Elburn trustee candidates tout experience, insight
by Martha Quetsch
Seven residents are running for three seats on the Elburn Village Board April 7. Among them are two incumbents, Jeff Humm and Tom Burgholzer, Ken Anderson, who is a Planning Commissioner, and four newcomers, David Gualdoni, Jerry Schmidt, Robert Swartz and Jeff Walter.
Ken Anderson has been living in Elburn for the past three years and decided to seek a trustee position because of his loyalty to the community.
“I’m interested in helping mold and shape the village of Elburn for the 21st century,” he said.
Anderson is a project manager for Kane County Development Department, where he works in environmental management. During his 20 years with the county, he also has been a soil scientist/planner, and director of the subdivision zoning division. He holds a bachelor’s in science from University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in watershed management and natural resources management, with a minor in soil science.
He lives Blackberry Creek and previously resided between Big Rock and Kaneville. He moved to the village, in part, because of its small-town atmosphere.
“I like our downtown with its neat architecture. I want the village to encourage re-use of those structures unless it is not possible for health or safety reasons.”
Anderson wants the village to maintain the rural look of the community. He also believes the village should try to boost the downtown by working with business owners on strategies for improving parking there and connecting the Metra train station to the historic business district.
“It would make sense. I think we have to be open to doing that,” he said.
He believes that with decreased revenue because of the economic decline, the village needs to be fiscally responsible.
“With development slowing, we have to look at how resources are being spent,” Anderson said.
Priorities Anderson sees for the village include improving sewer and stormwater systems.
“I can help with those projects. I have worked with the county on drainage issues, and worked with property owners during the process,” he said.
The village should determine where properties have cross connections between the stormwater and sewer systems and eliminate those, encouraging people to obtain back-flow valves instead, Anderson said; and, the village should continue exploring where stormwater infiltration into the sewer lines is occurring.
“We need to develop a plan to address this and get people to buy into it. It is in the best interest of the village to get this under control,” Anderson said.
To ensure smart growth, the village should update its land-use plan and invite residents to participate, said Anderson.
“We need to go from a 1990 plan to a 2010 plan. The one we have now doesn’t show how we’re goint to handle another 20,000 people, possibly in 20 years,” he said.
He wants the village to recruit a corporation to locate its headquarters in Elburn, as a way to bring people into town to spur business development, such as a bed-and-breakfast and restaurants.
He wants bike routes designated in the village, including lined lanes on the side of streets that are wide enough. Another option he suggests is to limit parking to one side of the street in some areas to accommodate a biking lane.
“I like the idea of connecting people to the community,” Anderson said.
Anderson said he supports the planned Sho-Deen Metra development along Anderson Road, but said some of the single-family home lots should be larger if they are adjacent to similar areas.
“I think we should always try to transition out (with density),” Anderson said.
He believes the village needs to become independent.
“We keep going to businesses on Randall Road. Instead, we should frequent ours more, on Route 47 and Route 38,” Anderson said.
A 17-year resident of Elburn, Burgholzer was elected as an Elburn Village trustee eight years ago, and re-elected in 2005. He previously retired from a 38-year career in as a police officer, working for Yorkville and Oswego, for the Kendall County Sheriff’s Department, and part-time for Elburn.
He wants to be re-elected so that he can stay involved in the growth of the community.
“I think that is fantastic,” Burgholzer said. “I’ve been in service to people all my life, so I just want to continue,” he said.
He said he is pro-growth, but wants to make sure the village does not develop too fast.
Burgholzer said future challenges for the village include the re-development of the downtown and expanding the wastewater treatment plant after residential development starts flourishing again, making sure developers chip in to help pay the cost.
He supports the Sho-Deen Metra area residential and commercial development, for the most part, but wants it to be less dense by requiring larger lot sizes for some single-family homes.
He said the village should continue trying to determine where possible stormwater leaks are in the sewer system and fix them. As a resident of Cambridge subdivision, he experienced residential flooding last September, along with other people in his area and elsewhere in the village, including the northwest quadrant.
“It has to be solved. We are waiting for a resolution. Whatever is it, it’s going to be costly,” Burgholzer said. “That’s why we need to be very careful with our budget, so that we can pay for the things that really need to be done.”
