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Election

Voting booths are seen in 2015 in one of the polling places at Herrin Civic Center.

Citizens of Union County will decide a number of local government races this Nov. 6.

Here’s a look at the candidates.

The race for Union County Clerk will be disputed by Vonda Benefield, of Anna, and Lance Meisenheimer, of Jonesboro.

Benefield, the Democratic incumbent, has worked in the Clerk’s office for 31 years, and was appointed county clerk April 2, because of the retirement of the previous officeholder. Benefield cited her complete knowledge of clerk duties, and achievements including implementing a property fraud alert on land records, and creating digital records so county citizens can solicit marriage or birth certificates online.

Meisenheimer, the Republican challenger, has been a public servant for nine years, currently as a corrections officer with the county sheriff. Meisenheimer has a business degree from SIU Carbondale and honed his skills managing a family-owned car dealership. If elected, Meisenheimer will prioritize the digitization of county records, and will seek to return some duties to the Clerk’s office that have been passed off to an HR Manager, according to Meisenheimer, including payroll, and municipal employee pension services.

The next Union County treasurer will be either John Hughey, of Anna, or Leigh Burns, of Jonesboro.

Burns, a Republican, has worked in the Treasurer’s Office for 26 years, and has “been trained in every position in the treasurer’s office,” she told The Southern. While there, Burns has helped “implement crucial updates to the tax collection and financial reporting processes,” that allowed the county to “realize a remarkable financial turnaround, which saw a multi-million dollar debt turn into a $1 million reserve,” she said.

Hughey, a Democrat, is currently president of the Anna-Jonesboro High School Board. The challenges he’s met in that position, Hughey said, are similar to those he would face as County Treasurer, striking the balance between fiscal responsibility and ensuring salaries and bills get paid, and necessary materials get purchased. “We’ve been good stewards of the taxpayer money we receive,” Hughey told WIBH Radio, in Anna. “That’s what I hope to do as treasurer.”

Current county sheriff Scott Harvel is running unopposed for re-election. Harvel was elected to the position in 2014, as a Democratic candidate. He has worked in the Sheriff's Office since 1987, serving as a jailer, a dispatcher, and eventually as chief deputy of the office, according to the Gazette-Democrat, of Union County.

Three of the five seats on the Union County Board of Commissioners will be disputed this November. The commissioners approve the county budget, all ordinances and resolutions, the claims of County departments and collective bargaining agreements and labor contracts, as well as other day-to-day operations.

Tina Waller, of Anna, and Kent Pitts, of Cobden, are contesting Seat A on the Board.

Waller, a Democrat, was born and raised in Union County, and served 20 years as a secretary for Anna District 37 public schools. “I offer no agendas or promises,” Waller told The Southern, “only trust and commitment to the people of Union County, to always put taxpayers and local businesses first.”

Pitts, a Republican, is from Wolf Lake, in Union County, and now lives in Cobden. He’s a retired employee of the Marion federal prison, who will focus on fiscal responsibility. “We’re all drowning in taxes. In order to prevent tax increases, or even give tax cuts someday, we’ve got to save money,” Pitts said in an interview with WIBH.

Jesse T. Adams, an Independent candidate, is also listed on the ballot for Seat A, but could not be reached for comment.

Seat C on the Board will be contested by David Gould and Kevin Starr.

Gould, the Republican incumbent, is a retired president and CEO of the Anna-Jonesboro National Bank. He was appointed to the Board in May to fill the vacancy left by Alex Foeller. Gould said he uses his financial and business expertise to serve the county in many of the same ways he did in banking, including in budgeting and management. “Right now, we’ve got to continue to make Union County the best place to live in Southern Illinois,” until Illinois improves its business climate, Gould said.

Starr, the Democratic challenger, was a longtime business manager for Laborers Local 773, a union that represents over 4,500 members, according to its website. There, Starr learned to run a multi-million dollar business, prepare and stay within a budget and manage human resources, he told the Southern. If elected, Starr said he would, “look at every avenue to try to bring business and jobs into Union County,” including a possible industrial park, while committing to no tax increases from the County Board.

Seat D on the board will be contested by Thomas Sadowski, of Anna, and Max Miller, of Anna.

Sadowski, a Democrat, worked as a forensic scientist at the Carbondale forensic lab of the Illinois State Police, until its closure, 4 years ago. Sadowski served on the Carbondale New School school board, helped establish a garden at the Shawnee Development Food Pantry, whose produce supports the food pantry, and serves on the board of the Friends of the Shawnee National Forest. If elected, Sadowski said he’ll prioritize job creation, infrastructure improvements, and productive activities for local youth. He supports promotion and expansion of local ecotourism, and improved marketing along Route 146 to attract visitors to the county.

Miller, the Republican incumbent, is a lifelong Union County citizen, seeking his first reelection to the Board. Over six years of service, Miller has helped the Board through challenging times, producing balanced annual budgets in spite of decreasing county revenues, increasing costs, and cutbacks from the state of Illinois, he said. “We managed to set aside money in reserves,” Miller told the Southern, now around $1.2 million, to help the county weather financial uncertainties while making sure bills get paid and county employees get paychecks.

Voters interested in learning more about the candidates are invited to attend a Meet the Candidates forum, sponsored by Union County Women in Business, October 23 at 5:30 p.m. in the Anna-Jonesboro High School auditorium. For more information, call Kelli Wood, president of the Union County Women in Business, at 618-833-4685.

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