I started covering the Whiteside and Lee county boards in January 2011. By April of that year, I knew the names and faces of all 28 Lee County Board members but one.
The exception was Kathy Hummel, who hasn't attended a County Board meeting since March 2010 because of health reasons (but who won't resign). I've never seen her.
Other than Hummel, the last member with whom I became familiar was Jim Wentling, a Dixon Republican.
I can't remember a time he has spoken during a board meeting. He seems to be a well-liked guy who'll probably easily win re-election, but he's apparently not the kind of guy to take strong stands in public.
No other Lee County member is so publicly silent.
The Whiteside County Board, however, has plenty of Jim Wentlings – nice guys and gals who prefer to stay in the background.
To this day, I can't visualize in my mind the faces of six of the 27 Whiteside County board members.
Many never take part in County Board debates. Perhaps it's because Whiteside County's issues aren't as pressing: It has a budget surplus, while Lee County records deficits year after year.
A few months ago, I tried to figure out the identity of one of the Whiteside County members before the start of a meeting. I asked four of his colleagues who this member was. They didn't know. I later discovered it was Ken Roeder, D-Fulton.
This area's county boards are among the state's biggest. In many states, county boards – often referred to as commissions – only have three or five members. The Lee County Board will drop to 24 members starting Dec. 1.
Some argue that reducing the size of the Whiteside and Lee county boards would save money.
The county boards' defenders say reductions would hurt the ability of board committees to function. Besides, they contend, the savings wouldn't be that much.
They're right about the savings. But these days, with "accountability" such a buzz word, how can we hold officials accountable if many of us aren't sure who they are?
Sauk Valley Media reporter David Giuliani covers the Whiteside and Lee county governments, Morrison and other smaller communities. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.