Meet the candidates for Peoria County Board District 13

Staff Writer
Chillicothe Times-Bulletin
James Fennell and Randy Stevens

James Fennell — Republican

Address: 98 N. Second St.

Age: 62

Marital status: Married 42 years to Brenda, three children, five grandchildren

Occupation/employer:  President & CEO of J T Fennell Co., employing 85 people

Educational background: Two years of college, graduate of four-year Caterpillar Apprentice Program

Elective or appointed public offices held/years: IVC Unit District 321 School Board Member 16 years, including offices of  secretary, vice president and president

Volunteer or community activities:

• Volunteer — Chillicothe Community Fire Dept. for more than 40 years; Treasurer — 31 years; Deputy Chief — current

• IVC Educational Foundation (one of original founding members)

• IVC Project Lead the Way  

• Chillicothe United Way; St Edward Catholic Church Finance Committee (eight years);

• Corporate sponsor for Work to School grant of $60,000 for IVC High School

What are your top two priorities if elected?

The most important issue before the board in the next term will be the challenge of providing county services to taxpayers with available resources – in short, operating within budget.  That issue will be at the forefront of every other issue that comes before the board.  

The second issue is the future of Bel-Wood Nursing Home, specifically building a new facility vs. remodeling the existing one.

How would you accomplish the priorities named above?

I believe I have the depth of experience – from my 20 years as president and CEO of a small manufacturer to serving on the IVC Board of Education – 4 years as president – to analyze the issues and make the right decisions for the taxpayers of Peoria County. In both instances, I’ve been faced with making tough decisions regarding balancing current needs with available resources.

Bel-Wood Nursing Home provides a valuable service to County residents. There is no mandate that the County support a skilled nursing facility and in fact Peoria County is unique in that regard in Central Illinois. The service does come with an increasing cost to the taxpayer. In 2002 the combined direct and indirect property tax money given to Bel-Wood was $ 1,074,646 and rose in 2009 to $3,241,867.The options of building a new facility at approximately $45,000,000 plus interest vs. remodeling the present building needs be carefully considered. It is the taxpayer’s money the board is spending and it must be spent wisely.   

Officials have talked about merging Peoria City and County governments together. Are you in favor of this? Why or why not? And how do you think it would affect Chillicothe?

Taxpayers should expect cost-effective services at all levels of government. Regardless of current or expected budget constraints, I think the idea of consolidation of some services within units of government makes sense and should be carefully studied. Chillicothe shouldn’t be affected much other than the shared saving for the county. The items that would directly affect Chillicothe would have to be approved by the city council.   

Will you cast your vote on each issue based upon what’s best for District No. 13 or what you think is best for the county as a whole?

I’m offering my experience and background to the voters as a candidate in the 13th District to represent them on the Peoria County Board. If the majority of voters agree that my qualifications make me the best candidate to represent them, I intend to be their voice on the important issues that come before the Board

Why would you represent District No. 13?

I’ve run a positive campaign based on my record and issues that will come before the County Board. Candidates in too many races — now even for county board seats — seem determined to tear down their opponents rather than talk about their own record of accomplishments. I am proud of my record and the integrity of my campaign. I’d work with the voters in District 13 and other County Board members with that same level of respect and integrity on finding solutions to local issues and providing taxpayers the best value.  I ask voters to consider my record — not misleading negative rhetoric — in deciding who to support.

Randy Stevens — Democrat

Address: 3126 E. Rene Ave.

Age:  41

Marital status: Married to Jennifer, son-Drew, daughter-Samantha

Occupation/employer: Workforce Development Specialist

Educational background: IVC-1986, Illinois-Associate’s in Arts and Sciences, Illinois State University-Bachelor of Science

Elective or appointive public offices held/years:  Appointed-Tri County Regional Planning Commission (Nov. 2009); Passenger Rail Committee, Vice-Chairman; Heart of Illinois Fair/Exposition Gardens Board (member since 2010)

Volunteer or community activities:

• Peoria Jaycees 1999-2010 — I served the organization as president in 2001; the chapter raised nearly $100,000 for area efforts.

• Claud-Elen Days Committee (member since 2005) —  This committee organizes the Chillicothe carnival which raises money to fund local causes — primarily Rescue 33, the volunteer ambulance that serves our area

• Chillicothe Fireworks Committee (member since 2010) — This committee raises money for and organizes the annual fireworks display

• Past volunteer soccer coach for Pearce Community Center

• WTVP Auction — Volunteer since 2000

• Past volunteer for both MDA and Easter Seals telethons

• Past organizer of food drives for workers who have lost their jobs.

What are your top two priorities if elected?

With this economy, of course economic development is key. When businesses look to expand or relocate, one of the main things is stability. Thankfully, Peoria County has that, with a tax rate that is at its lowest level in 28 years. But, just over a decade ago, Peoria County needed tax anticipation warrants just to meet payroll. We need careful, fiscally conservative stewardship.

Just as crucial, I believe, are our environmental issues – everything from siltation of the Illinois River to hazardous waste above our aquifer and more recycling opportunities for our residents.

How would you accomplish the priorities named above?

In terms of economic development, Peoria County needs to continue a regional approach to accomplishing this goal.  Peoria County already has a relationship with the Economic Development Council (EDC).  

The EDC assists businesses with such services as a searchable database of available commercial locations, and statistics on Demographics, Education, Transportation, Energy/Telecommunications, Labor Force and Illinois Taxes. We need to continue this relationship and expand where it is applicable

On environmental issues, again, we need to work towards regional solutions, particularly siltation.  By not allowing hazardous waste to be placed in our landfills we will insure safe drinking water for future generations. I also feel that Peoria County can do a better job promoting recycling opportunities.

Officials have talked about merging Peoria city and county governments together. Are you in favor of this? Why or why not? And, how do you think it would affect Chillicothe residents?

I am in favor of exploring consolidation of services where it makes sense for both units of Government. Merging the governmental units of the City of Peoria and Peoria County is not allowed under the Illinois Constitution at this time.  

That said, board members should always look for ways to deliver services to taxpayers in the most convenient manner.  For one, I favor merging the city and county election services. Shared information technology services, human resources, inspections, public relations – these are just a few examples I believe would be worth exploring.

This could affect Chillicothe if the City was interested in contracting some services with the County.

Will you cast your vote on each issue based upon what’s best for District 13 or what you think is best for the county as a whole?

I believe you need to listen to the voters in your district and, by being accessible, you will know how they feel on issues. The vast majority of issues are routine and not controversial and pass the board with 18-0 or 17-1 majorities. At the same time, by electing you, voters trust you to make balanced, informed decisions.

Why would you best represent District 13?

I work very hard at everything that I am involved with.  I am open minded and listen to all sides of every issue so I am able make an informed decision.  

I have been attending Peoria County Board Meetings since last October 2009 to get an understanding of the issues the county ins facing.  I will be accessible to the people that I represent to discuss any issues that they wish.  

As a native Chillicothean who now has children in area schools, I know the challenges that our families, both young and old face and I will work to keep our community safe. I invite people to contact me with any questions.