DANVILLE — At least one newcomer will be elected to the Vermilion County Board in District 2 this November after Republican board member John Alexander moved out of the district last year and fellow Republican Chip Mattis decided not to run again.
Although Mattis is out and Alexander is running for re-election in District 6, there are still four candidates vying for the three seats in District 2.
Here is a map of County Board District 2.
Two newcomers, Charles D. "Chuck" Mockbee, a Republican, and Terry Thomas, a Democrat, are challenging incumbent Kevin Green, a Republican, and Mike Marron, a Republican who was appointed to the county board last year to fill the remainder of Alexander's term when he moved out of District 2.
Green, a farmer from rural Oakwood, has been on the county board for eight years. Marron, a farmer in Pilot Township, may be a new county board member, he's not new to politics, serving as Pilot Township supervisor and chairman of the Vermilion County Republican Party.
Thomas is a retired lab technician from TeePak and has no political experience but is a lifelong resident of the county. Mockbee is a long-time attorney and serves as a precinct committeeman in Blount Township.
Mockbee also held the position of Vermilion County civil attorney, representing the county board and county office holders from 2003 to 2008. He has represented other units of government, including villages and townships during his 37-year legal career and served on the Bismarck-Henning school board for 16 years, including board president.
Mockbee said his professional and community leadership roles and common sense have prepared him to meet the obligations of a county board member.
An Oakwood High and Eastern Illinois University graduate, Green is a two-term member of the board, having served on the property, transportation, health and education, and taxation and election committees, but he also serves on the board of directors of the Vermilion County Conservation District Foundation, the Vermilion County Soil and Water Conservation district, United Community Bank, and is active in both the Vermilion County Farm Bureau and Illinois Farm Bureau.
"With my background and experience, I make a good choice for county board," he said.
Marron said he's not afraid of making tough decisions and living with the consequences and will always be open and honest with the public.
"I am doing this because I love Vermilion County, and I want it to remain a viable place to live and succeed. I am not making this my career and won't base my judgments on how it will affect my re-election chances. We have seen enough of that brand of politician on every level of government," he said.
Thomas said the county board has some important decisions to make on the nursing home and a lot of work to do to attract new businesses and jobs to the county. He said he's a big supporter of bringing a casino to Danville.
"I look forward to the opportunity to represent all of the people of Vermilion County toward these goals," he said.
The candidates agree that the county should explore selling the nursing home if voters authorize the county to do so in a referendum next month.
Green said selling it could be a "win-win situation" for all parties, the county, taxpayers, residents and staff, and selling it to a professional nursing home company would be the best option.
"If authority is not granted, the county faces few viable options," he said, "which would include raising taxes considerably, or closing the nursing home entirely."
Thomas said the county would be "the big loser" if it had to close Vermilion Manor, because it's "a real plus" for the county. If voters authorize a sale, Thomas said, he would like to see it acquired by a health care organization that has the resources to maintain the buildings and continue to offer this vital and much-needed service to the seniors of Vermilion County. If they don't authorize a sale, the county should continue to pressure the state to pay the more than $1.6 million it owes the nursing home in Medicaid payments and continue to explore any other options.
If voters do give authority to sell Vermilion Manor, Mockbee said, he doesn't believe it's likely that the state will meet its obligation of public aid reimbursements in a timely manner, "so the nursing home should be closed and the building sold." If voters don't give authority to sell, Mockbee said, the county should continue to operate the nursing home as long as fiscally responsible to do so, but close the home if revenues continuously fall short of expenses.
And Marron said if voters grant the board the authority to sell, the county should negotiate the best terms of sale that it can with a private company, ensuring to the best of the county's ability that Vermilion Manor will stay open in our community, servicing our senior citizens and providing needed jobs.
"In a situation such as this, being proactive is always the best course of action," he said.
If the voters do not grant the board authority to sell the nursing home, Marron said, the county should keep it operating as long as possible without permanently damaging the future of the county or the county's ability to provide essential services to its other citizens.
"I hope we are not forced into this circumstance," he said. "People need to understand that everyone wants to keep Vermilion Manor open and operating to provide for our seniors. Having the authority to sell the nursing home may be the only option we have to keep it in that capacity."
On the financial side, Thomas said, the county needs to spend the next four years focusing on recruiting more business and jobs to Vermilion County to broaden the tax base, ensure fair tax apportionment and examine budgets for all county offices. Marron also said the county should be seeking new ways to attract businesses.
"When we look to ensure the financial security of Vermilion County, the best way to do so is to encourage economic growth," said Marron, who added that the county needs to examine how it spends money and involve the individual board members more often in seeking solutions.
Mockbee said the county needs to focus on funding essential services and keeping tight control over expenses. There should be long-range planning for the county's capital building projects, and its whole budget needs to be closely scrutinized.
Green said the board needs to continue what it's done the past four years, working with county department heads to propose balanced budgets, trim costs and consolidate services.
"The county should be able to provide services without raising taxes," he said.