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Incumbent Wilke seeking second term in County Board District 16

Terry Wilke candidate for Lake County Board District 16. | Special Sun-Times Media

Terry Wilke candidate for Lake County Board District 16. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 28, 2012 6:03AM

Lake County Board District 16 incumbent representative Terry Wilke of Round Lake Beach knows his district and he knows what it needs — jobs, solid jobs that pay enough for a family to live on.

“This is a working class area, where even if the job is white collar, it’s working class,” Wilke said. “It’s rough everywhere, but for the working class, particularly communities like Round Lake and Waukegan have been absolutely devastated. Everything else takes a back seat to feeding the family, working and paying the mortgage.”

Democrat Wilke, 47, seeking a second term, said he recently talked to a man who had lost his home after paying the mortgage for 29 years.

“No one’s asking for charity,” Wilke said. “They just want to work. Many are willing to take any job at any pay, even minimum wage.”

An electrician by trade and adjunct instructor at the College of Lake County, Wilke has some ideas on how the County Board can help, including in-sourcing, dipping into the county’s $50 million in cash reserves and trimming county employee hours to free-up more work.

“Locally, we have to try and get more people to work, period,” Wilke said. “There are projects we can push forward, ways we can get more of the project money on the ground in terms of jobs. We don’t have to give big jobs to contractors. We can in-source some of those things and hire those people directly to get more action for taxpayers.”

Wilke also suggests reducing the county’s work week to 32 hours.

“That frees up 20 percent in hours or 675 jobs,” he said, noting that those jobs would not include benefits. “Of course people working at county would take a hit in pay but it’s something I think we should be looking at. We need to get more money at the bottom of the economy so it can come up through the economy.”

This would normally be the right spot to introduce Wilke’s Republican challenger, Michael Carbone of Round Lake. But attempts to reach Carbone were unsuccessful.

Wilke talks about priming “the pump” from the bottom, about the public sector’s responsibility to regulate the private sector.

“It’s appropriate for government entities to put people back to work,” Wilke said. “The county has a large unused reserve, I can’t imagine what better conditions to use it. Direct action at the very bottom is way to start the economy again, not hire a bunch of folks to study issues.”

Wilke mentioned a county salary scale that slides from $25,000 to $250,000.

“It’s just too wide,” Wilke said. “You don’t typically see that in the public sector. This isn’t a company. We need to tighten that up a little and pay better at the bottom of scale, which would be good for the economy. People could pay their mortgages.”

Wilke owns his own company, Edison Electric, and he’s pursuing a master’s in economics at the University of Illinois. He serves on the county’s Law and Judicial Committee and holds a seat on the county’s Forest Preserve District Board. He has supported open space purchases, including the “fantastic” virgin 102-acre Kestrel Ridge Preserve in Volo. But he struggles with the contention that “we don’t get our fair share back.”

“Road projects bring in higher property values and that can lead to those commercial districts being utilized better, which can increase sales taxes and theoretically lower property taxes,” he said.

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