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Opponent labels Waukegan incumbent a ‘snowbird’ treasurer

Dr. John Schwab City Waukegan Treasurer. | Special fo Sun-Times Media

Dr. John Schwab, City of Waukegan Treasurer. | Special fo Sun-Times Media

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Updated: May 21, 2013 2:31AM

WAUKEGAN — The race for treasurer in Waukegan features first-term incumbent John Schwab running for re-election as a Democrat against independent candidate Robert Taylor, a former member and president of the Waukegan Public Schools Board of Education.

Schwab, 68, is a retired podiatrist who took office in 2009 after defeating incumbent Patrick Dutcher in the Democratic primary with 54 percent of the vote. He then ran unopposed in the 2009 general election, as well as in this year’s primary. He said he’s running for re-election “to ensure effective management of our resources continues,” adding that he found the city to be three years behind in its audits and required financial filings after being sworn in.

“When I retired four years ago, my time and energy were perfect to take the post of city treasurer. Fortunately, I was retired when I entered office,” he said. “My oversight to get the city in complete state and federal compliance took 30 hours a week at City Hall the first six months in office. With a full-time job, I would not have had the time required to complete this critical task as quickly as we did.”

Schwab added that he has taken action since 2009 to refinance bonds and letters of credit to save money, instituted credit-card payment at city offices, and posted all of his office’s reports and policies on the city’s Web site. If re-elected, he said he hopes to bring his office into the budget process to “help make sure the investments and cash flow match the city’s month-to-month needs. The budget itself, of course, remains the domain of the council and mayor.”

The 56-year-old Taylor is director of finance for the Central Lake County Joint Action Water Agency and former superintendent of finance and administration for the Waukegan Park District. He served on the Waukegan school board from 1991 to 2003, and said he feels his “educational background, accounting degree, and my work experience (with) 13 years in governmental accounting make me the more qualified candidate.”

Taylor sought to make attendance an issue in the campaign, saying that “as a Waukegan resident, I was dismayed to learn that the current city treasurer is a snowbird, (missing) most meetings in December through March. I feel an elected official should live in Waukegan year-round, because Waukegan deserves the complete attention of all its elected officials, even the ones who are part-time. I am a more qualified candidate that lives in Waukegan year-round.”

According to City Council meeting minutes, Schwab was not in attendance from Nov. 5 of last year through Feb. 19, returning on March 4.

Schwab said he was aware that Taylor has focused on the matter, but said “never once has city business been held up” because of his absence from the part-time position.

“There’s no requirement to attend. There’s no statutory requirement for the treasurer to be (at a council meeting) unless the mayor requests his presence or he’s required to make a report,” Schwab said, adding that his research indicates that his attendance at council meetings is “above the average” of past treasurers.

Taylor added that he feels the city would benefit from having “someone with a solid, professional financial background” in the treasurer’s office, saying “the best way (a treasurer) can contribute to addressing the economic challenges facing Waukegan is to generate as much interest on investments as possible. I will bring my 13-plus years of investment relationships with me.”

The treasurer’s general duties are to account for money received by the city, along with managing both the interest paid on debts and returns on capital investments. Under a salary ordinance approved in October, the position’s annual pay is $22,000.

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