CRETE | Candidates for the Crete general election in April met with about 125 residents at the Crete Public Library on Tuesday night to share their visions and ideas for the future of the village.
The election forum was hosted by a citizens group called Crete Conversations. The group discusses current and upcoming events in the Crete area.
Four candidates are running for village president: Michael Einhorn seeking re-election, challenged by Brent Humecki, Donald Seehausen and Elbert Shaw.
Six candidates are running for three trustee seats, with Mark Wiater seeking re-election, and Karen Tellef, Stephen Johnson, Ken Sadowski, Dean Gaffney and Patrick McCormick vying for their first terms.
Tellef told the crowd she has lived in the village for 20 years, has served on the Citizen’s Advisory Board and the Planning and Zoning Committee, and is now the chairperson of the Planning and Development Commission.
“I have made the time commitment that Crete needs for someone to be a good trustee, she said.
Wiater told the audience he has been a trustee for 16 years, and that he believes he has earned the respect and trust of the residents. He said he has a strong track record that can be counted on.
“We will be dealing with the serious issues such as the (Ill.) 394 corridor and the south suburban airport,” he said. “We need experience.”
Gaffney, who has owned a local business for 35 years, said he believes the village needs to be managed more like a business than it is today. He said the village could expand services to the residents without increasing costs.
“There are many creative ways to bring more services to village residents that are not being utilized,” he said.
McCormick said more focus needs to be placed on jobs for residents. He told the crowd there are training programs available that could be brought into the village and help make changes in the local employment.
“The people tell me they want change,” he said, “especially in the unemployment numbers.”
Sadowski said he moved to Crete 15 years ago because of the small-town atmosphere, but he feels that charm has eroded over the years. Sadowski’s focus will be on ensuring that all residents are fairly represented in village decisions.
“I want all of the residents to feel that they are equally represented,” he said. “I also want to see more citizens have an opportunity to be involved."
Johnson reminded the residents that he was a trustee in Crete in 2002. He wants to get involved again in local government because he sees opportunities for the village to expand business with commercial developers.
“I believe that even though the economy is lagging, Crete does not have to,” he said.
After the trustees spoke and answered questions for an hour, the village president candidates took center stage.
Humecki has lived in Crete for 28 years. One of his main concerns is what he called the significant drop in home values in and around the village. He also is concerned that the current board and village president raised property taxes in December instead of cutting costs.
“I think the current government had an option to keep taxes where they were and cut costs instead,” he said.
Seehausen ran the local Crete grocery for 17 years. He believes the local government should be more transparent and more self-governing. Seehausen said there have been several business opportunities that were missed by the current officials.
“There have been missed opportunities by this administration,” Seehausen said. “That’s hurting the village’s growth.”
Shaw moved to Crete in 2005. He told the audience that his background as a municipal manager "can make our community a much stronger one if we can bring our factions together and have a stronger centralized community."
“We will have a larger voice if we have a larger group working together,” Shaw said.
Einhorn reminded the crowd that he has been the village president since 1985, and said he has served the village with pride and respect. He said he has laid the groundwork for future economic development based on the realities of the current economy. One of his main goals has been separating commercial development from residential areas, which the residents have told him is a high priority.
“Homeowners want to see commercial development,” he said. “But they also want it far enough away from their homes so that they do not lose the small-town charm that brought them to Crete”.
All of the candidates mentioned that village taxes are high, a popular comment with the crowd.
The state of the Crete infrastructure was discussed, with answers ranging from poor water quality to positive comments on annual road repairs.
Economic development to increase property and sales taxes was a very high priority for all of the candidates. However, various candidates had different visions for how to accomplish that new development.