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March 17, 2018

3/13/2018 2:30:00 PM
County-board ballot features race for 2-year term
Two incumbents and two newcomers are running unopposed for Crawford County Board in the March 20 primary.

And while there are no contests for full, four-year terms, there is one for a two-year term.

The abbreviated term is in District 1. In the running are Kevin Morrison, appointed to the board in 2016 after John Daughtery was elected but opted not to serve, and Palestine Police Chief Jeffrey S. Besing.

Also running are Republican incumbents Clint Williamson and Kip Randolph in districts 1 and 2, respectively, and GOP newcomers Koert Bartman and Don Goupil in districts 4 and 5.

The winner of District 1 and the other four candidates will have to run again for the Nov. 6 general election. Currently, no Democrats are on the ballot.

Three county board incumbents opted not to run for re-election. This includes chairman Gareld Bilyew, a District 3 Republican.

No one from either party filed to run for Bilyew's seat. The parties will have the opportunity to fill such gaps on the ballot following the primary.

Also not running again are Republicans Terry McCoy in District 4 and Steve Rich in District 5. Bartman has filed for McCoy's while Goupil is running for Rich's position.

District 1 (two-year term)

Kevin L. Morrison

The financial situation is the "elephant in the room" facing the board. Morrison, West York, said his experience will help him deal with it and other issues.

"Working to keep spending in line with revenues is not only a challenge but a joint effort by all elected officials," Morrison said. "It's a process based on expenditure projections by all department heads as well as projected revenues for the year."

The state has made matters harder by reducing revenues to counties, Morrison said. The state income tax was increased last year, while voting to keep more tax dollars in Springfield at the expense of local governments. On top of that, the state continues to impose mandates on local governments.

Another important issue Morrison sees will be the Community Development Block Grant or grants that Crawford County will receive to take the place of the Revolving Loan Fund.

"The county should have close to $2 million dollars to utilize on either one or two projects in the county," he explained. "Getting community leaders together to determine how this grant money can best be spent for the betterment of Crawford County will be a huge task, yet one that can be of great benefit to Crawford County."

A third major issue is the maintenance and repair of the courthouse and annex building.

"When the fiscal year budgets are prepared and the revenues just can't cover all the expenses, it is too many times that building maintenance gets cut. This is going to catch up with us soon," Morrison said.

Hopefully, however, another county building -- the Commercium - will soon be sold. It is tentatively scheduled to be auctioned later this year. Morrison said this could free up maintenance funds for use at the other structures.

Morrison believes working on the county budget in the past will help him provide "sound financial decisions for the county" in the future.

"As three county board members have chosen to not seek re-election, and a new county board will be seated in December, the need for experience on the county board will be vital," Morrison added. "I can bring that experience to the county board as we all work together for what's best not only for District 1, but for all of Crawford County."

Morrison has worked at Weber Insurance and Realty for 25 years. He attended Lincoln Trail College and studied aerospace technology and business at Indiana State University.

Jeffrey S. Besing

To Besing, 55, Palestine, one of the biggest issues faced by any government entity is budgetary problems.

"Those issues are concerns for the taxpayers," he said. "It is their money that is being spent irresponsibly and it is the county board members duty to watch over their interest."

Besing has 38 years of law enforcement experience. After graduating high school, Besing enlisted in the United States Army as a military police officer. He also served a year in the Indiana Army National Guard to finish his enlistment. He then began a civilian career in emergency services as an Emergency Medical Technician, firefighter and law enforcement officer.

He worked for Gibson County and Wabash County sheriff's departments as well as for the Mount Carmel Police Department for 23 years. After retiring as Mount Carmel chief of police, he stepped into a similar position in Palestine.

In all his years in law enforcement, Besing has had the opportunity to serve in positions which required him to produce and maintain yearly budgets.

The sheriff's department is one of the county's largest budget items and "a source of contention recently," Besing explained.

"... Having been an administrator for a department that size prior to retiring, it is my goal to bring to the county board, my law enforcement budget experience and knowledge on both necessary and unnecessary spending in hopes of bringing the budget in check for that department," he said. "Other county departments should not be asked to reduce their budgets to make up for the large yearly deficit of the sheriff's department."

Besing added he was recently certified as a crisis intervention officer, which trains officers to deal with people who have certain mental disorders.

"In my training, I have found that Crawford County has very limited resources for helping people with these problems," he said. "In speaking with officers in other jurisdictions, I have learned that their county boards are instrumental in assisting financially with providing these services.

"Furthermore, I have spoken with other county health departments who have provided me with information on the routes they took through the county boards to assist with this service," Besing continued. "It is my understanding that this issue has been brought before the county board at one time with no resolution. It is my hope to work with the county board members to research and introduce a cost effective way to provide mental health services to Crawford County."

