Former Belleville Mayor Rodger Cook to run for St. Clair County Board chairman

Rodger Cook
Rodger Cook (Provided photo)

The 2016 election for St. Clair County Board chairman is now a competitive race.

Former Belleville Mayor Rodger Cook on Wednesday filed to run for County Board chairman. Cook, a Republican, said he doesn’t expect any other Republican to file to enter the race.

Cook, who was mayor from 1993-97, is poised to challenge current St. Clair County Chairman Mark Kern, a Democrat who is seeking a fourth term as County Board chairman.

Cook, 58, of St. Libory, said he is looking forward to taking on the Democratic Party, which has dominated county politics for decades.

“I’m fed up with one-party rule and seeing waste in government,” Cook said. “Decisions are made politically and not in the best interest of the people. Party bosses make decisions based on what’s best for the party, instead of the people.”

“If you make decisions based on what’s best for the people, you’ll do a great job,” Cook added.

This wouldn’t be the first time Kern and Cook square off during an election. In 1997, Kern defeated Cook to become Belleville mayor.

Cook ran for county treasurer in 2014, but lost to incumbent Charles Suarez.

In 2012, Cook also ran for Congress, but lost in the Republican primary.

Kern could not be immediately reached for comment.

Cook said one of his main issues will be looking at what to do with county-owned MidAmerica Airport and the debt still owed on the airport.

“We’ve lost money every year,” Cook said. “Now we’ve got additional debt. We went and refinanced bonds, costing us millions a year as taxpayers.”

He said the county could use the money for other purposes, such as law enforcement.

If he is elected, Cook said he would “put together a team immediately ... to look at it thoroughly and come out with a recommendation of what we’ll do with that airport.”

Cook also said he would push for transparent government where all positions will be advertised and all contracts opened up for bidding.

In government, “it takes a lot of work and commitment,” Cook said. “You don’t take care of your friends, you take care of the people.”

The filing period ends Monday. The primary will be in March, and the general election in November.

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter