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Our View: New county position could be a tough sell

Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen won the election in November, preaching that every penny counts, differing with his Democratic opponent on fundamental issues, such as his desire to freeze the property tax levy and his opposition to hiring a county administrator.

So we have been puzzled by some of the ideas Lauzen has floated early in his tenure, most recently pushing to hire a new, temporary community outreach coordinator.

The community outreach coordinator position, which already has been posted on the county website, would be a full-time job paying a wage of up to $25 an hour. The position would be for six months, although Lauzen has not ruled out advocating for the job to become permanent. The county also could hire a community outreach assistant to work under the supervision of the coordinator.

County government-watchers might recall that Lauzen sought to create a new, deputy chairman position in the early weeks of his tenure, a proposal that was shot down by the board. While that position would not have come with additional salary, it still seemed to fly in the face of the, “If you want something done properly, do it yourself” mantra that Lauzen touted during his campaign.

Adding a community outreach coordinator for six months would not necessarily come at an exorbitant cost, but it still is a new expenditure at a time when the county has a hiring freeze in place for full-time employees. The six-month duration for this position might be a way around the freeze, but presumably that policy is in place for good reason.

If new personnel is going to be added, there needs to be a compelling reason, and board members need to make sure that reason is clearly communicated in the coming weeks. A vague notion of building “connections” with groups inside and outside Kane County leaves too much to the imagination to be worthy of the board’s support.

Besides, doesn’t Lauzen, a seasoned veteran of state politics, already bring ample connections to the board?

If Lauzen’s plan goes forward, there will be natural scrutiny about who he selects – especially considering the arched eyebrows that followed Lauzen political ally Robert Sauceda being hired in the county’s Animal Control Department earlier this year.

We recognize that part of Lauzen’s charge as the new County Board chairman is to be an idea person, and that maintaining the status quo is not always the best approach. Perhaps this position, if backed by the board, will turn into something worthwhile, and Lauzen’s vision of the outreach coordinator becoming “a catalyst” for the county will ring true.

At this point, the proposal is more of a head-scratcher.

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