Election: Sugar Grove Village President
Incumbent squares off with long-time village trustee
Incumbent Sean Michels will face a challenge for his Sugar Grove village president seat from board trustee Kevin Geary.
Sugar Grove Village President
• Kaneland High School graduate
• Illinois State University graduate
• Aurora University graduate
• Sugar Grove Park District Board from 1995 to 1997
• Village Board member from 1997-1999
• Elected village president in 1999
• A continued effort to reduce real estate
taxes for residents
• Establishment of an intergovernmental agreement
with the Kaneland District
• Make an effort to complete developments
in which its developers have gone bankrupt
Sean Michels has spent the better part of two decades serving the public through various elected offices. A graduate of Kaneland High School, Illinois State University and Aurora University, Michels’ served on the Sugar Grove Park District Board from 1995 to 1997, and then served as a Village Board member for two years before he was elected village president in 1999.
Michels is the project manager for McCue Builders, Inc., and he has involved himself in the community via roles such as Park District coach and Sunday school teacher. He’s also a former Metrowest Council of Mayors Board member.
As president of Sugar Grove’s growing community, Michels defines his role as keeping the village moving forward in a positive progressive manner while being fiscally conservative.
“It is important to remember that the decisions that are made today will have a long lasting impact on how the village develops into the future,” Michels said. “This simple truth is why the Village Board and I have focused on our Land Use Plan and other planning documents to ensure that as we grow, our decisions will fit together in the long run.”
Michels believes that the long-term vision of Sugar Grove’s future development will help set short-term goals that are necessary to keep the village moving forward to meet any long-term goals, but cautions that the village must not overextend itself financially; rather, it must live within its annual budget. He notes that the village has earned a solid ranking of A+ by Standard and Poor’s, thanks to the fact that the village adheres to its annual budget.
Michels said he seeks re-election because he has the desire to make Sugar Grove the best community to live, work and raise a family. He works on that goal nearly every day by thinking about the next steps the village can take to attract new business, as well as what improvements can be made to make the quality of life better for village residents.
“I enjoy talking to the residents to find out what they like and what they think we need to improve on in order to make Sugar Grove a better place,” he said. “I understand that everyone wants to pay lower taxes, so I work hard to bring in new business to help reduce taxes, and to improve our quality of life.”
Michels believes he’s the best candidate for village president because of his passion for Sugar Grove and the goals he has set for it—both short and long term. His short-term goals include an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District, and completion of the Route 47/I-88 interchange as a means to keep taxes down. Michels’ long-term goals involve the introduction of fiber optic to each home and business in the village, and a Metra station—moves that he believes would make Sugar Grove a premier community in the future.
“I truly believe this is what separates me from my opponent,” Michels said. “My goals lead the village to a brighter future. He simply does not have goals for the future of the village.”
If re-elected, Michels’ priorities for the village will include a continued effort to reduce real estate taxes for residents; establishment of an intergovernmental agreement with the Kaneland School District; and an effort to complete developments in which its developers have gone bankrupt.
“The village has been willing to work with the bond companies or banks to get necessary improvements done so that their obligations are completed and the lawsuits can be dropped,” Michels said. “The problem is that some of the groups feel it is cheaper to go to court than it is to make the improvements. We realize that the residents of the subdivisions are caught in the middle, but the village is also caught in a predicament.”
According to Michels, if the village makes the improvements, it will relieve the bank from paying the village back. But if improvements are not made soon, significantly more money will need to be spent because the road base will fail and need to be completely replaced.
“We continue to meet with any potential developer that offers to come in and take over these projects, understanding that it is better to get work done than make the lawyers rich,” Michels said.
If given the choice to write, pass and implement any single ordinance without opposition, Michels said he’d move forward with the Kaneland IGA.
“This will help keep taxes down for all of the residents of Sugar Grove by having new development pay for itself,” Michels said. “Developers will pay the impact fee to have a good school district, because developers know that a good school district sell homes.”
A video gaming referendum will appear on Sugar Grove’s April 9 General Election ballot. Michels believes video gaming isn’t as big an issue as the media has perpetuated in recent months.
“The people on both sides of the issue are very passionate, but most of the people do not seem to have an interest one way or the other in video gaming,” Michels said. “I believe the public will decide if gaming is popular or not by whether they visit the establishments that have gaming. (Otherwise), they avoid those places that have gaming.”
Michels said it’s hard to ask the state to fund capital projects if the village does not participate in the part of the funding program.
“I do not condone gaming, but I am in favor of video gaming to help our local businesses survive,” he said.
In terms of local business, Michels is pleased with the recent retail and commercial growth that the village has experienced over the past four years. He believes additional retail and commercial development is always needed to diversify the village’s tax base.
“The village continues to work to bring more business into Sugar Grove by actively soliciting businesses to locate in town through the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation and expediting the development review process,” he said. “The village has also extended critical infrastructure to commercial areas to make property ‘development ready.’”
And then theres the Route 47/I-88 interchange project, an addition that Michels said would be a critical improvement not only for Sugar Grove, but the region, as well.
“(The) project will be a catalyst for new commercial development that will help diversify the tax base for Sugar Grove residents,” he said. “In cooperation with the village of Elburn, city of Aurora and Congressman Randy Hultgren, the village has worked hard to get funds, once earmarked for the Prairie Parkway, to be reallocated to fund this interchange. It is with great optimism (that) a decision to fund this interchange will be made in the next few months.”