Besing is a member of the Palestine Unit 3 School Board, Palestine Development Association Committee, Crawford County 911 Board, Crawford County Crime Stoppers Board, Crawford County Renew Program Board and the Southern Illinois Mobile Training Unit 15 Board. He is also affiliated with the Palestine Chamber of Commerce.

District 1 (four-year term)

Clinton G. Williamson

Williamson, 47, rural Hutsonville, is wrapping up his first term on the board. It is his first elected office, although he did serve in an appointed position on the Hutsonville Fire Protection District Board for several years.

A graduated of Hutsonville High School and Lincoln Trail College, he worked for Marathon, the Hutsonville Ameren Energy power plant and as a farmer.

District 2

Kip Randolph

Randolph, rural Robinson, wants to help make county government efficient. An incumbent, he believes his first four-year term on the board has prepared him to work toward his goal in his second term.

Since first being elected in 2014, the only issues he has seen is trying to operate the county government the most efficient way for the taxpayers and getting the most out of tax dollars.

"With the Illinois government, often time that is a challenge," he said.

The biggest project he has contributed to was getting a health insurance program for county employees that has reduced and stabilized premiums. Another major undertaking still ahead is the selling of the Commercium Building.

"It has been a hardship on the county budget for too many years," Randolph explained.

Randolph is president of Consolidated Concrete Construction Inc. He is a graduate of Robinson High School and attended Lincoln Trail College for welding and machining. He and his wife, Tracey, have two daughters, Alaina and Adriann.

County board is the only elected position Randolph has ever held.

District 3

No candidates

District 4

Koert E. Bartman

Bartman, 76, rural Robinson, looks forward to helping find solutions to problems facing his adopted home and its residents.

"I care about this county," Bartman said. "My wife, Norma, and I moved to Crawford County in 1990. We have always felt at home here.

"To be elected to this position will give me an opportunity to hear the concerns of the voters and perhaps come to reasonable solutions," he added.

Bartman sees keeping property taxes under control as an issue in the election. He also considers improving infrastructure, such as bridges, roads and illuminating intersections, to be important. He also wants to address safety issues.

A high-school graduate, Bartman is retired from farming, although he still does some part-time agriculture work. He has testified before agriculture committees in Washington and Springfield.

Bartman is a Prairie 2 precinct committeeman, a past vice president of the American Agriculture Movement and a former member of the Logan County Extension Council.

He and his wife attend Grand Prairie Christian Church. He is a member of the Farm Bureau and the National Rifle Association. He believes in the Second Amendment and is pro-life.

District 5

Don Goupil

Goupil, rural Robinson, considers it his civic duty to repay Crawford County for the benefits and opportunities it has provided him in the almost 35 years he has been a resident.

He wants "to be part of maintaining those many things that are done well within our community and participate responsibly in retaining the same high standards for those who will call Crawford County home in the future."

A first-time board candidate, Goupil has worked at Marathon for 33 years and has been a precinct committeeman since 2016.

Goupil is active in several local fraternal and philanthropic organizations, where he learned that county citizens "have consistently stood out as exceptional supporters of all the good things that happen here."

He added he would be honored to represent those who've proven "the heart and soul of this county rests within our residents, especially when the challenge of the need for help arises among each other."

Local taxpayers "deserve to be represented with fairness, understanding and impartiality and have every right to expect nothing less," Goupil said.

"The citizens of our community are the rightful proud owners of it and their elected representatives are hired by them to conduct their business with respect, trust and integrity, focused on the best interests of all regardless of whether it pertains to popular or unpopular concerns. Elected officials, take note."

Also, the issues facing Crawford County are the concerns that the constituency feels need to be dealt with and addressed responsibly and respectfully, he explained.

Goupil said officials must remain focused on supporting education, roads and bridges and other infrastructure, fire protection, law enforcement and other things, while realizing there are not "endless sums of money just waiting to be spent."

Crawford County is blessed with schools, employers, churches and other organizations and opportunities other communities only dream of, he explained.

"While most are grateful for the opportunities that our county offers - and the list is long - we must never grow complacent," he said. "It requires so much less effort and resources to responsibly maintain and retain all the blessings around us than it would be to lose any one of them, then spend much money, time and effort trying to get them back.

County officials must never lose sight of what the community has, even while working toward attracting new opportunities and ideas here.

"I pray that there is always an attraction and incentive for the wonderful people, profitable businesses both small and large, leading edge education, health facilities and everything else we enjoy to stay planted right here as we welcome like-minded others to join us," Goupil said. "Focusing on both will prove ideal in the long term."

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