Mayoral race heats up in Beach Park
By Tina Johansson Special to The News-Sun March 24, 2013 2:45PM
John Hucker, Mayor of Beach Park. | Special to Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 26, 2013 6:33AM
The race for mayor of Beach Park has drawn an unusual number of candidates with four vying for the seat. The death of longtime mayor Milt Jensen last spring has opened the floodgates to others.
“This is the most (mayoral candidates) we’ve ever had,” said village clerk Laurie Cvengros, noting that there were three contenders the first year of city incorporation in 1989.
Here’s a look at what the four contenders say about their hopes and goals if elected:
Incumbent mayor and a village founder John Hucker seeks to continue in the position he has held for one year after Jensen died.
A resident for more than four decades, Hucker has held positions with the village for 16 years, including as trustee and mayor pro-tem. He has also been a member of the planning commission and economic development commission.
As mayor and liquor commissioner, Hucker has been successful in cracking down on the illegal sale of alcohol, revising the liquor license program and updating the application process.
Fiscal responsibility is an important issue for Hucker. For several years in a row, the village has scored a “AA” bond rating from Standard and Poor’s. “We continue to operate with a budget surplus each year due to the tight controls we have put in place to keep spending on budget. By all accounts, we are in very, very good shape,” said Hucker who approaches managing the affairs of the village as he does his business.
He is president and co-owner of Hucker Electric in Waukegan. His beliefs: “Don’t spend more than you bring in, use common sense in decision making, treat people with honesty and courtesy,” he said.
After being elected by the board as acting mayor, Hucker has overseen the transition of key staff members and reallocated responsibilities, hired new village administrative services director Jonathan Kindseth, and utilized contract consultants in place of permanent staff.
Future items he would like to see accomplished include expansion of neighborhood-watch programs, and having the entire village board packet available online for everyone.
Richard Gust, lifelong village resident and retired head plumbing inspector for Lake County, is running for mayor. He has been a trustee for nearly 13 years.
“I got involved in public service because there are so many things I can do to help,” he said. Gust added that being retired gives him the extra time that he would need if elected.
As mayor, Gust said he would like to work on having more water lines installed in the village that still has a number of residents on wells.
Allowing residents to vote on issues is an important mode of operation Gust would implement. “For instance, we are discussing selecting one garbage pick-up service, at a discount,” said Gust. “I think residents should be able to vote on this.” (Currently, homeowners have multiple choices for garbage service and often times the fees are costly).
Gust believes in reaching out to others and having an open-door policy. “I think you get more accomplished that way — sit down with one another. That’s the best way to keep things moving forward,” he said.
As trustee, he has taken on the responsibility of chairman of the village’s parks and recreation committee and has become quite fond of it. It is seldom that Gust has nothing to comment on regarding park events in town.
Gust announced plans for a new multi-purpose building at Founder’s Park which will be “good for the people,” including many seniors who benefit from village programs.
Working with teen court in Beach Park over the past year has been fulfilling for Gust. “If I could help just one or two kids stay out of jail, it’s well worth it,” he said.
Linda Sittig, a trustee since 2007, is seeking a term as mayor. Previously, she ran unsuccessfully for the post.
Sittig feels she is an ideal candidate for mayor because she does not work outside the home and would be available 24/7. “I feel the residents deserve to the represented in a full time manner,” she said.
Active participation in the village is something Sittig is known for. “I like to take an active role in our community and my attendance with meetings, scheduled events and outside events reflects this,” she said. “Public service is my passion.”
A resident of the village for 25 years, Sittig has a background in finance, previously working as a loan originator for a mortgage brokerage firm. As trustee, she led the creation of a finance committee for Beach Park.
Finances in the village and spending “well over six figures” on legal fees pertaining to the TIF districts is something that concerns her. “I believe that all finances need to be thoroughly examined to find new efficiencies to save taxpayers money,” said Sittig.
More transparency and improved communication to residents by way of newsletter, Web site and social media is important, she added.
Sittig has implemented an emergency-operations plan for the safety of village residents, and is involved in neighborhood-watch programs. By utilizing resources though the sheriff’s department, she has organized a recent internet safety class for seniors.
Sittig is a member of the Lake County Mounted Posse as well as the local Moose Lodge.
Running for mayor is retired baking-company sales manager David O’Rear. He is no newcomer to the village. The 26-year resident had served two terms as Beach Park trustee under the late mayor Jensen. O’Rear was mayor pro-tem, and also on the planning and zoning board.
A priority, he said, would be to lengthen village board meetings and offer additional information to audience members.
“I would like to see more discussion, more involvement by the trustees, and more discussion in front of the people,” he said. “Also, because of the short meetings, I feel people aren’t taking the time to attend. There is enough to be discussed in this village and I feel that no meeting should be discussed in less than one hour,” said O’Rear.
More stringent code enforcement in Beach Park is another issue important to O’Rear. “We have great schools, a fine street department, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department is doing a good job. But we have to try to get the pride back into the community, and make sure people care for their properties,” he said.
Another issue important to O’Rear is honing relationships between the village and the state, the county and the forest preserve district. “I would like to see a better working arrangement with them,” he said.