During the next annual budgeting process, he said village officials must seriously look at areas where they can cut costs. One way to reduce expenditures would be to move employees to different departments when other staff members resign.
“Salaries are the biggest expense of the village. Hopefully we won’t have to cut personnel; I’d be hard-pressed to do that,” Burgholzer said.
Another cost-saving measure he wants the village to adopt is keeping vehicles and other equipment until they become more expensive to maintain than replace. He said people should understand, however, that squad cars sometimes age more quickly than other vehicles because of the idling time that occurs during patrols.
“After being a police officer, I know that,” Burgholzer said.
An advocate for building a skatepark in Elburn, Burgholzer was disappointed when trustees could not decide on a location for it. He said that to make the park happen in the future and to bring other recreation in the village, residents will have to decide whether they want to form a park district that will levy a tax.
“I think we should hold an (advisory) referendum. We could do that just to see where it would go,” Burgholzer said.
Burgholzer wants to revitalize the downtown, but does not want to offer incentives for new businesses.
“That wouldn’t be fair to the existing businesses,” he said.
To connect the Metra station with the downtown, he would like the village to have a walkway over the tracks, if the village can obtain the right-of-way required for gradual handicapped access.
To increase vehicular access to the train station, he proposes installing another entry point to the station on Keslinger Road closer to Route 47.
“Having just that one access to the Metra station is a big complaint from residents. Something’s got to be done,” Burgholzer said.
Regarding the Anderson Road extension and overpass, he wants village officials to keep talking to the county and “whoever will listen” so that the project does not lose the federal funding earmarked for it.
Gualdoni has lived in Elburn for nine years.
He said he wants to be a trustee “to get some things done in the town.” Getting the wastewater treatment plant updated is a priority for him. He wants the village to upgrade the sewer lines and the equipment at the plant.
“It was built in the seventies, and some of the equipment dates back to then,” he said.
Maintenance needs improvement, especially as the village adds capacity to the plant.
Gualdoni works full-time with the city of Geneva Street Department and part-time for the Elburn Public Works Department. With that background, he understands some of the issues the village faces, he said.
“Most of our problems are infrastructure problems and public works,” Gualdoni said.
The village should update employee policies and create a disaster plan for severe storms and other events that could threaten the well-being of residents.
Gualdoni is an assistant advisor in the Elburn Police Department’s new Community Emergency Response Training (C.E.R.T.) program for citizens, as well as in the Explorer program. He has volunteered to help the Elburn Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce with Elburn Days and Day in the Park and has assisted police with parking at those events and others.
He said if elected, he will offer his suggestions and opinions, which he believes trustees need to do more.
Regarding future growth in the village, he would like to see a lot more retail because that is where the village gets its money (retail tax), he said. He would also like the downtown “reborn and updated, with new light poles, flower boxes.”
“Even if we just dress it up a bit, it would help bring people and businesses downtown.”
Toward that goal, he wants the village to form a beautification committee.
Another committee Gualdoni wants is one that could serve the purpose of a park district but wouldn’t have to assess a tax.
With tough economic times likely ahead, the Village Board is going to need to do some creative planning to pay for infrastructure improvements, Gualdoni said.
“If money is going to be spent, it should be spent on improving the wastewater treatment and stormwater systems,” he said.
To afford those improvements, the village should rearrange staff responsibilities and reduce spending on vehicles before cutting any employees. He also believes that some administrators’ vehicles should not be available for employees’ personal use. That measure could be extremely cost saving because of potential liability issues, he said.
He would like public works on-call staff that currently have a take-home truck to receive on-call pay, instead.
“We’re just going to have to struggle along for the next few years. Some of this stuff should have been done long ago.”
An eight-year resident of Elburn, Humm lives in the Cambridge subdivision. He believes he has a lot to offer as an incumbent and someone with the background the village needs.
“I’m seeking re-election because I think the village has some things coming up that I have the experience to help with, including the wastewater treatment plant, stormwater and sewer, and drainage,” he said.
Humm said the 1970s plant has not had a lot of updgrades.
“More needs to be done. If the growth returns, which it will someday, we will need to determine how we can expand it, including obtaining money from developers,” Humm said.
“It shouldn’t be the existing residents who have to be the ones to pay for it,” he said.
