Former Lake Bluff village board members battle for new county seat
Updated: March 29, 2012 4:04PM
Lake Bluff attorney Rick Lesser and former state legislator David Barkhausen -- who served together on the Lake Bluff Village Board from 2003-2011 -- will face off in the March 20 Republican primary for Lake County Board District 13.
The new District 13 covers Lake Bluff, and parts of Gurnee, North Chicago, Waukegan, Wildwood, Gages Lake and unincorporated Lake County.
Lesser, 56, of Lake Bluff has been an attorney for 31 years.
“I think I have a good set of skills that I can bring to represent this very diverse district,” said Lesser.
Barkhausen, 62, also of Lake Bluff, is an independent fee-only life insurance consultant and attorney. Barkhausen served in the Illinois General Assembly from 1981-1997 -- two years in the Illinois House and 14 years in the state senate. He has been Shields Township Clerk since 2005.
Barkhausen believes his experience in both local and state government makes him the best person to represent District 13
“I feel it’s a logical extension of my experience and accomplishments at the local level, but I also think my state government experience is very relevant,” he said.
Lesser believes the No. 1 issue facing the county right now is bringing jobs to the county and creating the right environment for businesses to locate or expand here.
“The county’s unemployment rate is too high. Too many people are looking for jobs,” he said. Lesser believes there are a number of things the county can do to improve the economic environment locally, including changing the zoning code to eliminate unnecessary special use requirements and rules that hamper business growth.
He believes traffic congestion also hinders economic development and that major improvements are needed to the county’s transportation system.
“We need to build Route 53,” he said. “That’s the number one thing we can do to make the biggest impact in terms of jobs and growth.”
He also supports either the widening or a bypass of Route 120 near Grayslake to alleviate traffic congestion. “That is a bottleneck that needs to be fixed,” he said.
Barkhausen said he also supports the extension of Route 53 and improvements to Route 120 to alleviate gridlock in central Lake County and attract new business to the county.
Barkhausen said some of the questions that need to be answered is how Route 53 would be funded and what type of roadway design it would take. Some of the options include a four-lane arterial roadway to a six-lane limited access highway.
“I would say I tend to favor a middle ground design which significantly reduces travel times, without being overly expensive and without having an undo impact on the surrounding environment,” he said.
Barkhausen said one of his major long-range concerns is the financial situation of the county and what impact building a new Winchester House nursing home might have on the county’s budget.
“The proposed rebuilding of Winchester House looks to be an approximately $40 million project,” he said. “I have taken the position that before the county proceeds to spend all that money the board should review whether capacity exists at private nursing homes.”
Lesser said he believes the county’s plan of privatizing management of Winchester House along with construction of a new nursing home is a good one. He believes it would be a “bad idea” to eliminate Winchester House and the social safety net it provides for many seniors.
Both Lesser and Barkhausen oppose building a new golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.
Lesser said he believes it would lose money and take golf rounds away from other courses in the area including Lake Bluff and Lake Forest, which are already struggling financially.
“The county has attempted to find a private developer to build and develop a golf course and nobody came forward,” he said.
Barkhausen said he has long opposed building a golf course at Fort Sheridan for financial reasons.
“I don’t think it makes sense for the county to build a new golf course, which even if a private operator were to build it, would take business away from existing public courses, including ours in Lake Bluff, which is already losing money,” he said.