hardened criminals demand that juries convict them and judges impose consequences.
“For 29 years, I have been successfully convincing juries and judges.”
School measures on ballot
With the state of Illinois’ financial issues, local school districts have not only been forced to cut back, but have also had to find new streams of revenue. There are two school measures on the primary for voters to decide — one that affects the entire county and another just for Valmeyer voters.
County School Facilities Sales Tax
The County School Facilities Tax is up for voters throughout Monroe County to consider on the March 15 ballot. This tax would raise the current sales tax level by 1 percent countywide, from 6.5 to 7.5 percent.
Vehicles, mobile homes, unprepared food (groceries), drugs, farm equipment/parts/inputs and services would be exempted from this tax. The money collected from this tax would be pooled, then redistributed to the county’s three public school districts: Waterloo, Columbia and Valmeyer.
Each school district would receive a portion of funds equal to the percentage of the county’s students educated in that district. These funds from this tax could only be used for maintenance and upgrades to the facility; they could not be used for educational expenses.
In October 2007, a law came into effect in Illinois giving each county the option to put CSFT to a vote. As of April 2015, 33 Illinois counties had passed this same sales tax for their school districts. This tax failed at least one vote in 29 other counties, and 39 counties have not yet voted on the tax. The law specifically excludes Cook County from voting on the tax.
St. Clair County is voting on the same issue in November.
If the tax passes in Monroe County, its schools would receive the first monthly check in October.
Valmeyer School Referendum Renewal
Valmeyer School District voters will be asked to renew a referendum that provides about $300,000 in working cash annually to the district to allow it to continue to educate students at current levels.
The referendum voters will consider was originally passed in 2012 by a margin of 76 to 24 percent. The school district stressed that this is not a tax increase. Rather, it is asking for a continuation of the bond level approved earlier by another five years.
If the referendum is not approved on March 15, Valmeyer school officials said cuts to services would be necessary and would likely be to extracurricular programs, as well as causing class sizes to increase.
Republican county coroner candidates face off
Two Republicans are facing off in the March 15 primary for the office of coroner in Monroe County, Bob Hill of Columbia and Wayne “Doc” Kohlmeier of Waterloo. The winner will face Democrat Cassy Goldschmidt in November. She is unopposed in the primary.
Bob Hill, 39, of Columbia, is seeking the office of county coroner after having served the past eight years under current coroner Vicki Koerber — the last two years as chief deputy coroner.
He has also served six years as a Republican precinct committeeman.
A graduate of Columbia High School, Hill has a criminal justice degree from Indiana University, a funeral-mortuary science degree from Mid-America College, and attended the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Academy, Indiana and Illinois Coroner’s and Medical Examiners Training, the Masters Conference on Death Investigations at Saint Louis University and Medicolegal Death Investigators Training at SLU.
Hill says he has conducted hundreds of death investigations, and in addition to 19 years of experience in funeral service caring for the deceased after death and 12 years as a licensed funeral director and embalmer, he is the first ever medicolegal death investigator in Monroe County.
He has one son, Jacob Hill.
“I want to continue to provide Monroe County residents with professional, integral and compassionate service in their time of need by a trained certified death investigator,” Hill said.
Hill said he hopes to continue to be proactive with the Monroe County Coalition for Drug-Free Communities, continue working with local law enforcement on drug education programs, raise awareness with domestic violence and suicide prevention programs and increase the network of professional services for loved ones and families of victims.
As for the key issues facing the coroner’s office, Hill cites the “ever-changing drug deaths that we see in the metro-east, manufacturing of new drugs and drug trends, and the continued improvement of the office through grant funding and a reasonable use of resources.”
Wayne Kohlmeier, 69, of Waterloo, is seeking the office of coroner after having served many years as a chiropractor in Monroe County.
A graduate of Waterloo High School, Kohlmeier attended Southern Illinois University and Palmer College of Chiropractic. He successfully completed the state’s medical basic science test, which is taken by medical doctors, osteopaths and chiropractors before receiving their respective licenses. He has also completed 150 hours of continuing medical education each year. Kohlmeier said he has also developed many residential and commercial subdivisions, that have “created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars for Monroe County.”
He has four children and three grandchildren.
Among Kohlmeier’s organizations and affiliations include the Illinois Medical Chiropractic Society (past president and treasurer), American Chiropractic Association, Human Support Services, Monroe County Farm Bureau, Helping Strays, Life Network of Southern Illinois and Concord Presbyterian Church. He has contracted with the U.S. government to care for Medicare patients along with many other major insurance carriers. Kohlmeier is also a sponsor of the Midwest Strikers select soccer team.
“With years of medical training, continuing medical education and many years of successful practice, along with my knowledge of the county, I am the only real qualified candidate for the coroner position,” Kohlmeier said.
Kohlmeier said that if elected, he would fulfill the duties of the coroner’s office as designated by the state of Illinois “with the utmost compassion and professionalism” as he has demonstrated in his many years of practice as a chiropractor.
“I have no conflict of interest,” he said. “I will be a very compassionate coroner that will eagerly work with all offices and affiliations of the coroner’s office for the betterment of all the residents of Monroe County.”