Kendall County Election 2016: Audra Hendrix, Candidate for Kendall County Board District 1
Oct 25, 2016 04:52PM ● Published by Steven Jack
Name: Audra Hendrix
Employment: Currently Mom, previously consulting and business management (consultant in applied technology and marketing to small and medium-sized businesses. While client list included Fortune 500 companies, I prefer the flexibility, agility, and challenges of small to medium-sized businesses. I have consulted both in the United States and France for businesses seeking to better utilize their resources and maximize their gains by reinventing and reapplying back office and Internet applications, data management, cost-effective marketing strategies, staffing requirements, and planning and deployment of new or emerging product lines.), technical author
Family: Married and raising daughter and granddaughter, two grown stepchildren.
Education: Bachelor of Science Business Mgmt./IT; Master’s of Science Management and Leadership
Previously elected office: none
Relevant community service: Equestrian therapy for severely disabled children, donation collections for food pantry and charities; my biggest community service is in day-to-day life helping friends and neighbors. I’m an avid believer that everyone should help others, in some way, every day - sometimes the biggest help is to unburden others - so I have a personal goal of being sure to help others in some way, large or small, everyday. It sounds small but if everyone had to help in some way, everyday, the impact would be great.
What are the county’s three most important capital needs (i.e. roads, buildings) at this moment? How should they be paid for?
This question doesn’t have a simple answer - many factors that went into the last economic development plan have changed drastically - so I think the most important keystone is to always measure our improvements against the long-term return on those investments.
I would like to see us gain more efficiencies via consolidation and updating of buildings and technology services. Since we must be prudent in our spending it should be our first goal to maximize efficiencies, wherever possible, first.
Application for Local Enterprise Zones should be made so that future planning of transportation corridors will coincide with the location(s) of the LEZ(s). We should actively seek businesses moving to alternate energy creation and supply - they are the next big industry and we need to provide them with easy access to transportation corridors such as I-80 - an industry that enjoys many federal and state level incentives as well.
Road works are already financed through taxes, levies and significant federal monies but the biggest ROI from those dollars will come from providing the needed infrastructure that makes doing business here attractive to industries that hire across several employment types from manufacturing to professional services; in turn this provides employment for residents and increases the demand for housing - all of which serve to increase our tax base which, in the long-term, is highly effective at providing tax relief in general. We must provide roadways/bridges over the Fox River - any area that enjoys the good fortune of a waterway such as the Fox River is also saddled with the burden of providing several points to cross the waterway rather than drive traffic, both residential and business, through too few funnels. The rebuild of the bridge in Yorkville is an excellent example of meeting that need, but I believe we must seek to create the same infrastructure along the Fox at key points such as the Eldamain bridge sufficient to handle local and commercial traffic.
We need to bring fiber optics to the county - preferably underground and I would like to begin to see more underground installation of electrical delivery coincide with burying fiber optic.
We desperately need more senior/disabled/veteran housing; the increasing number of seniors and retirees in the general population as well as Kendall County population alone clearly shows that we will experience more need for senior/disabled/veteran housing in the future and that need is increasing. We cannot turn our backs on such a significant portion of the population.
These are just a few points - there are numerous ways to invest via capital improvements, the most important questions to be asked in every instance is the long-term ROI on those investments, the viability of those plans coming to fruition and the determination of greatest immediate need.
Do you think the County Board’s meeting times are convenient for residents to attend? Why or why not? What changes, if any, would you propose to the meetings schedule?
They are not convenient for public attendance - held either during normal working hours and/or in evening times when families are pressed with meals, homework and family business. The difficulty lies in that so many people are in perpetual and critical motion that there is little time to be had for local governance (ideally attended by the public in numbers and frequently) during the weekday and weekday evenings.
I think attendance would be encouraged if meetings were held on weekends either near the start or end of the day; meetings in the middle of the day tend to cut into too many other plans people have and discourage attendance. The public is prioritizing many juggling balls so a focus on providing meeting times that are as convenient as possible will go a long way to encouraging attendance. I would like to see them locally broadcast live and re-broadcast as well so that those who cannot directly attend have a convenient means to observe without the need for a computer or internet access.
In lieu of being able to attend, many people are entrusting their local governance to their elected members - an understandable and reasonable choice - and this is one of the biggest reasons that local races are of key importance; the people we elect must understand and always work toward serving their constituency in an honest, forthright and ethical manner, the public’s trust is sacred and not to be taken lightly.
While video records of meetings is an invaluable tool for keeping current on the Board’s business, it is not a substitute for active participation. History has shown that oversight and public knowledge are required to insure good governance implying that regular attendance by the public is in everyone’s best interest.
Should the County Board continue its policy of paying its members per diems (or per meeting), or should they change to a straight annual salary for board members? Why or why not? Is the pay for County Board members adequate or should they be paid more, or less?
This is a question that political scientists have been trying to answer for some time (as in centuries) and it’s safe to say that no one has emerged with the “right” answer. FiveThirtyEight published an article worth reading discussing this very question on a state and national level. (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-much-should-state-legislators-get-paid/)
It would appear, at those levels, that higher pay and support staff encourages a higher level of professionalism and greater knowledge of the constituency and its concerns and increases legislation passage rates. This may be due to the sheer time that’s needed to understand and effectively act on the issues (required to fully research, extend outreach, etc.). When people are paid enough to be able to invest the time required to do the job right, they tend to get it right.
On the other hand, low pay prevents many competent and likely excellent leaders from running for office in the first place - not many people can afford to work for free or very little or are unwilling to ask their families to financially sacrifice so they can serve in office. Low pay also discourages getting input from many and varied sources - time is money - and this can result in leaders getting their information from narrow interest group(s) because that is more expedient; putting them out of touch with the broader picture or needs of the community.
The difficulty with per diems, as we have seen across the country as well, is that they are too easily abused or even simply misunderstood and therefore misapplied.
When I spoke to the board against the proposed legislation transferring fee assessment for public health to the county board it was the result of a full three days research and data compilation; requiring many phone calls downstate, to professionals in the field, professional organizations, neighboring and out-of-state counties, interviews with current public health leaders etc. If I had been working a full-time job at that moment I would never have had the time to do the required research needed to make an informed decision or create the report, none of the contacts I needed to interview would have been available off-hours, nor would I likely have been able to take the time off to do it or take the hit to my paycheck if I did - and that was for just one issue.
The question doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. It’s a topic that hasn’t been settled in centuries so I think we should be open to tweaking our current compensation model and find what works best for Kendall County. At some point, the pay rate should and needs to raise, just doing the math on the time taken to research one issue I mentioned above demonstrates that the harder a member works and the more diligent their work ethic the less they earn. In business, this is a model for encouraging slackers and punishing performers - is that the model we want working for us at the government level? Certainly not.
Is now the time for pay hikes? No, and there’s the catch.