Humm has been involved in public service for nearly 20 years. He has worked in civil engineering and public works projects for Aurora, River Forest, Oswego and Fox Metro, where he currently is employed.
“It has become a way of life for me,” he said.
Regarding growth, Humm is in favor of it, in a controlled fashion.
“Right now, of course, it’s a slowdown. Now is the time to plan for future growth,” Humm said.
The village needs to pursue some projects, including building a new police station, expanding the wastewater treatment plant and creating a park district, he said.
“Now is the time to plan for those things so that when growth does come back, we are prepared for it,” Humm said.
Humm said until more growth happens, the village cannot complete these major projects, especially because of the economy.
You have to wait for growth to pay for these things,” Humm said.
In the meantime, the village should still seek government funding to keep the village’s infrastructure intact, including its roads.
“If you have viable projects that are ready to start, you might get the money earlier from IDOT, which is overseeing money coming from the federal government for road projects, and the IEPA, which is distributing federal funds for wastewater/stormwater projects,” Humm said.
He said his background at Fox Metro could help the board obtain funding and suggested the village should start working with a consulting engineer to get projects shovel ready.
The Anderson Road extension and overpass project is another important one for the village to keep pursuing, he said.
“As long as the money is there, hopefully construction start within the next four years,” Humm said.
Humm wants the village to update its long-range plan as part of the preparation for new growth. He also believes the downtown is important for the board to focus on, because of its empty store fronts, and making sure the downtown has adequate parking should be a priority.
He does not want any future connection from the Metra station to Route 47 and downtown to be through a residential area. But he would support creating a through route from Route 47 to Metra near Blackberry Cemetery.
He supports downtown improvement incentives such as the facade program, whereby the village helps building owners pay to upgrade their storefronts.
Humm said he is confident commercial development will come as the village grows.
With a new village president and at least one new member, the Village Board needs experienced trustees like him to help the board with the “learning curve,” Humm said.
Jerry Schmidt is running for trustee because he wants to see Elburn grow and prosper, he said.
“I love it here,” said the 37-year village resident who lives in Blackberry Creek.
Schmidt was elected as a trustee in the late 1980s, but resigned after a short time because of travel conflicts related to his job.
Before retiring earlier this year, he worked in customer service for a freight company and then a manufacturer during his 50-year career. He wants to be a trustee to utilize his skills in public service to bring positive change to Elburn.
“I would like to think I could make a difference in the town by being on the board,” Schmidt said.
He believes that Elburn’s top priority should be to ensure that the Anderson Road bridge and extension are completed as soon as possible, so that commercial development planned for around the Metra station can begin.
He is in favor of continued growth in Elburn.
“Definitely. If we don’t grow, we die. We have to grow and prosper,” Schmidt said. “I believe that Elburn is the best-kept secret in the whole Chicago area. We need to promote it, not only for retail but for commercial.”
Schmidt thinks that the village should have located the Metra commuter station in downtown Elburn.
“If I had been on the board at that time I would have wanted that location,” Schmidt said. “But, the Metra station is there already so I believe we should work on improving the area around it,” Schmidt said. “I would love to see some restaurants out there, like maybe a sports bar, the type of thing that would draw people. That’s what we need.”
He supports Sho-Deen’s concept plan of building multi-story, mixed-use residential and commercial buildings with higher density near the train station.
“I really believe we need to get moving on this development,” Schmidt said. “I would like to see Elburn look like Huntley someday” with a strong central retail district.
Although he wants the area around the Metra station to develop, he doesn’t want it to be at the expense of the downtown. To keep downtown vital, he believes that Metra should be accessible to vehicles from Route 47.
“All we would have to do is take down the gate that blocks the traffic,” Schmidt said.
He thinks opening access from the Metra station to Route 47 would improve residential property values because it would lead to more restaurants and other businesses opening downtown.
“And with retail around the Metra station, maybe the area will someday grow together,” he said. “Because right now, when people leave the train station, they don’t come into downtown Elburn.”
Other traffic access Schmidt wants to improve is between Route 47 and Interstate 88, by working with Sugar Grove officials to work to get an eastbound ramp built there.
