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Wes Sherrod, candidate for Republican March 20, 2018 primary

Wes Sherrod is a Harrisburg businessman who is a candidate in the Republican primary for the state's 118th District seat on March 20, 2018. Here, he stands near some of the 15 head of cattle he manages on his Harrisburg ranch.

HARRISBURG — After his business was hit with a nearly 7 percent corporate tax increase, Wes Sherrod figured he needed to do something — not only for his business, but also for the state.

The way he figures it, if the state continues leveraging taxes on businesses and not finding ways to offer them reductions, they will leave.

Sherrod is bringing his 23 years of business experience — running a vehicle repair shop in Harrisburg, where he gains experience mediating between the insurance company, his client and his own profit margin — to his quest for the state's 118th District seat.

That seat was most recently held by Brandon Phelps, who resigned in October; that vacancy was filled by Natalie Phelps Finnie, a Democrat and Phelps' cousin, who was tapped to serve for the remainder of Phelps' term.

Sherrod is running against two other Republican challengers in the March 20 primary — Massac County State's Attorney Patrick Windhorst and Samuel K. Stratemeyer of Metropolis. The winner of that race will face Finnie in the general election.

“This is not a survivable environment for a small business owner, so how many of us will stay if we don’t get some control over this … if we don’t reduce some taxes,” Sherrod said. “I don’t see a lot of us staying.”

Sherrod moved with his family from Pontiac, Michigan, to Southern Illinois as a teenager. He is married and the father of two children: one studying to be a nurse, the other to be a game warden.

He said he doesn't know all the political buzzwords, but said he does know, from a businessman's perspective, what can work for Southern Illinois.

“A business owner sees it differently than a politician," he said. "They don’t look at the business aspect of it, (such as saying) 'here’s is how you do it' … and that’s the difference between me and the politician. I know how to bring money in, ’cause it’s what I did my whole life.”

When he campaigns in or visits an area, he said he promotes not only the event to which he's invited, but also the area he's visiting.

To bring attention to Karnak, for instance, he's planning to pedal his Heritage bicycle along the Tunnel Hill State bike trail on Saturday, Feb. 17, setting a record that he he will challenge others to beat. He said that's a way of letting people know about the nearly 55-mile-long bike trail and the other wonders of Karnak.

To stimulate the economy in Golconda, he suggested a business be started taking the Asian Carp from the Cache River, grinding them up, pressing it and freeze-drying it to use as a fertilizer.

"That’s the same things that the Indians did," Sherrod said.

He'd also like to see businesses like Harrah's Metropolis Casino have a smokers' club, a place set aside, inside the facility, where those who smoke can do so without having to leave the premises. That, he said, can help them grow businesses, particularly among those who smoke.

Maybe in a place like Brookport, someone could rent a business storage trailer and sell coffees or other items that people like to drink or eat. The idea, he said, is to start on a small scale.

"I think Southern Illinois can really promote itself from what it has, from what we’re not doing now," Sherrod said. "I think we can do it ourselves. If I can do it, can we all do it? Then if we all do it, then the amount of advertising is huge."

He'd also like to see concealed carry expanded to allow people leaving government and other buildings, at night, when there is no security to walk them to their vehicles, to be able to carry their weapons into the facility with them.

To help with overwhelming pension payments, he suggested that the state consider legalizing marijuana, then applying the taxes to reducing the pension debt, in part.

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Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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