Tom Kacich: Many offices may soon be changing hands

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Tom Kacich: Many offices may soon be changing hands

The first domino fell last week when longtime Champaign County Treasurer Dan Welch announced he would not run for a fifth term and would, in fact, leave office early.

More dominoes are about to flip.

And it's possible — maybe likely — that none of the three incumbents whose countywide offices are up for grabs in the 2018 election will run for another term.

Sheriff Dan Walsh said he isn't running for a sixth term next year, and he, like Welch, may leave office before his term ends in December 2018.

"I do know that with Allen Jones, Capt. Shane Cook and Capt. Karee Voges along with the rest of the command and deputies, officers and personnel at the office, the public will continue to be well-served by a high-class and professional sheriff's office if I did, at some point, choose to retire early," Walsh said in a statement. "But no, I have not made that decision now."

County Clerk Gordy Hulten acknowledged he's still intrigued with the new and potentially powerful office of county executive, created last November by voters. He and state Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, are the only Republicans said to be looking at the office, which still doesn't have a salary or even a salary range.

That would be a factor for Hulten, who now makes about $97,000 a year as county clerk, or Rose, who makes about $86,000 annually in the Senate.

The selection of a county executive will be on the primary election ballot next spring, so Hulten and/or Rose will have to decide soon. Candidates can begin passing petitions in September.

Rose said he'll make no decision until after July 1, which is when the Legislature hopes to have a budget deal.

"I will make a decision by later this summer," Hulten added.

Then more dominoes will fall. County Auditor John Farney said he's "considering" running to replace Welch as county treasurer or "if it is available, county clerk." Farney worked in the clerk's office under Hulten before being elected auditor in 2012.

And last week's announcement in the village of Rantoul that Tony Brown would become police chief there appears to clear the way for Allen Jones, the chief deputy in the sheriff's department, to become the likely successor to Walsh as sheriff.

"I fully support Allen Jones in his run for sheriff; he will make an excellent sheriff," Walsh said.

Farney, too, said he is "fully supporting" Jones for sheriff.

That still could leave a couple offices, if not more, for Republicans to find candidates. One guy who isn't moving, though, is recently elected county Recorder Mark Shelden, who at one time was county clerk. He said last week that he's staying in the recorder's office.

Local Democrats, though, really have a lot of work to do, needing to find candidates for sheriff, treasurer, clerk, county executive and — if Carol Ammons decides to run for Congress — state representative.

"We are working on it," said Maryam Ar-Raheem, chairwoman of the local Democratic Party.

"Everybody is taking it under consideration," she said, adding that there are no commitments from any Democrats for any of the positions.

More from Welch

One more story from Dan Welch, who will retire later this year after nearly 45 years in the county treasurer's office. We talked about how much county government had changed in those years from when the county treasurer had an office on the first floor of the old courthouse, and virtually every other county department was a stone's throw away.

"We used to do all our employee recognition events together. And we used to have a tremendous Christmas party," he recalled. "Roger (Little, his predecessor as county treasurer) was a singer, and he'd bring a keyboard and play up on the second floor. We'd have punch, and everyone would come, and it was a great time. Even the judges would come.

"Now, there are places in the courthouse where you can't go. Back in those days, it was all wide-open. It has changed so much. When I go into the courthouse now, I don't know anybody."

And they don't know him, he added. He has to go through the security clearance like an ordinary citizen when he visits the courthouse.

Rauner ads

Citizens for Rauner just bought $18,000 of advertising on Champaign-Urbana cable TV, good enough for 210 spots between yesterday and June 30. If you want to see them they'll be on 11 channels, including AMC, CNN, Fox News, TNT, Discovery, ESPN, the Food Channel, Hallmark, HGTV, the History Channel and USA. If you don't want to see them or Democrat J.B. Pritzker's spots, stay off television and social media for the next 15 months or so.

Change of plans

Dillon Clark, a 25-year-old Montgomery County Board member and bank employee who two months ago came to a Champaign County Democrats luncheon saying he wanted to run for Congress against Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, apparently has lowered his sights.

Rich Miller's Capitol Fax reported last week that Clark now is looking at running next year against state Rep. Avery Bourne, R-Raymond.

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

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