With election day coming up on Tuesday, April 4th, yard signs have been popping up all over Barrington. Early voting is underway now and you can click here for details about when, where and how to cast your ballot.
In the Village of Barrington, current Village President Karen Darch is running for one final term. Her supporters say she has experience, progress and momentum on her side. Over the next four years, she plans to finish key initiatives currently underway to enhance downtown development, make vital infrastructure improvements and protect the community’s interests regionally and statewide. To introduce fresh perspectives, Karen is running with four first-time village trustee candidates (Jeff Janssen, Jenn Wondrasek, Todd Sholeen & Ryan Julian) and promises to prepare others to lead the way after her final term ends.
Karen Darch supporters say, under her leadership, the Village of Barrington has seen remarkable growth in recent years, with new development downtown attracting both businesses and residents. She recently earned this strong endorsement from the Daily Herald.
The Committee for a Thriving Barrington hired our team to produce Karen Darch’s campaign video. To capture local reaction to Karen’s leadership, we interviewed lifelong and newer Village residents. We also talked to Notice: Accessories for Living owner, Mari Barnes, who has owned businesses in multiple communities for over three decades.
Karen began her Barrington political career as a village trustee in 1995 and was first elected village president in 2005. Prior to dedicating her full time to community service, she worked as an attorney and served in leadership roles for multiple organizations committed to helping others, including her term as President of the Barrington Junior Women’s Club.
Karen is also a mother-of-six. She and her husband of 36-years moved to Barrington in 1985. All six of their children attended Saint Anne Parish School and graduated from Barrington High School.
The Village of Barrington faces exciting opportunities and unique challenges and I know how much we all care about the future of our community.
To better understand how Karen’s vision differs from that of her opponent, Mike Kozel, I asked both candidates a series of the same questions. (Click here for more about Mike Kozel’s campaign.) These are Karen’s responses to my questions…
How would you summarize your vision for the Village of Barrington?
I have a positive vision for the future of our wonderful village, and a plan for the next four years that would ensure Barrington’s bright future. There are several important infrastructure projects that we must complete in order to increase safety and reduce congestion, including the Route 14 underpass, the replacement of the main sewer line, and various projects throughout the village. We must also finish our downtown redevelopment to continue to raise our quality of life and enhance the vitality of our village. Finally, I want to continue to use my position as a regional and state leader to influence decisions that affect our village and to bring benefits home to our community.
What are your specific plans for development downtown?
We must build on the momentum of our downtown revitalization to draw people from within our community as well as from the surrounding region to support our businesses, raise our quality of life and enhance the vitality of our village. New businesses have opened in the village, improving our retail occupancy rate to 93.7% and our office occupancy rate to over 88%. That said, we have some remaining spaces to fill to continue to provide restaurants, shops, and exciting places to visit as we make our downtown more walkable. Our efforts to rehab the White House through $6.8 million in private funds have been a success, transforming it into a community and cultural center, and we want to continue to increase the events and cultural activities that we provide via the Cultural Commission. We are also moving forward with a village-scale residential building downtown which will meet a desire for more housing options and will increase our downtown foot traffic.
What are your specific plans to address the community’s infrastructure needs?
The most discussed project is the Route 14 underpass, which needs to be completed to ensure there is one unimpeded route to Good Shepherd Hospital, decrease public safety response times, and reduce traffic delays. That said, it must be done right, as Barrington taxpayers should not be shouldering the load for this project of regional importance; we have secured $21.9 million in state and federal funding for the project thus far, and in January we filed a joint petition with IDOT asking that federal regulators order CN to contribute the remainder of the funds to complete the grade separation. Another necessary infrastructure improvement we must complete is the replacement of a main sewer line, which will help address the sewage overflow problem in parts of the village, improve service lines and replace any remaining lead pipes in this project’s right of way. We must also complete several other important infrastructure projects, including improvements at Hart Rd and Route 14 and sidewalks around the Barrington High School Campus.
What measures will you take to ensure our tax dollars are managed responsibly?
We have maintained a balanced budget, cutting expenses by 12% since 2009. Meanwhile, our sales tax revenues are up 55% in that same time period. Our debt is low, which Moody’s cited as the reason for giving us the highest possible bond rating. And as we retire our bonds, the village’s portion of our residents’ property tax bills will decrease, including by 8.37% in 2018 and a further 9.96% in 2019. I will continue to ensure we remain fiscally responsible with the public’s tax dollars.
In your view, what are the biggest challenges we face as a village?
One of the biggest challenges we face is rising pension obligations, which are controlled by the State of Illinois. And while our funding levels are better than our neighboring communities, our pension costs increase every year, which is why I am working so hard to get Springfield to get its act together and reform pensions. This is why my leadership in larger regional and statewide efforts is so important, because it gives me a platform to influence state-wide decisions that affect our village, like the need for pension reform. I was recently elected President of the Illinois Municipal League, only the second woman to ever be elected to lead this organization comprised of over 1200 municipalities, and I serve on the Executive Committee for the Northwest Municipal Conference, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Barrington Area Council of Governments. In these positions, I have been able to influence legislation that affects our village as well as secure increased funding for our village.
What are the biggest opportunities you see for the Village of Barrington?
I believe Barrington has a bright future ahead, and my plan for the next four years is to ensure our community leaders are prepared to continue to lead us forward after my final term ends. I understand the importance of having fresh ideas and new perspectives, which is why I have been working diligently to bring in fresh faces over the past few years. In fact, this cycle I am running with a team of first time candidates who will bring their unique backgrounds and skill-sets to our local government. I am proud to serve with individuals who prioritize community service and servant leadership. These aren’t politicians; they are our neighbors who simply wish to serve their community, and I am so proud to have them as part of my team.
Why are you better equipped for this leadership role than your opponent?
I truly understand the wants and needs of all of Barrington, not just a small subset. My opponent’s biggest financial backers are non-village residents and developers who want to over-develop our village, which would clog our roads, strain our infrastructure, and destroy our small town feel. I am committed to striking the proper balance between right-sized development and protecting our rich heritage, maintaining the overall character of our village.
What personally inspires you to want to lead our community as Village President?
It has been a privilege and an honor to serve as Village President of this community I have called home since 1985. All six of my kids have been born here and graduated from Barrington High School, with our youngest graduating just last year. I love serving the public and my community! When I think about how incredible Barrington has been as a home for raising my own family, I want to make sure that we offer the same sense of a thriving community to the families, young and old, who make Barrington their home now and in the years to come.
For more information about Karen Darch, visit KarenDarch.com.