County board shifts power

The new Winnebago County Board held a special meeting Dec. 2 at Memorial Hall in Rockford. The meeting was the new board’s first that resulted in major changes in the structure of the board’s eight committees. After the meeting, Republicans and Democrats expressed satisfaction with the changes.

Winnebago County Chairman Kris Cohn was formerly responsible for appointing chairmans to committees. Those same sources said the Republican caucus wanted to name the committee chairmans because of Cohn’s past management practices, which have been described as being too autocratic.

The changes are viewed by some board members as a major reduction in power for Chairman Cohn. The power changes come within a month of Cohn’s defeat for the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to incumbent Democrat Jesse White.

Last minute behind-the-scenes dealing, resulted in Cohn nominating incumbent Patti Thayer (R-9) as the executive committee chairman, in return for Cohn’s relinquishing chairmanship appointments, sources said. The dealing delayed the start of the special meeting nearly one and a half hours. The vote to approve the committee structure changes was a unanimous 28-0 vote. Newly elected board member Randy Olson (R-1) described the behind-the-scenes maneuvers as a “compromise” in which everybody won.

Cohn supported Winnebago County Sheriff Dick Meyers rather than Olson in the last election for Sheriff.

Polly Berg (D-7), chairman of the operations committee, is the only democrat in a standing committee chairman position–one more than the previous county board, which had its last meeting Nov. 26. The other seven committee chairmans are republicans. The operations committee will be responsible for activities that involve homeland security. Pete MacKay (R-5) speculated that the committee might be responsible for handling anticipated federal grants.

The new structure also has a new committee–Health and Human Services. MacKay said the new committee should make the board operate more efficiently. Berg said the health and human services committee will operate as a liaison between the board and the Winnebago County Health Department, River Bluff Nursing Home, Winnebago County Animal Services and the Winnebago County Housing Association. John Sweeny (R-14) will be the chairman of the health and human services committee.

MacKay, who is one of Cohn’s staunchest critics, will be the chairman of the zoning committee. Rick Pollack (R-13) was the former zoning committee chairman. When Tim Simms (R-14) was interviewed on WNTA

radio’s Dec. 2 Chris Bowman Show, Simms agreed with Bowman’s assessment that it would have been highly unlikely that MaKay would have received the chairman position had Cohn retained power to appoint such chairmans.

The new county board committees and its members are as follows:

Operations Committee

Polly Berg, chairman, D-7

Chris K. Johnson, R-14

David MacKay, R-13

Dorthy Redd, D-6

Glen Wilkins, R-8

Public Works Committee

Glen Wilkins, chairman, R-8

Gary Jury, R-3

David MacKay, R-13

Dave Yeske, R-2

Pearl Hawks, D-6

Zoning Committee

Peter MacKay, Chairman, R-5

John Ekberg, R-10

Randal Olson, R-1

Jim Hughes, D-11

Dave Yeske, R-2

Patti Thayer, R-9

Doug Aurand, D-3

Finance Committee

Randy Sturm, chairman, R-5

Larry Bauer, R-2

Timothy Simms, R-14

George Ann Duckett, D-12

Polly Berg, D-7

Public Safety Committee

Rick Pollack, chairman, R-13

Chris K. Johnson, R-4

John Sweeney, R-14

Jim Hughes, D-11

Tuffy Quinonez, D-11

Mary Ann Aiello, R-9

Larry Bauer, R-2

Forest Preserve Committee

Gary Jury, chairman, R-3

Bob Kinnison, R-10

Dennis Owens, R-1

Dorothy Redd, D-6

Peter MacKay, R-5

Phillip Johnson, D-8

John Terranova, R-4

Executive Committee

Patti Thayer, Chairman, R-9

Kristine Cohn, R

Timothy Simms, R-14

Rick Pollack, R-13

Glen Wilkins, R-8

Peter MacKay, R-5

John Sweeney, R-14

Randy Sturm, R-5

Polly Berg, D-7

Gary Jury, R-3

Health and Human Services Committee

John Sweeney, Chairman, R-14

Patti Thayer, R-9

Ray Graceffa, R-7

Doug Aurand, D-3

Pearl Hawks , D-6

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