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Out Here: No opponent for township supervisor – for 20 years

Published: Monday, Jan. 6, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Let’s go back to the April township election. Do you remember the race for Coloma Township supervisor?

Debra Burke, who has been supervisor since 1981, won that race, as she should have. She had no opponent.

In fact, she has gone unopposed for the past two decades. Her last opponent was in 1993, shortly after Bill Clinton became president.

These days, Burke has undergone a storm of criticism for her handling of the township’s finances. Until recently, though, the public knew nothing of those problems.

Perhaps that’s why she has drawn no opponents all these years. Then again, township elections see little action, anyway. 

In April’s election, 88 percent of township positions in Whiteside County and 77 percent in Lee County went unopposed. Each county has 22 townships.

Only two Whiteside County townships saw competitive supervisor elections. None saw opposition in Lee County. 

By no means is this area alone. In southern Illinois’ Saline County, all 13 township supervisor positions had no competition, according to Harrisburg’s Daily Register. 

I asked Coloma Township Trustee Peggy McFadden, who started with the township earlier this year, why Burke had no opposition all these years.

She said Burke was generally perceived as having done a good job, up until Sauk Valley Media started reporting about the township’s financial problems a couple of months ago.

“There’s never been any questions before,” McFadden said. “She’s got a great personality.”

Statewide, townships see about 20 percent turnover with each election, according to the Township Officials of Illinois, which lobbies for townships.

Bob Anderson, a McHenry County barber who wants to do away with townships, told me last year he wasn’t surprised with the low level of competition in such elections. 

“Anyone who comes into my barbershop wouldn’t be able to tell you when the next township election is,” Bob Anderson said. “The township people keep to themselves, so they can control it.”

David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley.com or 800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.

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