An incumbent with extensive local government experience is challenged by a newcomer to the county office to represent District 5 on the Lake County Council.
Republican J. Kevin Hunter, a retired firefighter/EMT and longtime sales professional who lives in Ingleside, faces Democrat Sharon Smith-Terry, a Lake Villa resident and executive director of the Orthopedic Research Society.
Both say their backgrounds translate well to county council. District 5 covers all or parts of Antioch, Fox Lake, and Lake Villa. Members of the county council also serve as district commissioners of the Lake County Forest Reserve.
Hunter was appointed in July 2021 to replace veteran board member Judy Martini. He served as Fox Lake Village Trustee from 1997 to 2001, a member of the Grant Community High School Board of Trustees from 2015 to 2018, and Chair of the Lake Area Health District from 2017 to 2021.
He said he would continue to focus on public safety.
“Having these real-life experiences gives me the opportunity to advance public concerns for high-quality public safety,” he said. Hunter added that 40 years in sales and marketing “enables me to bring real-world solutions that work in small to large businesses in the people services industry called your local government.”
Smith-Terry said her 30 years of business experience, encompassing operational efficiency, management and building stakeholder relationships, will translate to county council.
She said she knows how to negotiate and compromise and would work with the board to ensure that issues such as mental health, fiscal liability and environmental liability are addressed to improve the welfare of the county as a whole.
Hunter said stormwater management and taxes are ongoing issues in the district.
“Nobody wants our taxes to go up. We want to live within our means. That’s extremely important,” he said.
Hunter opposed the county’s ban on burning the leaves, which went into effect June 1, saying residents would pay more to have them removed. He said 3,200 people opposed or demanded a compromise and council members should listen to the voters who elected them rather than act on personal agendas.
He also voted against a county gasoline tax of 4 cents per gallon. He said disbanding the Lakes Region Health District saved taxpayers $150 to $200 a year.
Smith-Terry said her biggest concern is mental health. It is important to address the opioid crisis and provide access to support, she added. “We have to find ways to help these people,” she said. “Keeping people mentally, physically and mentally healthy is huge.”
Budget management, environmental issues and infrastructure related to flooding and traffic were other issues in District 5, she said.
Hunter said he would support asking voters if they want to pay more taxes to improve the forest preservation system or buy property.
“I’m an absolute believer in listening to people,” he said.
Smith-Terry did not commit.
“I’m not sure yet,” she said. “I want all the information in front of me about the needs of the community”,