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Local

A Democrat in charge of GOP board?

Ketchum gains key backers for chairman of Lee County Board

DIXON – Lee County Board member Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, is gaining support in his bid for chairman.

If he succeeds, he would be a rarity – a Democrat leading an overwhelmingly Republican board.

Late last year, board Chairman Jim Seeberg, R-Ashton, who took the helm a decade ago, decided not to run again. The election is Nov. 6.

After Seeberg’s intentions became known, Ketchum announced he would run for the position. The board elects its chairman from its membership.

Seeberg said Ketchum, chairman of the board’s Finance Committee, would make a good chairman. No one else has revealed an interest in the position.

Recently, Sauk Valley Media submitted questionnaires to County Board candidates. One of the questions was about candidates’ preferences for chairman.

Many avoided the question, saying they would make the decision later.

But some said they would support Ketchum, who is unopposed for re-election.

Marilyn Shippert, R-Dixon, said she informed Ketchum that he had her support.

“Personally, I entertained the idea of running for that position, but my role as a township supervisor presents a conflict, so I have made the decision not to seek the position of board chair,” she wrote.

Judy Truckenbrod, R-West Brooklyn, said she, too, backs Ketchum. She also said the new chairman should put Shippert and Dick Binder, R-Compton, on the Finance Committee. They “best understand the complexity of the Lee County budget, funds, financial responsibilities and challenges,” she said.

Vern Gottel, R-rural Sterling, also mentioned as a possible chairman candidate, was open to voting for Ketchum.

“I am investigating this further,” Gottel wrote. “Rick Ketchum is a strong candidate who I think listens to options and evaluates carefully. I think you can work with Rick.”

Shippert, Truckenbrod and Gottel have had their differences with Ketchum. Shippert and Truckenbrod are some of the board’s most fiscally conservative members, more likely than Ketchum to resist increased spending. Gottel is strongly pushing for a county administrator, while Ketchum has reservations about the idea.

Ketchum said he hadn’t even heard rumors of anyone else running.

“I think I have enough support to be board chairman next time,” he said, “but you can never be sure.”

The 28-member board has 26 Republicans. The board’s size is dwindling to 24 with the new terms, which begin Dec. 1.

In the Nov. 6 election, 28 candidates are running, including 19 incumbents.

Only seven Democrats are on the ballot. Even if all of them won – unlikely, given voting patterns – they would make up less than a third of the board’s membership. In other words, Ketchum would need substantial GOP support in any scenario.

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