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Different approaches in Lee, Whiteside

Last year, my editor asked that I refer to the party affiliations of county board members, which I have done with every story.

The other day, Lee County Board Chairman John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, told me that it seems as if Sauk Valley Media reporters and editors are the only ones worried about whether board members are Democrats or Republicans.

On the Lee County Board, he said, members' party affiliations don't matter.

Nicholson is on the mark. On Monday, the board, with a 20-4 Republican majority, picked Rick Ketchum, D-Amboy, as its new chairman.

Can you imagine a partisan majority in Washington or Springfield picking someone of the opposite party as its leader? That's a fantasy almost on the level of flying pigs and unicorns.

With all of the bickering between the two parties, it's refreshing to see at least some politicians casting aside the D's and R's behind their names and picking who they think is the best person for the job.

The Whiteside County Board is another story.

On Monday, the board, with an 18-9 Democratic majority, unanimously chose Jim Duffy, D-Sterling, as its new chairman.

Last week, the Democratic board members held a private meeting to discuss who they wanted for chairman; Republicans weren't invited. Such partisan meetings don't happen on other boards, including those in Lee and Ogle counties.

During a recess at Monday's meeting, Whiteside County Board member Bud Thompson, R-Prophetstown, asked Duffy why the chairman only picked Democrats for the Executive Committee.

Duffy said that's the way it works.

"When there's a Republican chairman, it's all Republicans on the committee," he said.

In June, the Whiteside board got in a big partisan dispute when then-Chairman Tony Arduini, D-Rock Falls, reappointed Jeri Robinson, a Republican, to the airport board.

Traditionally, the board has supported the chairman's appointments to the airport board. But some Democrats said they wanted a more partisan balance on the airport panel, contending it had too many Republicans.

Others said qualifications, not partisan affiliation, should determine appointments.

Still, a small group of diehard Democrats, including Duffy, voted against Robinson. She won with a 17-9 vote.

That's quite a difference from Lee County.

David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525. 

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