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home : local news : local news
November 20, 2018

11/5/2018 8:06:00 AM
Big changes ahead, whatever Tuesday's outcome
Whatever the outcome of Tuesday's general election, the Crawford County Board will be a different group when it reorganizes Dec. 1.

Two Republican incumbents, Gareld Bilyew in District 3 and Terry McCoy in District 4 are not seeking re-election.

The board lost two other GOP incumbents in July when Steve Rich resigned because of health issues and Kevin Utterback died. Rich previously announced he would not seek re-election in District 5 this year. Utterback was in the second year of his first term representing District 3.

These departures have left the field open to newcomers, two of whom are already serving on the board.

Don Goupil was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Rich's resignation. He was already running unopposed as a Republican for the seat.

The District 3 situation is a bit more complicated. No one ran for Bilyew's seat in the primary, so the Republicans selected Jonathon Goff to run in the general election while the Democrats picked Olga Abella.

Then, following Utterback's death, Goff was appointed to fill that vacancy. His is still running against Abella for Bilyew's seat, however.

Republicans then selected Kevin Dart to run for the remaining two years on Utterback's term. The Democrats picked Jenny Buckley-Coulter to run against him.

Meanwhile, several candidates are running unopposed for the board.

These include incumbents Clint Williamson and Kevin Morrison in District 1. Williamson is running for a full four-year term while Morrison is seeking a two-year term.

Morrison was appointed to the board in 2016 after John Daughtery was elected but opted not to serve. By defeating challenger Jeffrey Besing in the primary, he earned the right to run for the remaining two years on what would have been Daugherty's term.

Another Republican incumbent, Kip Randolph, is seeking another term in District 2 and GOP newcomer Koert Bartman is running without opposition in District 4.

Because of limited space, profiles of the unopposed candidates can be found on Page 2 of today's Daily News.

District 1

Clint Williamson

Williamson, 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 Oil, the Hutsonville Ameren Energy power plant and as a farmer.

Kevin Morrison

The county financial situation is the "elephant in the room" facing the board, according to Morrison, West York. 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 more difficult by reducing revenues to counties, Morrison pointed out. Illinois legislatures increased state income tax 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 finally be soon in 2019. Morrison said this could free up maintenance funds for use at the other structures.

Morrison is running unopposed after defeating challenger Jeff Besing in the primary. He has enjoyed representing the citizens of District 1 and said his two years on the board has been a great learning experience. He believes working on the county budget in the past will help him provide "sound financial decisions for the county" in the future.

"I believe the experience and knowledge gained by these first two years on the county board will be so helpful in providing leadership for the next two years I'm asking you to elect me to serve," he said.

"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.

District 3 (four-year term)

Olga Abella

Abella, rural Robinson, said she offers new perspectives on issues faced by the board.

"As a woman, I think I can provide different ideas and observations that may not occur to current board members," she said. "My experiences as a teacher helping young people plan their careers may give me distinct insights into issues. I think we need a variety of voices on the county board to represent the diverse voices in Crawford County."

Abella has been an English professor at Eastern Illinois University since 1989. She has a bachelor's degree from Southampton College of Long Island University and a master's and PhD from State University of New York at Stony Brook.

"Our future also depends on our vision, on our ability to see what changes will be forthcoming," Abella said. "As our country focuses more and more every day on alternative energy, we need to thinking about preparing our towns for the transitions we will be making.

"For example, we need to think about creating charging stations in our towns for the electric cars of people who commute to work here, or who come as tourists to our fairs and festivals," she explained.

"By preparing our towns we will also be making ourselves appealing to new businesses," she added. "We can't grow, we can't prosper, if we don't adapt."

The board, she said, needs to prioritize the funds raised from taxes so that the county addresses the needs of the majority of the people here and not just those of the few.

Improved infrastructure and financial assistance to business are among the keys to economic development.

"Our infrastructure is essential for our daily lives as we commute to work and school," Abella said. "Our roads and bridges must be safe, as must also be the public buildings we all use. We need to invest money in making repairs to all of these."

She also pointed out people in rural areas desperately need high-speed internet that enables them to run businesses from their homes. "Providing this service keeps people and their businesses in our community," she explained.