Sugar Grove Village trustee and Candidate for Sugar Grove Village President
• College of DuPage, Waubonsee Community College
• Real Estate Broker/Managing Broker Licensure
• Sugar Grove Park District’s assistant baseball coach
• Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board
• Sugar Grove Village Trustee since 1999
• Volunteers on several other groups
• Diversification of the tax base for village residents
• Transportation improvements
• Achieveing open and honest government
• Move meeting start time to 7 p.m. for commuters
The first 23 years of Kevin Geary’s professional career were spent in telecommunications, where he held a number of professional positions, such as technical training specialist, customer service representative, and quality control process and metric engineer.
He’s spent the last 14 years serving the public as a Sugar Grove Village Board trustee.
“With my diverse background, I would like to bring my quality control, customer service, and business experiences to the table and apply my outstanding business skills to our village projects, programs and residents’ needs,” he said.
Geary’s education background includes coursework taken at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill., as well as real estate sales licensure coursework at Waubonsee Community College. He furthered his education with a real estate broker licensure in 2005 and a real estate managing broker licensure in 2012. He’s required to continue his education bi-annually.
Geary has spent the last decade working and building his own real estate and property management business. He has operated in civic roles such as Sugar Grove Park District’s assistant baseball coach from 1996 to 1999; a member of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board of Directors for over eight years; a Downtown/Main Street Re-development Committee member; Sugar Grove Corn Boil Board of Directors member for over 13 years; an associate member of the Sugar Grove Economic Development Corporation; and Holiday in the Grove volunteer.
Geary defines the role of village president as one to create a spirit of cooperation that brings benefits to the community and respect for the region.
“The village president is responsible to ensure the goals of the community are met in a measureable way, shares the outcome of annual evaluations and posts the results of any accolades and or corrective actions to be taken,” he said.
Geary said he cares a great deal for Sugar Grove, as well as his friends and neighbors throughout the community.
“I believe the best way to lead a community is to get involved, and the best way to really capture the needs of our community is to listen,” Geary said. “Public officials need to work together as a team. There is no ‘I’ in Geary.”
The long-time trustee is campaigning on the platform of achieving open and honest government, and said one giant step toward that goal would be the village funding video recording and online streaming of board meetings so that the taxpayers can stay informed on the issues before the board.
Geary also wants to move meeting start times to 7 p.m. in order to allow commuting residents a chance to attend meetings and “participate in the democratic process,” and said he has an additional goal to bring exceptional customer service and best practices back to the village.
Geary’s additional campaign priorities include diversification of the tax base for village residents over the next four years, and transportation improvements.
“(Transportation improvements) are not only a life safety issue, but a community development issue, as well,” he said. “With the abandonment of the Prairie Parkway project, Sugar Grove must seek as much funding as possible to aid in the improvement of our roadways that also support economic growth and ensure the safety of all who travel to and through our community.”
Geary said Sugar Grove’s first-class community and unique geographic location, coupled with world-class events and attractions (i.e. Rich Harvest Farms) put the village at a great advantage over its surrounding communities.
“There are several important projects that could benefit from Prairie Parkway funds, such as the addition of a full interchange at I-88 and Route 47, road improvements to the portion of Route 47 that is also Route 30, and Route 30 west to Dugan Road,” he said.
In addition to live streaming Village Board and Planning Commission meetings, Geary wants to “get Sugar Grove moving again.” He believes the best way to achieve that would be to do an assessment of village assets.
“I have been told that within our area, we have access to Fortune 100 and 500 business executives,” Geary said. “I would host a round table where these individuals would help the village determine Sugar Grove’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for commercial growth and development.
If he were given the choice to write, pass and implement any single ordinance without opposition, Geary said he’d target the continued awarding of no-bid engineering contracts to a preferred vendor with close ties to the village president.
“Under my administration, I would require a common sense bid process and see to it that the process is followed,” Geary said. “This process will allow the residents to see who is bidding, what they are bidding, and that the village is being responsible with the taxpayer’s money.”
In terms of Geary’s stance toward video gaming in the village, he said Illinois has made provisions within the law to ensure that local municipalities and their citizens have the opportunity to do what they feel is best for their community.
“After listening to the public comments (regarding video gaming), there was no clear direction given from the residents for whom we serve,” Geary said. “Per the discussion at the board meeting, I voted to suspend gambling at that time, with the intent that a referendum could be drafted and the community could vote on this highly debated issue. In my opinion this is democracy at work, and is the only way to truly determine the will of our community. At my urging, the Village Board has placed the (video gaming) question on the spring ballot.”
One area where Geary differs from his political opponent is the question of whether Sugar Grove should re-enter an IGA with the Kaneland School District.
“While some would say the popular answer would have to be in the affirmative, supporting the IGA, I believe the village in these unsure times will need every tool in its toolbox to get residential development moving again. I would further say that the village has over 20 years surplus of platted lots that have fees attached.
Geary said he would much prefer to talk about how to diversify the tax base for the residents, which he believes can be accomplished through commercial and industrial development.
“These types of developments can account for a significant part of our property tax base, and it doesn’t negatively impact our schools or other governmental services,” Geary said. “Additionally, if these businesses are a point of sale, sales tax dollars can be gained. This, in turn, would lessen the burden on the already overtaxed homeowner without having to reduce village services or programs.”