Candidate profile: Kurt Prenzler

NAME: Kurt Prenzler

AGE: 60

IMMEDIATE FAMILY: Rita, wife, Edward (17), Roland (15), Ruth (13)

OCCUPATION: Madison County Treasurer


PREVIOUS ELECTED POSITION: First elected treasurer 2010, re-elected 2014

Why are you running for this office?

I’ve fixed things in the treasurer’s office, and see things that need to be fixed in the county. As treasurer, the changes I’ve made: reduced the treasurer’s office budget by 30 percent; stopped the no-bid county investments with a Little Rock, Ark. bond salesman; automated the tax sales; and tripled investment deposits in local banks from $30 to $90 million. Ethics and controlling expenses are concepts sometimes neglected inside government. Transparency is also important in government, because the taxpayers should be regarded as the “owners.” Life-long elected officials sometimes forget that. Madison County is run by a democrat machine. For years — actually decades — one party has ruled this county and that’s expensive for taxpayers. It’s time for a change. Change is uncomfortable, but necessary in order to make progress.

What would be your top priority if elected or re-elected?

My two top priorities are to reduce the county tax levy by at least 10 percent, and improve ethics in county government.

Madison County is considering a 5-cent cut to its property tax rate. Are you in favor? Why or why not?

I am in favor of this tax cut, and in fact, I originated the idea. Last year, I called for a 10 percent reduction in the county tax levy, because the county was taxing $3 to 4 million more than necessary. Because the Chairman refused, I, and others, earlier this year, gathered 10,000 signatures to put this tax reduction referendum on the November ballot for the voters to decide. Again, this tax cut can be made without any decrease in services, because it will merely reduce the over-taxing that’s taking place.

What other improvements do you want to see in how the county is run, and how would you accomplish them?

Taxes. My plan is to reduce the county tax levy by at least 10 percent without reducing services. How can this be done? Easy, the county has been padding its annual budget for years by levying more than it needs — taking money unnecessarily out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Ethics. The county isn’t always transparent in how it operates. I will do better by: providing online notification when positions on boards and commissions become available; using online software to open up bidding to more vendors, as is done in other counties. Better bidding practices will save taxpayers money; appointing an ethics advisor, a position which the chairman has not filled this past year; driving my personal vehicle (not a county car) and submitting receipts for purchases (no county-issued credit card).

Why should the voters elect you?

My background in business and education as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), combined with my experience as county treasurer prepared me to be County Board Chairman. My goals are clear: to reduce the burden on taxpayers and improve ethics in county government. I’ve done that in the treasurer’s office, and I can do it in county government. In addition, I’m not a professional politician. Before being elected county treasurer six years ago, I never worked one day for the government. I don’t hold two government-elected positions and I’m willing to make changes.

Madison County has faced a lot of partisan tension in the last few years. As chairman, how would you resolve this tension for a more cooperative county government?

It may seem like there’s been a lot of partisan tension in recent years, but that’s only because Madison County – for as long as most people can remember – has been dominated by one political party. Illinois has three counties that have been historically dominated by a Democrat machine: Cook, Madison and St. Clair. Human nature being what it is, when there is no competing political party, bad things happen. The tax sale scandal is one example. It went on in broad daylight, but county officials (of the same party) said and did nothing to stop it. Checks and balances, oversight, auditing, etc. is important in any business and is especially necessary in government, where there is no “owner” watching the money. To quote Ronald Reagan, “Trust, but verify.” My vision is to combine checks and balances with respect for others’ viewpoints. Under this administration, both employees and county board members are often afraid to speak up. My goal would be to create atmosphere of healthy deliberation on the county board, and to foster openness and respect among employees.