Also, the county needs to administer loans and grants to entrepreneurs "who will build spaces that give young people somewhere to go and something to do so that they develop a sense of belonging and won't want to leave as soon as they can," Abella added. "Our youth are the resources of the future of our towns."

She also said the county needs to support "the services upon which we all depend, such as our nonprofit community ambulance service."

"This is a service that is vital to all of Crawford County," Abella explained.

Jonathon Goff

Goff is a lifelong Oblong resident. He is a certified crop advisor and manager at Mont Eagle Mills, Oblong.

Goff also is a Master Mason of Oblong Lodge 644 and is the lodge president. He also has served as a volunteer football coach for Oblong High School.

"I will be fully committed to the citizens located in the western region of Crawford County," Goff said.

"As a parent, I have learned the importance of leading by example and with integrity. I wish to leave our county board in better shape upon my departure for generations to come," he added. "The opportunity to serve my community is an honor and I look forward to being a strong and sensible voice."

District 3 (two-year term)

Jenny Buckley-Coulter

Buckley-Coulter, Oblong, is another political newcomer. She is employed by Robinson Title Company and previously worked as a teller for First Financial Bank.

She is a 2000 graduate of Oblong High School, with some college and continuing education. She has been a board member for the Oblong Junior Baseball League for two years.

Buckley-Coulter doesn't want the county's agricultural roots to be overlooked.

"As a farming community, I believe it is important to continue to support and encourage our agricultural and farming families as they are a large part of our economy," she said. "It's important that we keep in mind how vital they are to the citizens of Crawford County.

She also considers health care to be important, not just to the well-being of county residents, but to the economic well-being of the area.

"If elected I look forward to working with the health fepartment," she said. "The health department provides support and education to a large portion of our population with blood sugar/pressure screenings, breastfeeding support for new moms, provide immunizations, vision and hearing screening, WIC and emergency planning and preparedness just to name a few. A healthy community is a strong, hard working community."

As a parent of two school-age children, Buckley-Coulter is also interested in supporting local school systems.

"Our children spend seven hours a day in these facilities, we as a community need to make sure the schools and teachers have everything they need to provide for our children. Many teachers spend their own money on items they need for students, I would like to see that change.

"There are a lot of wonderful programs that help students with school supplies, I would like to see a program that provides the same thing throughout the school year for the teachers in our community," she added.

She added she looks forward to working with all elected officers in the county.

"I believe it's important to communicate and work with everyone rather than create division," Buckley-Coulter said. "Every person's voice is important and I hope to help them be heard."

Kevin Dart

Dart is a fifth-generation farmer in Licking Township, north of Oblong. He is married and has three grown daughters. He has also served on the Licking Township Board.

District 2

Kip Randolph

Randolph, rural Robinson, considers his first four years on the county board to be "a learning experience."

"Now I feel I have a better understanding of county government and I believe I can make more informed decisions and help more areas," he explained. "I look forward to serving the taxpayers."

Randolph sees the only issue in the election to be the operation of county government in the most efficient way and getting the most out of taxpayers' dollars. It's not always easy; Illinois government can be challenging at times.

The biggest project Randolph has contributed during his term was getting a health insurance program for county employees that has reduced and stabilized premiums.

As for the future, he looks forward to selling the Commercium Building. "It has been a hardship on the county budget for too many years," he said.

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. "I would like to thank the taxpayers of District 2 for their trust in me for the last four years," he said.

District 4

Koert Bartman

Bartman, rural Robinson, is unopposed. "I look forward to working with the other county board members and other county officials," he said.

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.

"I want to insure tax money is spent wisely and the citizens of District 4 receive quality services from their taxpayer dollars, keeping Crawford County a great place to live," he said.

A high-school graduate, Bartman is retired from farming, although he still does some part-time agriculture work. He has worked for Jim Gibler, Oblong, for the past 26 years.

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.

That is why 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 county board candidate, Goupil has worked at Marathon Petroleum for 33 years and has been a precinct committeeman since 2016.

Goupil is an active member of several local fraternal and philanthropic organizations, where he learned firsthand 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 continually 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 providing support to our education system and students, roads and bridges and other infrastructure, fire protection, law enforcement and a long list 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 the goal of 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 likeminded others to join us," Goupil said. "Focusing on both will prove ideal in the long term."

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