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Daily Journal
     October 14, 2020      #54-288 KDJ
 

Chairman Wheeler's leave from county board to be

By Chris Breach
cbreach@daily-journal.com


KANKAKEE — Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler made it official and announced at the end of Tuesday’s monthly board meeting that he was leaving the board, as he’s moving outside of his district which is in the city of Kankakee. He might not be off the board for very long though.

“On Nov. 6 I will be moving out of County Board District 15, and that will be my last day on the board,” he said. “I wanted to make that announcement now.”

Wheeler, a Republican, has lived in his Riverview home in Kankakee since 2003, and he’s moving to Bourbonnais. He wanted to dispel rumors circulating on social media as to why he’s making the move.

“I bought a place in Bourbonnais,” he said in an interview following Monday’s meeting. “... I’ve still got to fix up the inside of the house [in Kankakee], so that’s going to take some time to get it on the market. I’ve done some work on the exterior. I’ll be living in Bourbonnais. I just bought the property two or three weeks ago.

“I’m not moving in with my mom,” he said of recent online reports. “I bought the house, and my mom is moving in with me. She’s 80 and has got some health issues. She needs some help.”

Wheeler decided in August not to run for re-election in his Kankakee district, as he would be running against Democrat Kimberly Hudson, a former teacher at Bishop McNamara Catholic High School. The district in the lower Riverview subdivision has a large number of Democrats, and he said it was an election where “there is no path to victory for me.” Wheeler was elected to the board in 2012 and has been chairman since 2016.

The new residence in Bourbonnais is located in District 26, which currently has a vacancy due to Mike Zenz’s move out the district in September. Its boundaries are Career Center Road on the west, Interstate 57 on the east, County Road 6000 on the north and Larry Power Road on the south.

Wheeler confirmed he moved into the district so he would be available to take over Zenz’s vacant seat.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I could’ve moved to a different place in Bourbonnais, and I selected this one. I’d like to continue to be on the board, but ultimately that’s the board’s decision.”

The board’s first order of business at its next meeting on Nov. 10 will be to select a temporary board chairman.

“We all assume it will be the vice chairman [Todd Sirois], but that’s the board’s decision,” Wheeler said. “They’ll have to fill the remainder of the month.”

After the temporary chairman is selected, the board can then select a replacement for Zenz, who moved out of the district on Sept. 20. The board has 60 days to name a replacement.

“That’s how it works,” Wheeler said. “That will be the board’s decision on the matter. The chairman for the next two years, that vote is in December.”

The board, which currently has 21 Republicans and six Democrats, could also re-elect Wheeler as chairman should he be appointed to represent District 26.

“I want to stay on the board, and I think the board wants me to stay,” Wheeler said. “We’ve got a lot more work to do.”

As chairman Wheeler was part of a dramatic turnaround of county finances from near bankruptcy a few years ago to a balanced and workable budget in 2020.

“It was worse than anybody realized,” Wheeler said. “Definitely, it’s in a different place than it was four years ago. Most people in the county will tell you we’ve done a good job. We’re stable.”

Wheeler also addressed social media reports that he said only had “half the story” about his impending move and implied that he was only changing his legal address.

“I’m actually moving,” he said. “I’m not going to get into people’s vendettas or grudges in the dark corners of the Internet of Kankakee County.”

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Christopher Breach
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