A Blackberry Creek resident, Swartz was a police officer for 18 years in Glendale Heights until an injury forced his early retirement. He since has opened the Fox Valley Driving School in Elburn.
When he was with Glendale Heights Police Department he was sworn in as an Illinois state trooper as a narcotics officer, part of DuPage County Major Crimes Task Force and as a U.S. Marshall for a year working on a case against a major gang, he said.
He also has volunteered for the state firemarms safety programs offered at the St. Charles Sportsmen’s Club in Elburn.
He enjoys taking on new responsibilities.
“Public service is very rewarding. I like the challenge,” he said.
The challenges he sees for Elburn during the next few years include the Anderson Road overpass and extension, and the wastewater treatment expansion.
But before undertaking any major improvement projects, the village first should establish a strict budget, he said. He would like Elburn to reduce its vehicle budget for employees and keep its vehicles longer.
He also would like to have more special projects, even those below $20,000, to go out to bid, to obtain the best price possible.
“Why would we want to waste more money?” he said.
He wants village officials to increase their discussions with those from nearby towns, particularly Sugar Grove.
“Communication with other villages is very important. We should be working together on purchases to get better rates,” Swartz said
He would like the village to annex southward up to I-88.
“That is where we will bring in some serious tax revenue. If we could get an outdoor outlet mall, all that revenue would come into the village. It wouldn’t increase our traffic flow, just our revenue.”
Swartz is in favor of the proposed east-off ramp at Route 47 and I-88.
He wants the village to be more aggressive about marketing itself, using its community development director, Erin Willrett, for that purpose.
He likes the traditional downtown and wants to see it brought back to life. Toward that goal, he would like the village to set new requirements for the appearance of downtown buildings.
“I don’t want someone to come in and reface a building with a modern look. I like the old-fashioned, hometown look,” he said.
To help bring more new businesses to town, he would support giving them a tax break for a year or two as an incentive.
Jeff Walter, who was in the U.S. Navy for 22 years, said he has always had the spirit of community service. He has coached youth soccer and baseball teams in Elburn and served as Cub Scout Pack 107 den leader.
Now, this Blackberry Creek resident wants to expand on his public service as a trustee on the Village Board, in response to encouragement from friends and neighbors.
“I would like newer residents to have a voice at the table. I would like to be a representative for them, as well as others.”
He enlisted after high school in the Navy, and was in active duty for nine years as a cryptologist and linguist. He then was in the reserves for 13 years, achieving the highest rank for an enlisted person, Master Chief.
After finishing active duty, he earned a business degree at University of South Florida, a master’s in manufacturing management from University of Toledo and an MBA from New York Institute of Technology.
Walter believes that during this time of slowed growth, the village should be looking ahead.
“I don’t think it’s time for us to sit on our hands and wait for it to pick up again; I think we should keep pursuing developers, including commercial and industrial, so that when the economy gets better, they will be ready to come to Elburn.”
Walter said another priority for the village should be taking care of its infrastructure and budgeting appropriately.
“Do we need to buy another Ford Explorer, or do we need to repair our storm sewers?” he asked.
He wants the Village Board to improve its communication on important issues to residents, by passing public meetings minutes and posting them on the village website more quickly. He also suggested that an economical way to boost communication with the community would be to compile a one-page newsletter frequently and enclose it with residents’ water bills.
“It would be a start,” Walter said
In times of decreasing revenue, Walter believes the village should evaluate its employee needs to determine whether departments are appropriately staffed for current tasks.
“Could some of the efforts of employees in the building department, for example, be re-directed right now?” he said.
Other measures he believes could be cost effective for the village would be to increase cross training among employees and to examine the salary structure and see if the village is paying the appropriate wage for the job that is being done.
Walter would like the Village Board to have a committee structure to facilitate more research and boost communication with staff members, whom he also would want to participate.
He wants the village to create pedestrian access from the Metra station to the downtown area, through a tunnel or bridge. In the future, he believes the village should have vehicle access from Metra to Route 47, as use of the station increases.
The Village Board must pursue the Anderson Road extension and overpass project so that it is constructed as soon as possible, he said.
“We need to do the analysis and find out what needs to be done and get it done,” Walter said.
4/3 update: Fixed the first paragraph omission of candidate Jeff Walter. The Herald regrets the error.