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Will County Board District 11 {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Will County is governed by a 26-member county board who are elected from 13 districts. Each district elects 2 members.

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  • Candidate picture

    Julie Anne Berkowicz
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Michelle "Mimi" Cowan
    (Dem)

  • Kathy Havel
    (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Jim Kopchok
    (Dem)

Biographical Information

With an annual budget of over $551 million; what budget changes would you recommend for Will County to make sure taxpayer dollars are well spent?

What will you do to expand mental health services in Will County?

In 2017, 117 Will County residents died from opioid overdose. The Illinois Opioid Action Plan aims to reduce such deaths by 33% in three years. How can Will County meet this goal and increase addiction services to help Will County residents, especially our youth?

How has climate change impacted our Forest Preserves, and what should the Board do in response?

Campaign Phone (331) 303-2510
Campaign Email kathyandjulie2018@gmail.com
Will County should continue to support many important programs and actively work with organizations whose mission statements involve public safety. Assisting women and families in need is one of the priorities within the County and some of the programs they support include the Sunny Hill Nursing Home which provides services and long-term housing for seniors. Another example is the Casa program which advocates for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. The County also maintains the Veterans Assistance Commission that provides advocacy services to obtain benefits for our Veterans and their families.
Will County has been expanding Mental Health services with their Stepping up Initiative. I support that the County continues to apply for Federal and State funding grants that can be applied to mental health issues for the benefit of Will County residents.
Education for our youth and the entire community is key. Parents would benefit from additional knowledge regarding the availability of drugs in our society and the social practices that can lead to drug use. More conversation about the impact of overprescribed narcotics and pain killers would also be helpful to educate the residents.

The Forest Preserves of Will County continue to provide parks and natural prairies for the enjoyment of families and residents. The decline of the Monarch Butterfly population is an issue and great strides have been made to in provide the plants and habitats necessary for their survival. This summer there was a remarkable increase in egg deposits and the sightings of monarchs. We need to continue to fight the foreign insects that are killing our trees and foliage. Building our volunteer base to provide support to the Forest Preserve staff will help us to remove these harmful insects and invasive species.
Campaign Phone (630) 621-5958
Twitter @MimiCowan
Campaign Email MimiWCB11@gmail.com
The county has maintained a AA+ bond rating and has a balanced budget; this is great, but we can do even better. Firstly, I’d like to see the process by which the county board examines the budget changed. Currently, most of the discussion is done in committee meetings and, at times, in private. This means that many county board members are not participating in the deep investigation of the budget and the process is not transparent for most voters and residents. Instead of discussing the budget in committee meetings and privately, these discussions should be had with the full contingent of board members present and with substantial notice to the public. The meetings should be held during evening and weekend hours so more of our constituents can attend. This first step in making the budget process more transparent will mean that board members and constituents alike will have a better opportunity to voice their opinions about fiscal priorities for the county.
We must adequately fund and support health services at the county level. Without funding, the health department cannot be fully staffed or provide the services that our community needs. Furthermore, as a board member, I will proactively seek grants from state and federal institutions that we can use in Will County to increase mental health services.
One barrier to attacking the opioid and other drug crisis as fully as we might is that our health department and sheriff’s department have both been underfunded for some time. If we don’t provide them the resources they need to do their jobs when it comes to the drug crisis, we unfortunately can’t expect the numbers to get any better. These two departments are our first line of defense (and offense) in this area. The health department has education programs that can help teens and adults alike avoid becoming addicted in the first place. The Sheriff’s department has it’s wildly successful Hidden In Plain Sight trailer, that teaches parents how to recognize the warning signs that their teen might be using drugs. We also need to increase counseling and other services for those who are fighting addiction. Will County has the people and knowledge to be a star among counties when it comes to reducing drug deaths. We need to give our staff the tools they need to do their jobs.
We do not have any data regarding how climate change has affected our forest preserves in Will County. This is because the Republican-controlled board for the last few years deemed this “too political” a topic to be investigated. So, the first thing the county board, who is also the forest preserve board, needs to do is to demand that a scientific study be produced which outlines the challenges our natural areas are facing as a result of climate change. Only then can we hope to effectively respond to those challenges.
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Campaign Phone (630) 687-1940
Twitter @jim4WillCtyBd
Campaign Email jimforwill@gmail.com
Making sure that the budget process is open and transparent would have an impact on how well tax dollars are spent. Currently, very little is done with committee hearings to address the budget. I would advocate for more robust hearings, possible separation of the budget to be heard by other Board committees such as Public Safety, Health, Capital Improvements, etc. who have oversight responsibilities during the course of the year, and gather input into these important areas before final presentation to the Finance Committee. I would make it a priority to fund our infrastructure and preserve our position as the largest inland port in North America. This protects existing jobs, provides capacity for future growth and plans for safety and quality of life issues as communities experience more congestion. Establish inter-governmental agreements that allow for sharing of expenses and don’t require direct cash outlays.
The County Health Department needs to have a long term plan that it knows will be fully funded by the County. Two years ago the Speaker of the Will County Board suggested that it was not needed to fund such a service since the State had chosen not to pass on grant funds to the County. We need to recognize the importance of this department and find ways to fund this vital service to our community. I would look to increase funding to levels commensurate with the needs of the community. Using all influence with other elected officials at the State and Federal level to assure there is a priority to mental health. We can increase prevention, treatment and recovery services, reduce the stigma associated with mental health treatment and disorder and look at ways to invest in technology to expand the outreach of care to our citizens, including self-care applications. Technology can possibly address gaps in care availability and affordability.
We know that the addiction we see cuts across almost all socio-economic strata and age groups. Those suffering from pain management, including senior citizens, are also targets where over-prescription is most frequently the cause. By committing to this issue early, providing funding and professional coordination between all the County resources, including independent agencies and law enforcement and making sure that Narcan (and training for first responders) is available to save lives. Working to obtain future grants to help fund these coordination efforts and training is another step that needs to be taken. For young people make sure local services and hotlines are available to assist in identifying resources to coach them through difficult times, provide programs that help them self-identify as needing help without risk of legal entanglement and find ways to communicate using technology such as social media.
Unfortunately, this issue has become too political and not based on facts. The reality is that climate change is happening. 15 percent of tree species in our region have moderately high or high vulnerability to climate change. Over the past century the Chicago region has warmed by about 1 degree Fahrenheit with more changes coming. Among other things, extreme and exceptional droughts could increase in duration and frequency. Funding cuts for educational programs is not the answer. The Board has three primary functions. Set priorities and policy, set the budget and perform oversight to administrative functions. We should set policy that recognizes the threat to our Forest Preserve from climate change and the conservation habits that could help mitigate future problems, set budget that helps find solutions to maintain the health of our forests through expected change in environment and conduct oversight that assures our citizens that we are prepared for the future.