Tom Kacich: First hat officially tossed in ring for county-executive job

Tom Kacich: First hat officially tossed in ring for county-executive job

Urbana Dem cites job history of 'helping start new things'

The salary isn't set, nor are the responsibilities, but there now are at least three people interested in becoming the first county executive of Champaign County.

Darlene Kloeppel of Urbana, who worked for more than 15 years as director of community services for the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, is the first person to formally announce that she is a candidate.

Kloeppel is a Democrat. Two other potential candidates, County Clerk Gordy Hulten and state Sen. Chapin Rose, are Republicans.

The first county executive, a position created by voters in a ballot question last November, will take office in December 2018.

Kloeppel, 62, said she will run for the office, regardless of what salary the county board sets for the position.

"Because I'm retired, I'm not concerned about the salary. That's not why I want to do this," Kloeppel said. "And so I will run regardless."

She said she is eager to help the county create the county executive position. Only one other county in Illinois, Will, has a county executive.

"I have really good experience with helping people start new things. My whole work history has been about helping people begin new programs or start new positions or do things like that strategically," she said. "I think if the county is going to change the way that it does its business, it would be useful to have somebody with experience for the first person so that they could try to set things up well so it succeeds."

Kloeppel said she worked on a federal project to integrate hospice services into the Medicare program, including the startup of some of the first hospices in the United States. She also assisted, she said, with the leadership transition that merged three hospital systems into the Provena Health Care network. At the RPC, she managed more than $11 million in grant funds through public/private partnerships. Since retiring, she has worked as a consultant.

She has a bachelor's degree from Morningside College in Sioux City, S.D., a master of social work from the University of Iowa and additional degrees in architecture and city planning from Georgia Tech. She and her husband Jim raised four children in Urbana (including Chris, who is president of the Champaign school board).

Meanwhile Hulten said neither he nor Rose is ready to make an announcement about whether they will run.

"I will make my decision about whether to run for county executive, regardless of what they do on salary," he said. "Salary is not the deciding factor for me. Chapin is in the same boat.

"We both have said that if it's the right place to go, then we will do it, regardless of what the salary is. Whatever they do, either of us can live with it."

Candidates can begin circulating petitions of candidacy on Sept. 5.

New sheriff candidate

Greg Worrell of Thomasboro, who said he has more than 40 years in law enforcement, announced Tuesday that he is running for sheriff of Champaign County.

Sheriff Dan Walsh is retiring, and so far only his chief deputy, Allen Jones, has announced that he is a candidate.

Both Worrell and Jones are Republicans. In fact, said Worrell, they know each other and go to the same church.

"Me and Allen, we get along well. I'd even invite him to a benefit or something," he said. "We go to the same church. We're both very good Christian believers.

"This is just about giving people a choice. That's my motto, 'Now you have a choice.'"

Worrell, 65, began his law enforcement career in the Air Force, including 11 years at the old Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul. He has been a full-time security officer at Lincoln's Challenge (on the Chanute site) since 2008 and also is a part-time Fisher police officer. He has also worked at police departments in Ludlow and Thomasboro.

Worrell is married. He and his wife have five adult children.

Davis town halls

CU Indivisible, a progressive, grass-roots group, last week charged that U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis has held town hall meetings, but only for companies and individuals that give him campaign contributions. It cited a June 1 meeting at State Farm in Bloomington and Farm Bill meetings at the farms of three donors.

David has been hit in recent months for failing to hold large, town-hall meetings, and brushing them off as "grandstanding" events.

He responded to the charge this week, noting that he met with dozens of constituents at his Champaign office earlier this year.

"How would I have spent seven hours in here during two office hours, meeting with constituents the entire time, right in this office?" the Taylorville Republican said. "How would I have spent that time here if that was true? It's absurd."

It's worth noting that while Davis may have held constituent meetings or events at the homes or offices of campaign supporters, he has also held them at farms or offices of people who hadn't contributed. A couple recent examples: a farm listening stop at the farm of Paul and Shirley Berbaum in Bondville and another event at Curtis Orchard in rural Champaign.

If you want to see political schmoozing in private settings, there's a whole industry in Washington, D.C., built around cocktail parties, receptions and other events.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 351-5221 or at kacich@news-gazette.com.

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Alex Goodlad wrote on August 16, 2017 at 6:08 pm

"It's worth noting that while Davis may have held constituent meetings or events at the homes or offices of campaign supporters, he has also held them at farms or offices of people who hadn't contributed. A couple recent examples: a farm listening stop at the farm of Paul and Shirley Berbaum in Bondville and another event at Curtis Orchard in rural Champaign."

The exceptions aren't the rule, though. While Davis has had meetings to non-contributers, he generally rebuked many who want to meet with him in a town hall setting as "screamers", "shouters", "grandstanders", and "five group meetings are better" while simultaneously having closed off town hall style events that with his donors.

Also his listening sessions have generally been closed off from the public to a large extent. That's the other issue. That Church debate with Durbin is a classic example. Would have been cool if it was audio recorded or publicized for many to listen. Word around town was there was a long list of terms and conditions that forced the Church to close off the event.

"If you want to see political schmoozing in private settings, there's a whole industry in Washington, D.C., built around cocktail parties, receptions and other events."

And many D.C. politicians, Democrat and Republican, exhibit awful tendencies that correspond to this industry. Davis is one of them.

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