Tomorrow, Saline County residents will have the chance to choose from 13 candidates for the Saline County Board - seven of whom are incumbents.
Following is a brief breakdown on all 13 candidates:
Michael McKinnies, 62, a resident of Eldorado, has served for a total of 13 years on the county board, in addition to being a full-time fire chief in Eldorado. McKinnies is a widower who has two children, Derek and Dakota.
McKinnies has served on the Road and Bridge, Budget and Finance, Negotiations, and Animal Control & Claims committees during his time on the board.
If re-elected, McKinnies says that his goals are to keep taxes down, keep coal mines open, and keep residents working by bringing in new jobs while keeping remaining jobs in the county, and making himself available to citizens who have problems that need to be addressed.
Six-year board member Roger Craig is a 55-year-old Harrisburg High School alumnus, and is married to his "wonderful wife," Genny.
Craig describes himself as honest and hard working, and unafraid to say what he thinks.
"I have the concerns of all Saline County on my mind all the time," he said.
Craig is currently the chairman of the Road and Bridge committee, which he has served on for his entire time as a board member. He is also a member of the Emergency Management, Land Use, and Building committees.
"We have issues that we are dealing with in each of the committees I am on," Craig said.
Harrisburg resident and 10-year-incumbent Bruce Tolley graduated from HHS in 1978. He is a lifetime member of the Harrisburg Masonic Lodge #325; a longtime member of the Harrisburg Elks Lodge; a former Vice-President of the Egyptian Council of the Boy Scouts of America; and a member of the Southeastern Illinois College Foundation Board.
Tolley currently serves as office manager and market executive of Title Professionals, Inc., a full-service title and abstract company. Prior to that, he was an owner and the managing partner of Sloan and Tolley Abstracters, Inc.
If re-elected, Tolley would like to see that elected officials work in a "collaborative manner."
"Politics should be set aside in favor of the greater common good after the election rhetoric subsides," Tolley said.
Bob Oglesby is a 14-year veteran of the Saline County Board. He is a 1962 graduate of Galatia. He and his wife of 48 years, Wanda, have three sons: Kyle of Harrisburg, Keith of Raleigh and Kevin of Raleigh.
Oglesby worked 25 years as foreman with the Saline County Highway Department before retiring. He and his family now operate a 2500-acre farm, where they raise cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat, and hay.
Oglesby said he considers his work as a county board member recreation of choice.
"I enjoy being around people and helping people whenever I can," he said. "Our economy has been in a downturn with the closing of some of our coal mines. We do what we can as a board to promote business and industrial development."
David Phelps has only served one four-year term on the Saline County Board. However, he is not in the least bit lacking in public service. The Eldorado Democrat served four years as Saline County Clerk in the 1980s and proceeded to serve as Illinois state representative for 14 years and as a U.S. congressman for the 19th district for an additional four years (1999-2003).
"What I like about being a county board member is basically what I like about public service in general...I like helping families out any way that I can. I like being a part of solving problems on priority issues," Phelps said. "All of us have something to offer."
In addition to his public service, Phelps was a teacher, musician and songwriter. He and family members perform gospel music.
Phelps and his wife, Leslie, have four children: Brooke, Gretchen, Natalie and Luke. He is a 1965 graduate of Eldorado High.
Danny Gibbs (D-Harrisburg) is attempting to rejoin the county board. He previously served 10 years.
A 1976 graduate of HHS, he owned and operated Southern Illinois Disposal for 25 years before selling the business three years ago. He now owns and operates Armageddon Demolition.
Gibbs also worked in the mine for 15 years as a longwall technician.
"I enjoy making decisions that help keep the costs down," said Gibbs, who believes the implementation of a Tax Increment Financing District to attract new business and industry, along with fracking, could help stimulate the county's economy.
Gibbs and his wife of 40 years, Jeanna, have four children: Stephanie, Michelle, Jennifer and Michael.
