Vermilion GOP selects Weinard for county board chair

DANVILLE — With no debate, Vermilion County Republicans unanimously voted Gary Weinard of Hoopeston as their nominee for chairman of the Vermilion County board during their Saturday morning caucus.

In his 18th year as a Vermilion County board member, Weinard, 66, has served with five county board chairmen, all Democrats, and is now poised to be the first Republican chairman in more than 20 years.

Having won the majority of the county board from the Democrats in the November election, the 14 newly-elected county board Republicans held their caucus Saturday morning in the community room at Liberty Village in Danville.

And on Monday night, the entire Vermilion County board will hold its re-organizational meeting when the 27 members will be sworn in and then vote on which one of them will become the next county board chairman and vice chairman. With a one-member majority — 14 to the Democrats' 13 — the Republicans' nominee for chairman most likely will be approved as well as their nominee for vice chairman, Mike Marron, who was appointed to the county board last year. Marron was elected last month to his District 2 seat. If the Republicans' nominee is approved, it will mean the end of Democrat Jim McMahon's six-year run as chairman. Recently, the Democrat members of the county board held their caucus and chose McMahon as their nominee for county board chairman.

The county board's re-organizational meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday in the county board chambers on the second floor of the Vermilion County Courthouse Annex, 6 N. Vermilion St., Danville.

Marron, who is the Vermilion County Republican Party chairman, led Saturday's caucus. He said, prior to any nominations or votes, that there are "two dynamics" among them, one group of experienced, knowledgeable county board members who have "been there, done that," and a group of younger people who are enthusiastic and "want to get things done." Marron said those two groups must stay unified, and if so, will be "an unbeatable combination."

Marron then called for the nominee for chairman to come from the first group of experienced board members and the vice chair nominee from the younger group. Marron said he believes there needs to be a vision for the county, and he and Weinard met recently to discuss the major issues facing the county. He said Weinard has a vision he could support, and he's enthusiastic about Weinard as their nominee for chairman.

After Weinard was nominated as chair, Weinard then nominated Marron for vice chair.

"He's a young man who has turned a lot of heads and turned the (Republican) party," Weinard said of Marron, adding that he's an individual with a strong work ethic who will do a fine job as vice chair and will be in the chairman's seat for some meetings. Marron was then unanimously approved as the vice chair nominee.

Weinard, a long-time Hoopeston-area farmer and 1969 UI graduate, first came on the county board in 1994 and has served on multiple committees, including public safety, finance, executive and transportation. He and his wife, Brenda, have been married for 46 years and have two sons, Brian and Kevin, who's now managing their 1,800-acre farming operation. Since 2005, Weinard has been the Grant Township Highway Commissioner, overseeing two employees and a $650,000 budget.

At the beginning of the meeting former state Rep. Bill Black, a Republican who served for 10 years on the county board, spoke to the group, lending some advice from his time as county board chairman prior to his tenure in the statehouse. He commended the group for making it a binding caucus, essentially committing the 14 to support their nominees at Monday night's meeting. Black said there's been some discussion in the community about the major issues facing the county and allowing McMahon to continue as chairman. But, Black said, that would be a slap to those who worked so hard to get the Republicans a majority on the board and to those who voted.

But despite the majority, Black said they will still need 18 votes for any budget amendments, and he encouraged them to reach across the aisle and possibly consider appointing some Democrats as committee chairmen. Long-time board member Bob Fox, R-District6, said since 1988, the Democrats have not allowed the Republicans to chair any of the committees or have a majority on any of the committees.

The board committees and chairs will be determined at Monday's re-organizational meeting.

Black also said the Republicans shouldn't decide alone what to do with the Vermilion Manor Nursing Home, which Vermilion County voters just granted the authority to sell.

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