By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – Madison County union leaders welcomed one of their favorite public officials into the race to reclaim the county’s leadership for Democrats and working people.
Bob Daiber, now finishing his successful 12-year stint as regional school superintendent, chose the IBEW Local 309 hall to kick off his candidacy for county board chairman, the top administrative position in county government.
The office fell into Republican hands in 2016 when former Treasurer Kurt Prenzler barely defeated incumbent Alan Dunstan in a Republican year.
Daiber and his Labor supporters note that the county government has run anything but smoothly since Prenzler took over, and a return to Democrats’ good government practices is sorely needed.
“I think Bob is the perfect candidate for what we need in Madison County,” said Chris Hankins, organizer for Local 309 and a county board member. “He knows everybody, and he knows how to get things done – he’s that guy. If Bob says it, it’s the truth. He’s straightforward, he’s matter of fact, he’s just a perfect candidate for this office.”
An enthusiastic crowd of union leaders and county officials turned out to welcome Daiber, 62, into the race. Daiber noted that for 28 years, he taught technical education at Triad High School and was a member of the Illinois Education Association, becoming the school’s union representative and serving on the union’s Region 5 Council. He grew up in a union family, with his mother a member of the Teamsters. As regional superintendent, he was known for encouraging school districts to use skilled union Labor on their building projects.
GOOD FOR LABOR
“He has been so good for Labor with PLAs in the schools and everything,” Hankins said. “We have not had to worry about a school not being done union since I’ve been in the trades, and Bob’s been a big part of it.”
Local 309 Business Manager Tim Evans introduced Daiber, saying it was a big relief when Daiber said he would challenge Prenzler.
“It was like, ‘Great, he is a great supporter of Labor in the area, he always has been and I’m looking forward to him being the new chairman of Madison County.”
Daiber described his approach as one that puts the public interest above personal or political concerns.
“I will work to make Madison County better. I will work to make people proud to be its residents. And I will do it with the assistance of the people in this room, the people in leadership,” he said, looking out at the Labor and county officials. ‘These are the people who are knowledgeable, who can get things done. This is why Madison County has a positive image.”
“I’ll do it with the help of Organized Labor. I’ll do it with them because they build this county. They keep this county moving forward and are part of all the progress that we make, whether it’s schools or bridges or new roads. It’s a concerted effort.”
Daiber said the past three years under Prenzler have been one scandal or controversy after another.
“From the first meeting, which was accused of being illegal, to hiring scandals to sexual harassment allegations, I feel this administration has failed to shed a positive light for this great county,” he said. “I think the citizens of Madison County deserve better.
“I don’t believe the government works well when department heads are intimated, or when the chairman refers to a fellow local official as a member of a terrorist organization,” he said. “I don’t think the administration should be looked at as Big Brother. It should be one of trust and high motivation.
“I don’t believe government works well when you hire incompetent people who can’t get their jobs done, don’t show up for work and cost the taxpayers money,” he added. “I don’t believe government works well when politics is put ahead of public policy.”
Daiber said he will cut the excessive spending Prenzler has created, in part by buying out longtime staff members so he can replace them.
Daiber pledged to provide fair tax assessments for all residents, even though Prenzler has failed to fulfill his promise to lower property taxes, instead driving them upwards.
“Are you paying less property taxes than you were three years ago?” Daiber asked. “I think most would answer the question just as I do – NO.”
DEVELOPMENT MEANS JOBS
Daiber plans to improve the county’s economic development efforts and wants the county to be more helpful to its biggest employers – and smaller ones, too.
“Don’t forget small businesses,” he said. “From the very beginning, this next administration has to get one thing right, and that’s community development, because it’s from community development that small businesses thrive.”
Daiber made a run for the Democratic nomination for governor last year, winning votes and a lot of friends. He said he learned from that run that candidates need to embrace new communications technology such as social media – and raise campaign money early.
Now he’s counting on voters respecting his 40-year record in education and public service.
“My record as an elected official has been one of putting public service first. My efforts every day are to solve residents’ problems and to work with those who struggle,” he said.
“I recognize that we have an opioid problem and we must confront it – it’s not going to go away. I recognize we have a mental health issue, and I recognize there are homeless people because I serve more than 800 homeless kids in Madison County schools.”
His background in Labor has helped him become an effective public servant, he added.
“We may have our differences on social policies, and we may have our differences on government issues, but you know what? Labor is the house that brings us together,” he said. “It represents the working class in America, and that’s where I have stood in my public life and where I will be as chairman of Madison County.”