Letter: In support of Geary for Sugar Grove village president

By on March 28, 2013

I’m writing in support of Kevin Geary for village president of Sugar Grove. I’ve known Kevin for many years. He’s a fine person—a good family man, a good citizen and a person who truly cares about people.

I’ve also known Kevin’s opponent for many years. Like Kevin, Sean Michels is a good person. In fact, I actively supported Sean in the April 2009 election; given his opponent, Sean was clearly the better candidate. My support of Kevin Geary, and my disagreements with Sean, have to do with different positions taken by these men on various issues, particularly in recent years. I certainly don’t intend anything I have to say to be a personal attack on Sean Michels.

Among Kevin Geary’s strengths is his service to our village. In my 22 years in Sugar Grove, few people have devoted as much time to the betterment of our community as Kevin Geary. For the past 13 years, he has served us as one of our village trustees. He has also served us for many years on the Board of Directors of the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce, with the Sugar Grove Corn Boil, and in numerous other ways—many of which don’t show up on campaign materials. Kevin’s greatest strength is his deep, abiding concern for all of us—individually—who are lucky enough to live in this wonderful community.

Kevin is a creative thinker about local issues and has tried to improve our village government. One situation that he has tried to rectify involves a well-known local engineering firm with close family connections to our current village president.

Renowned Chicago investigative reporter Andy Shaw, now president and CEO of Chicago’s Better Government Assocation (BGA), described this situation recently. For the details—and they are quite enlightening and disturbing—locate Andy’s interview with WLS Radio’s Don and Roma on the Internet. Briefly, according to Andy, this engineering firm has been granted millions of dollars worth of business by our village over the past decade or so, entirely free of competition—receiving nearly 100 percent of our engineering dollars during that time.

I’m not suggesting that this is illegal; that’s not the point. Also, I assume that this engineering firm does good work at a fair price, but that’s also not the point. The point is that other fine engineering firms who do good work at fair prices are not being given the chance to earn any village money—monies which are, after all, tax dollars—not private funds that can be doled out at the whim of the person holding the checkbook.

Kevin Geary has suggested that we contact and approve several other engineering firms and put out for bid at least our larger engineering projects. This would be a substantial improvement over our present way of doing things for two reasons: first, it would eliminate the very strong appearance of impropriety—the look to the outside world (particularly other engineering firms) of cronyism and the like; second, competition breeds lower prices, and if our village government had taken Kevin Geary’s advice, we would have saved some tax dollars.

I am absolutely flummoxed that our current way of operating has existed in our fine community for so many years with apparently no one at the highest levels of our government other than Kevin Geary raising any objection whatsoever. Perhaps I am naive, or not smart enough to recognize that this unseemly situation is actually somehow good for us, but I simply can’t understand this. I really can’t.

This unfortunate situation highlights two other strengths of Kevin Geary: his belief that his only number-one priority at all times must be our best interests, particularly when clearly expressed by us, and his courage to stand alone at times in the face of overwhelming and fierce opposition from the powers-that-be in our community. One recent local issue of great importance to us further highlights these qualities in this good man.

For the first time, we now have a TIF district, on Route 30 west of town. The idea of a TIF district is that you have in your community an area – referred to as “blighted” in our laws—that is going to be difficult to develop if the village doesn’t step in with some tax dollars to encourage developers in that particular geographic area. The village borrows money and uses that money to assist developers, and as the blighted area is developed, the increased future tax dollars are used to repay the money that the village borrowed. So those tax dollars are not flowing to the school district or other governmental entities in our community. This can go on for over 20 years where the local governmental entities are not getting any of the increased tax dollars.

When this TIF district was first proposed by Sean Michels and others at the highest level of our village government, there was a tremendous uproar of protest from us citizens. The attendance at the board meeting on this issue was so large that the meeting had to be moved from village hall to our community building. Everyone expressed vehement opposition, and the uproar was so great that the supporters of this TIF district had no choice but to back down. But those supporters did not give up; they were determined to have this TIF district. They reduced the size, waited a little while, and then, as quietly as they could, put the TIF district on the agenda for a cold, winter January board meeting. Even though there was still overwhelming opposition at that meeting, our village board approved the TIF district.

