Waterloo School Board Seats Up for Grabs
In next Tuesday’s municipal election, six individuals will be vying for four spots on the Waterloo School Board, with the top four vote-getters winning the seats.
With longtime board members Sue Sweet and Dwight Schaefer vacating their seats, incumbents Jo Ellen “Jodi” Burton and Valerie Baxmeyer hope to retain their seats, while Gary Most, James Yaekel, Lori Dillenberger and Alan Horn are challenging for seats on the board.
Voters will not be asked to cast ballots along township and range lines as in previous elections. This year, the top four vote-getters will win the seats.
Valerie Baxmeyer, 53, is seeking to retain her seat on the Waterloo School Board.
She has a bachelor of science in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry. She worked as a microbiologist and research and development assistant from 1990 to 1998. Since then she has been a stay-at-home mom to her four daughters.
She was elected to the school board in 2011 and has served the community and the district for the past four years.
“I care what goes on in this district. I’ve got four girls who attend the school, one of which is special needs. I have a lot of friends in the community and very much respect the opinions of our staff. It’s important to me that our district functions somewhat harmoniously with the citizens in our community. If we don’t, it’s the kiddos who suffer and they deserve the best,” she said.
She believes the key issue facing the district is the budget.
“The future board will have some very tough decisions to make taking into consideration our budget. This is not just our district but districts statewide,” she said. “We depend on the support of the state of Illinois and the taxpayers of our community. As a board we then have to determine how we will budget money that we are owed yet not getting and keep our taxpayers happy by one of the lowest taxes in the whole area.”
Among her accomplishments in her time on the board, Baxmeyer cites the fact that the board has delivered almost $15 million in capital to the district and paid back almost $900,000 in bonds, including saving the district more than $300,000 by relocating the district’s central office to the junior high school.
Baxmeyer is a current member of the Waterloo School Board and of Hope Christian Church. She also volunteers at her children’s schools and spends her time serving her family.
She has been married to David Baxmeyer for 20 years. They have four daughters who attend Waterloo schools.
Jo Ellen “Jodi” Burton
Jo Ellen “Jodi” Burton, 60, is seeking to retain her seat on the Waterloo School Board.
She is a graduate of Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois State University with a bachelor of science in education, and Illinois State University with a master of science in reading. She is a retired teacher and worked at Waterloo Junior High School for 34 years.
“My grandchildren and all of their schoolmates deserve academic excellence. It is the job of the school board to provide the atmosphere that leads to their excellence. I enjoy serving on our current board and would like to continue to dedicate my time and effort to this community service,” she said.
Burton believes the key issue facing the schools is reduced education funding.
“The promotion of technology in the classroom to ready our students is another key issue. We also need to celebrate our successes, both academic and extra-curricular,” she said.
During her time in office, Burton and the board have saved nearly $300,000 by relocating the district office, and paid back nearly $900,000 in bonds while delivering nearly $15 million in capital to the district.
“We also have made many advances in technology and continue to improve the facilities where our students learn,” she said.
She is currently a member of the Waterloo School Board and Waterloo Legacy Committee, and she volunteers at Gardner Elementary School.
She and her husband, Mike, who is also a retired teacher from Waterloo Junior High School, have three children: Julie (Jeff) Roy, Stacey (Tom) Schilling, and Eric (Meghan) Burton. They also have five grandchildren: Jack, 13; Reid, 12; Emma, 9; Rowan, 8; and Nicholas, 2.
Lori Dillenberger, 51, is seeking a seat on the Waterloo School Board.
She is a graduate of Waterloo High School and earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fontbonne University. She has worked in data management, data analysis, sales support, event management, office management, recruiting and executive assistance.
“We need open-minded, unbiased people willing to make decisions for our school district, with the best interests of our students, teachers, administration, staff, parents and taxpayers in mind. I have no personal agenda or biases,” she said.
She believes the key issues facing the school district are financial.
“(They) make it difficult to balance class sizes, hire and retain quality teachers, improve educational programs, maintain buildings, keep taxes affordable and maintain our history of excellence. The students and their education are most important and, if elected, will be my main focus,” she said.
If elected, Dillenberger plans to be open-minded about all viewpoints.
“I would strive to help make the best decisions for our district; ensuring that our students are graduating with an exceptional education, in spite of financially challenging circumstances,” she said.
Dillenberger served on the Strategic Planning Committee for Buildings & Grounds; was a member of the Waterloo High School Athletic Booster Club for seven years, serving as vice president for six years; was chairperson of the WHS Homecoming Parade Committee; was chairperson of the WHS Booster Club Scholarship Committee; and served on the Zahnow PTO board.
She has been married to her husband, Don, for 25 years. They have a son, Bradley, who graduated from WHS and currently plays baseball for University of Central Arkansas; and a daughter, Aimee, a junior at Waterloo High School who plays softball and participates in various leadership activities.
Alan L. Horn
Alan Horn, 49, is seeking a spot on the Waterloo School Board.
Horn is a lifelong resident of Monroe County. He has worked as a mechanical engineer for more than 30 years, and has experience in facilities and maintenance operations.
“(I want to) have the opportunity to give back to the community, to help make the best decisions for all the students, and be an advocate for all teachers, parents and students in our community,” he said.
He believes the key issues facing the school district include maintaining a balanced budget, implementing Common Core and communication with the community.
“(We need to) provide proper academics and material to strengthen the achievement of students by inspiring and mentoring them in a positive way,” he said.
If elected, he plans to support the teachers and administrators, find a way to spend tax dollars efficiently and provide students with the best educational opportunities.
Horn is a member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, the Waterloo Sportsman’s Club, and Local 562 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union.
He has been married to Joyce Horn for 29 years. They have three children: Stephanie, 24; Fylicia, 22; and Michael, 17.
Gary Most, 49, is seeking a spot on the Waterloo School Board in Township 2-9.
Most is the owner of Marketicity, LLC, a Waterloo-based marketing firm. He is a local business owner with 25 years of experience specializing in the planning, development and execution of strategic marketing initiatives for local, regional and national companies.
His specific experience includes budgetary planning, project management and communications plan implementation.
“I hope to continue to serve the community by using my skills and experience to help our schools prepare for, respond to and excel in the challenges the district will face in the immediate future,” Most said.
He believes the key issues facing the school district revolve around its fiscal health.
“Delinquent state payments, increased financial burdens placed on the district and negotiating a win-win teachers contract are imperative for the coming year — all while placing a focus on what is best for the students,” he said.
Most is a member of the Waterloo Optimist Club, serving as a past president and Optimist of the Year in 2003; and St. Paul United Church of Christ. He is an executive board member of the Monroe County Coalition for Drug Free Communities, an event emcee for Hometown Harmony Choral Group, and a coach and assistant coach with the Waterloo Sports Association.
He is married to Angela Althoff Most, a 1986 graduate of Waterloo High School. They have two children: Philip, a senior at WHS, and Olivia, a fifth grader at Gardner Elementary.
James J. Yaekel
James J. Yaekel, 43, is seeking a seat on the Waterloo School Board.
He is a lifelong resident of the Waterloo School District and is a graduate of Waterloo High School. For the past six years, he has worked as an educator, instructor and teacher in the construction safety field.
“I would like to continue the academic excellence that the Waterloo School District has been known for in the past,” he said.
He sees one of the biggest issues facing the school district as “the drug problem. We need to work together to keep today’s children safe from the evils of drugs,” he said.
Yaekel is a past member of the Building and Grounds committee for the Waterloo School District, and is a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
He is the son of Jim and Rosemary Yaekel, and his family has lived in Monroe County for more than 50 years.