Two Highland men who have never before held elected office are seeking to represent District 3 on the Madison County Board.
Phil Chapman, a retired chaplain with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is the Republican candidate. He defeated longtime board member Bill Meyer of Hamel in the GOP primary last spring.
The Democrats did not field a candidate in the race, but Highland High School engineering teacher Chris Durbin is running as an Independent.
Chapman said county’s No. 1 issue is county government’s “lack of responsiveness to voters’ desires.”
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“Madison County, Ill., and the United States of America are headed in the wrong direction. I think we need to head a different direction. My vision for Madison County includes lower taxes, job creation, and system changes making government more responsive,” Chapman said.
Chapman is advocating term limits and an end to backdoor referendums. He also wants a “Tax Payers’ Bill of Rights,” which would not allow the county to raise tax rates without voter approval or spend revenues collected under existing tax rates without voter approval, if revenues grow faster than the rate of inflation and population growth.
Durbin said he would bring a scientific methodology to solving issues within county government, and his priorities in office would “reflect the needs of our district.”
“I teach my engineering students that the first step in solving a problem is to define the problem. Determining if a problem is valid and justifiable is part of that process. For example, just saying that, ‘Taxes are too high,’ is not a valid or justifiable problem statement. Too high for whom? Who is making the claim? Why would some people say they are too high and other people feel that the services they are provided are worth the expense?” Durbin said.
Durbin said he is running for the County Board because of a call to service.
“With the District 3 seat available, I feel that dedicating time to the people of Madison County is the right thing for me to do,” Durbin said. “I am not just running for an office, I am looking forward to being of greater service to our communities.”
Chapman said he is more qualified to be on the County Board, because he is “issue-oriented” and has a “proven track record.”
“Folks know what I stand for,” he said. “I’m not a Johnny Come Lately. I’ve fought for change.”
Chapman said that record includes fighting against new taxes, and current ones, which he does think are too high.
“Specifically, I helped defeat the jail bond issue, which would have raised your property taxes to build the ‘Taj Mahal of Jails.’ This project would have cost $26 million over the life of the loan,” he said. “Now, using cash on hand, the county will repair the jail for about $9 million, saving tax payers about $17 million. I also helped defeat the 1 percent sales tax, which would have driven businesses from Madison County and picked your pocket every time you went to the store.”
Chapman has also advocated a 20 percent cut in the county’s general fund levy, and wants to cut the county’s overall portion of the property taxes even more. He said he will also reject a county pension and call for more audits on top of the one’s the county already does to “reduce waste.”
Since a cut in the county’s general fund levy will be up for referendum on Nov. 8, Durbin said he will leave it up the the voters to decide that issue. If the referendum passes, Durbin said he would save about $25 on his annual tax bill. People with more expensive homes would save more.
“The people that I have talked to that could save more than one hundred bucks per year, if this proposal passes, have told me, personally, they would rather pay $100 and be secure in the knowledge that their chosen place to live was well protected and safe. Most of them would welcome an additional law enforcement officer, either in the county or on their city police force. They would even like to have them live in their neighborhood, if the cop could afford it on a cop’s salary,” he said.
Madison County Sheriff John Lakin and State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, both Democrats, have lobbied against the referendum, saying it would end up forcing cuts in law enforcement. Republicans said it would simply bring down a county budget that is “padded.”
However, Durbin said the choice is up to each taxpayer.
“When you break down what you are paying taxes for and the services you use, are you OK with that? Please don’t let other people do the math for you or tell you that you should be unhappy because they are. They don’t live in your neighborhood,” Durbin said. “As a representative for the people of the district, my concern is to collect information on how individuals answer the questions I just posed — not ask them a yes-or-no question, such as, “Do you want lower taxes?” When kids ask me poorly thought out questions, I answer them with a question: ‘Lower than what?’ ”
Because he is retired, Chapman said he can fully focus on Madison County issues. He also touted his background working within government.
“The federal government provided me with training which readily adapts itself to County Board service,” he said.
That training includes budgeting, logistics, management, planning, writing, speaking, communications, cultural diversity, labor relations,research, and criminal justice, he said.
“Due to my extensive past participation in the political process, voters know what they’ll get with me. Over the years, perhaps you’ve read one of my letters to the editor in our local papers. I like to think my letters show adequate research and the critical thinking essential for serving you. Appropriate, my letters provided a clear position, stimulated thought, and created robust dialogue,” Chapman said.
Chapman said Madison County needs “an overhaul.”
But Durbin said: “All change is not progress and all progress does not require change.”
“Improving the methods in which different functions (within government) can be accomplished will require study and evaluation,” Durbin said. “Yes, back to learning about things before telling everyone they deserve this or that! I am not seeking to change or improve the duties of a County Board representative. What I am planning to do is the job that people have elected me to do, with the full energy and skill that I possess. Communicating, listening, and learning with and to my neighbors is my initial plan. As we uncover the opportunities and resources that are available for us in District 3, we can utilize them to improve the things we feel are important to improve.”
About Phil Chapman
Education: Bachelor’s in LAS from the University of Illinois, master’s in criminal justice from the University of South Carolina, doctorate from the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Work History: Ordained minister for 37 years and served as a chaplain in federal service for 29 years.
Military Service: Nine years as chaplain in the U.S. Army, achieving the rank of captain.
Memberships: Currently serves as chaplain and is on the Color Guard for American Legion Post 439 Highland. He is also a member of the Madison County Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Madison County Medical Reserve Corps (MCMRC).
Political Experience: Elected vice chairman of the Madison County Republican Party and has served as a Saline 3 precinct committeeman for four years.
Family: Married to Melissa Snyder Chapman for 31 years. They have four children and nine grandchildren.
About Chris Durbin
Education: Graduated from St. Paul High School in Highland in 1983, master’s degree in educational administration, bachelor’s degree in economics and social science from Blackburn College. His most recent post-graduate education has been in engineering. He also did a STEM Educators Orientation at Coronado Navel Base with the U.S. Navy in 2012.
Work History: District delegate and lead instructor at Highland High School for the nationally certified engineering program. Prior to teaching in Highland, he taught technology at Northridge Middle School in Danville, Ill. Before he began teaching, he served as a national sales trainer for the Fluidmaster Corp.
Memberships: Association for Career and Technical Education Professionals (ACTE), American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), Illinois Association for Career and Technical Education (IACTE), member of Regional Office of Education grant writing team for CTE Grant-2014, charter member of SIUE School of Education Academy of Fellows-2009, SIU Excellence in Teaching Award-2008, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Illinois Principals Association (IPA), member of Technology Integration Committee for HCUSD No. 5-Strategic Planning Team, National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association (IHSSCA), Premiere Soccer Club-board member/coach, member of Phi Kappa Phi, Who’s Who among American High School Teachers, and Knights of Columbus Council 1580 (Knight of the Month October 2006).
Political Experience: None
Family: Wife, Jody, is a P.E. teacher at Highland Elementary School and an avid runner. His daughter, Jordan, works at Highland Machine Corp., and will graduate from SIUE in December.