The notion that we have a blighted area anywhere in, or near, Sugar Grove is ludicrous. But under the law, you can force a square peg into a round hole if enough people in positions of power are determined to get their way. And the notion that we need to spend future tax dollars to get development going in any part of our village is also ludicrous. The reason that we haven’t had development in the TIF district on Route 30 is the same reason we haven’t had development in a lot of other places in this country: the Great Recession. Once the economy picks up, as it appears to be doing now, development will pick up everywhere, as well.

Sadly and unfortunately, all this TIF district is going to do for us is take precious tax dollars out of the backpacks of our school children—and out of the badly depleted coffers of our fire, park, and library districts—and put those tax dollars in the pockets of wealthy developers who would have made perfectly acceptable profits without the stupidity of this insane folly. Kevin Geary was the only trustee to vote “no” on this matter. Kevin Geary was the only person at the highest level of our village government to put our best interests and clearly expressed wishes at the top of his priority list. Kevin Geary was the only person with the courage to object—as a lone voice of reason on behalf of the people—to this monumental mistake that our local districts will be burdened with for many years to come.

In any election, we are not picking the perfect candidate, because that candidate doesn’t exist. Rather, we have to choose between the two individuals who have decided to run for the office. We compare their strengths and weaknesses, their motivations, priorities, views on issues and the like.

We have in Kevin Geary a good man who is willing and able to be president of our village, well trained and experienced in village governmental matters, willing to spend great amounts of his time in our service, and, most important, a person whose No. 1 priority has always been what is best for each and every one of us—individually—as we determine our best interests to be.

Sean Michels is another good man, but he has been our village president for 13 years—an awfully long time for one person to hold a position of power. He seems to have lost touch with our wishes. There is a reason why we have a term limit for our country’s president. Also, I think that Sean would truthfully rather be doing something else at this point in his political career. Remember that as soon as he won re-election in April of 2009, he almost immediately began his unsuccessful campaign to unseat then-Illinois State Senator Chris Lauzen. This is not a criticism of Sean—he is a politician, he has his ambitions, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. My point is simply that Sean Michels is currently running for a position that I believe he really doesn’t want. I can’t help but wonder what other plans he may have in the event he wins re-election as our village president.

In contrast, Kevin Geary has, in a sense, been in training for village president for 13 years, and his time has now come to step into that important role. He truly wants to take on this task of helping us at this crucial time, and he has no hidden agenda to do something else soon after winning election.

I urge all of my neighbors, friends and fellow residents of this wonderful community to join me in voting for Kevin Geary for village president of Sugar Grove.

Bill Durrenberger
Sugar Grove


  1. disqus_IaBNOEtwLg

    March 28, 2013 at 11:21 AM

    As a point of clarification, that no one seems to acknowledge, is the fact that Illinois State Statutes prohibits the competitive bidding of professional services. (50 ILCS 510) local government professional services selection act.

  2. Guest

    March 28, 2013 at 12:28 PM


    Could you please clarify which part of 50 ILCS 510 “prohibits” competitive bidding?

  3. Ken Wiesner

    March 28, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    I’m not an attorney but it appears that this statute implies that you don’t *have* to go out for bid but it doesn’t prohibit it.

  4. April Widrick

    March 28, 2013 at 3:57 PM

    I would like to stress the point that I have felt that our current village president is unresponsive to the demands of the people that have voted him in. He has continually dodged questions about the ‘no bid’ contracts, and there are frequently items put through that the citizens have previously said ‘no’ to. How many items have been slipped by us?

  5. Jon A. Zahm

    April 7, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    This statement is untrue. Go to http://michelsethicsissues.com/2013/04/07/michels-and-village-law-firm-proven-wrong/ and read the court case that proves this anonymous commenter totally wrong on the directing court precedent.