Saline County native Jim Fowler has served the public for decades as a state trooper, county clerk, and as a member of the state legislature.
The 82-year-old is a graduate of Galatia High School and Navy veteran. Fowler would like to continue to serve the county by holding onto the current job base, while also bringing in new jobs to the region. If that can be done, he said, it would most definitely improve the county's financial outlook.
Two-year member of the board, Allan Porter, 78, has been married for 60 years to his wife, Donna, and is a resident of Equality, where he works as a farmer and has also served as a volunteer chaplain and preacher at Equality Christian Center.
One of the issues that inspired Porter to join the board was the "overwhelming" property tax in Saline County, as well as the crime rate - two issues he pledges to work towards resolving if re-elected.
"If I didn"t think I could make a difference, I wouldn"t run," Porter said. "I"m not a professional politician. I"m just a citizen who was concerned."
Eric VanZant (D-Eldorado) is a newcomer to the political arena. He is a 1989 graduate of Eldorado High School and has worked the last 22 years with the Department of Corrections (juvenile justice division), first at Big Muddy Prison and now at the Illinois Youth Center in Harrisburg.
"I want to serve the county the best that I can," VanZant said. "I manage money well. I am fair and I have common sense. I am someone who will do right for the working man of the county."
VanZant said the main concern for the county board is to do what it can to help bring new jobs into the area.
VanZant is not married. He has three children: Brayton, Kagen and Cydnee.
Rick Lane (D-Harrisburg) is making a run at the Saline County Board for the first time. He is a 1971 graduate of Harrisburg High School and has been a self-employed construction worker for more than 30 years.
"I just feel very concerned about our government right now at all levels - municipal, county, state and federal," Lane said. "And I want to help solve problems. I figure that if I'm not willing to do my part, I have no reason to complain about anything. Up until now, I just hadn't taken the time to do anything about it. Now, that I am in my 60s, I have more time."
Lane said he just wants to see how the county board operates before offering up his business experience.
Lane and his wife, Sherrie, have three sons: Paul, Ross and Joe.
Chris Penrod (R-Harrisburg) said he would like to try his hand at commissioner with the county board. The 1988 graduate of HHS is owner and operator of Penrod Plumbing in town and has worked in that capacity for the last 26 years.
His political experience includes three years on the Harrisburg school board.
"I decided to run for county board because I want to try to make Saline County a better place in which to live. I don't know how much I can help until I get on there, but I would like the chance. I have no ax to grind. I just want to help people out."
Penrod said it's important that property taxes stay in check with a struggling economy.
Penrod and his wife of 18 years, Lynn, have two children, Jada and Jacob.
Kevin Dowdy (R-Harrisburg) is making a bid to join the Saline County Board. A retired counselor from the Vienna Correctional Center, Dowdy coached sports in Eldorado, Harrisburg and at Southeastern Illinois College for more than 30 years. He has been a member of the Harrisburg School Board for the last six years.
"I think the economy is clearly the big issue facing the county board and I would like to help," Dowdy said. "I am a longtime resident here and am concerned with recent job loss in the area. We have to find new ways to bring revenue into the county without raising our taxes. When people are without jobs, you can't keep paying more taxes and supporting everyone else."
Dowdy and his wife, Sheila, have two children, Kaci and Kollin. Dowdy is a 1976 graduate of Harrisburg High School.
At 22, Jose Durbin is the youngest candidate for the board. An entrepreneur and small business owner, Durbin has lived in Harrisburg for the last 13 years.
The Eastern Illinois University student has run a small consulting business for the past three years, which has allowed him to have "firsthand experience on the obstacles to growth faced by our companies and communities."
Durbin said he believes in ending the overspending of people"s money, fighting for the coal mining industry, and prioritizing programming with the input of the community. Durbin also believes in partnering with the Illinois Office of Tourism to make Saline County a destination location, helping the economy and job growth.