For the first time in more than a decade, the DuPage County Board will have a new chairman when voters choose between state Rep. Deb Conroy and current board member Greg Hart in the Nov. 8 general election.
Dan Cronin announced a year ago that his third term would be his last, bringing to a close a 12-year run as the county’s top Republican leader following two decades in the state Legislature.
Hoping to succeed him are Conroy, 60, an Elmhurst resident who has represented Illinois House District 46 since 2013, and Hart, a 35-year-old DuPage County Board member from Hinsdale who is the co-owner of a management consulting firm.
Conroy said she believes the issues that DuPage residents are most concerned about are public safety, mental health, education and preserving pro-choice rights.
“I’ve been doing a lot of walking and I kind of get a feel for things all over the state and the pro-choice issue is just huge,” Conroy said. “People talk about it all the time. I think people feel that democracy is on the ballot and they are afraid of other rights being taken away from them and terrified that there is something that could be done federally that could hurt Illinois.”
As chair of the House Mental Health Committee, Conroy said she also knows that “mental health has been affected by the pandemic and is affecting everybody.”
“I have not met a single person where mental health is not a concern,” she said.
If elected as board chairman, Conroy said she wants to see a mental health committee formed at the county level and the opening of an intake facility is a top priority. The county has to make sure law enforcement “has adequate resources” when they interact with people who might have mental health issues, she said.
“I got $5 million (in state funding) to help open the facility at the county level and we need to get this open so that nobody goes to jail that has a mental health or addiction issue anymore but will go to the intake facility and get the help they need,” she said.
Public safety is another big issue, especially right now because there is so much misinformation being released, Conroy said. “People are angry. There are so many lies out there and people are trying to find the truth … (and) angry over all of the scare tactics there are out there.”
Conroy also believes the new board will come together after the election needs direction so they are able to work effectively without the problems seen with previous boards.
“There will be a lot of challenges and once the election is over, politics are done,” she said.
Hart said he believes voters are concerned about public safety and crime, property taxes and the cost of living/inflation.
“We’ve had an increase in crime rates in the past two years, which is at the top of everyone’s mind,” Hart said. “There is a lot of concern about the SAFE-T Act and the implications it’s going to have on DuPage County. The last two years we’ve seen an increase in carjackings, unlawful use of weapons and general burglary increases.”
He also cites the need to do something about DuPage County property taxes, which are among some of the highest in the state.
“We need to maintain a balanced budget so that we don’t take any more money away from our population,” he said. “The board has the ability to raise or lower taxes and a lot of people feel they’re being taxed enough.”
In respect to inflation, Hart said, “This community is a great place to live, work and raise a family but a lot of people have to struggle with maintaining the cost of living here in DuPage County.”
If elected as chairman, Hart said his goals would include “working with both parties to create a culture of collaboration within the board,” maintain a balanced budget and continue to support safety training for law enforcement.
“I’m someone who has the most bipartisan record on the board and I want to bring that to the chairman’s office,” he said.
Maintaining a balanced budget is critical for the chief executive to champion, Hart said.
“We need to keep our tax level flat,” he said. “My record of accomplishment on that issue is clear.”
Regarding law enforcement, Hart said he wants to make sure “they get all the resources they need to keep us safe.”
“The implementation of the SAFE-T Act will likely result in an increased case load in DuPage County and it’s likely that the sheriff and the state’s attorney will need additional resources to respond to those loads,” he said.
David Sharos is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.
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September 22, 2022 at 09:11PM