The city of Ottawa will have at least two newcomers on the La Salle County Board while a third race pits a former board member against the incumbent.
La Salle County Republican Central Committee chairwoman Susan Thornton will attempt to regain a seat on the board against incumbent Lou Anne Carretto, an Ottawa Democrat in District 17.
Both had served on the board together before district boundaries were redrawn during the decennial redistricting process.
The new 17th district covers rural northwestern Ottawa Township north of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and newer subdivision developments in northwest Ottawa. The rural portion of the district is an area many frac sand mine companies are considering for development.
“We’re sitting on white gold,” Thornton said. “We need to protect the environment and bring in jobs, so we need to have regulations. And property owners should be fairly compensated for their properties if big corporations come in.”
Thornton has been endorsed by International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, the union providing jobs to the upcoming Mississippi Sand, LLC sand mine next to Starved Rock State Park.
Additionally, Thornton said she would not accept board member health and retirement benefits, and a portion of the per diem she earns will be given to local non-profit agencies.
“Unemployment in the county is around 11 percent and if I can make a difference to employ people I will,” she said.
When the Mississippi Sand debate was taking place, Carretto said she received about 100 letters from county residents asking her to vote against the project. She said she received none from project supporters, so she voted against.
“I knew I made some enemies with that vote because I have family members who are union members,” she said. “I’m not one to take jobs away from people but I didn’t feel confident with the information the company was giving. There were a lot of people who sent me letters against it so if I have to represent the people of La Salle County the letters were an indicator of what the people wanted.”
Carretto said if she wins re-election she would look to support new jobs coming to the county and find ways to make county government run more efficiently.
“We all know there is government waste, sometimes due to federal and state mandates, so if there are some places we can cut then we should,” she said.
District 19 encompasses southwest Ottawa Township between the canal and Illinois River and Naplate.
The district includes a lot of county property such as the highway department and La Salle County Nursing Home. Its areas of industrial shipping along the Illinois River banks make it another prime place of interest for frac sand miners looking to ship product via the river.
Both candidates, Republican David Smith and Democrat David Van Duzer, did not return several attempts by the NewsTribune to reach them for this story.
District 21 is shaped much like a horizontal rectangle encompassing all of the area of South Ottawa Township east of Route 23. The northern portion of this district is residential neighborhoods, and it becomes more rural to the south.
Additionally, this district perhaps more so than others has many voters who came out strongly opposed to the Mississippi Sand mine proposal.
Democratic candidate Brian Dose of Ottawa said he would have voted no based on what happened years ago to Bailey Falls as a result of quarries near Oglesby.
“I look around and see abandoned mines which are open holes in the ground, with no money or plan to improve the properties,” he said. “Naturally I have deep reservations, especially about any organization that doesn’t want open public hearings into its reclamation process.”
Dose, however, said he understands some property in La Salle County already is owned by sand mining companies. In these cases he would like to ensure future mines are converted into usable space.
“While it isn’t typically thought of, every development requires public safety protection. The battle should not be between property rights and economic development, but rather how, we, as a county can help them coexist,” he said. “This requires a commitment to work with businesses to protect property rights while encouraging economic development and job growth.”
Dose said he has lived in the district for over a decade. He is married, has three children, and is the current captain of Ottawa Fire Department; President of Ottawa Firefighters Local 523, past instructor at Illinois Valley Community College and is a member of a number of civic organizations.
If elected, Dose said he would put an end to blind political appointments, bring modern technology and openness to government such as videotaping and internet streaming of committee meetings and think outside the box to save money and make county government more effective.
“I have a keen understanding of public safety, working families, and the importance of keeping taxes as low as possible in this county,” Dose said. “I believe we can and should make government more efficient and effective through proper oversight and fiscal responsibility.”
Republican Kyle Creedon of Ottawa said his experience and education in agriculture, finance, insurance and business has given him the tools to streamline county government “which means more jobs and lower taxes for all of us.”
“When I win, I will have only one priority, and that is representing the residents of my district,” he said. “I was born and raised here in Ottawa and am also a lifelong resident of District 21. It would be a privilege to look out for our best interests on the county board.”
Creedon said it’s important to preserve the economic history of La Salle County and that future development needs to be done in a balanced way.
“It’s important we balance economic progress with zoning requirements to preserve areas important to our heritage such as Starved Rock,” he said.
Creedon said he was in agreement with the county board’s decision to allow Mississippi Sand to build a sand mine next to Starved Rock State Park.
“I would have considered delaying the vote, but at the end of the day the county board got it right,” he said.