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Wrzeszcz (click for larger version)
December 11, 2012 | 02:40 PMGENOA CITY — It took one term as village president for John Wrzeszcz to decide he doesn't have the right personality for government.
On the phone Dec. 6, during an interview about why the 70-year-old recently filed his noncandidacy statement, he said one of his problems is that he says what he believes.
"That's really not a politician's way of doing things," he said.
In April 2010, the former Genoa City fire chief and public works superintendent beat then incumbent president Barry Goad.
When Wrzeszcz campaigned, he said he told village residents it's time for a change.
On Dec. 6, he said it's been almost two years and nothing's changed.
"I haven't been able to accomplish anything," he said. "Why am I spinning my wheels here? Maybe someone else can get something done."
Trustee Bill Antti, 65, who is in his 12th year as a trustee on the village board, filed his candidacy papers to run for president. Antti also filed his noncandidacy statement for trustee.
"I'd like to see people work better together, (and) I think I can do that better as a president than as a trustee," Antti said Dec. 6 during a separate telephone interview.
He said Antti "has been on the board too long," that he's "set in his ways" and "you're not going to change him." Although Wrzeszcz said he's proud of Trustee Karen Bullock, he criticized the rest of the current board members.
"With most of them, I'm just, I don't really know why they're there," Wrzeszcz said.
Antti said he feels Wrzeszcz sought to do things immediately, but "government just doesn't work that way." He said it seemed as if Wrzeszcz thought the village president's job was more of an executive position.
In Antti's words, being village president means you have to "go to the board to get a consensus of ideas."
"I think (Wrzeszcz) didn't work hard enough to get a consensus from the board," Antti said.
Wrzeszcz said he would bring up an idea, and the other board members "would drop it."
"That's the way I feel," he said. "I didn't feel I got real cooperation from the board."
Does this mean Wrzeszcz is out of local politics for good? Sort of.
"I probably wouldn't run again," he said. "But I might consider it if there's a big change in the board."
What kind of change? New board members, Wrzeszcz said.
Change of heart
What a difference 20 months can make.
During an interview after the April 2011 election, Wrzeszcz spoke with enthusiasm about becoming village president.
He discussed how he enjoys helping people and — even before he was sworn in — worked on trying to bring Walgreen's to Genoa City.
And although he winters in Florida, Wrzeszcz said he even flew back home so he would never miss a board meeting.
"I never had anything but the best for Genoa City in my heart, I really did," he said Dec. 6. "It's just a shame I couldn't do anything more."
Wrzeszcz said he couldn't improve the village's business climate. He also said he felt it took the board too long to fix the Genoa City Fire Station when part of its roof collapsed in 2011.
The village board also spent too much time in hiring someone to fill the police chief's job after Ralph "Homer" Bauman retired, Wrzeszcz said.
Bauman announced his retirement in January.
The village board hired Joe Balog this summer.
"They did a great job, they got a great police chief, but it took way too long to get it done," Wrzeszcz said.
Although he pointed his finger at the village board and government in general, it seemed as if Wrzeszcz blamed himself a little, too.
"I guess, for my personality, I got into this at the wrong time of life," he said.
Wrzeszcz said with the economy gone down the tubes, "nothing worked."
But toward the end of the interview, he cited a couple of accomplishments.
Wrzeszcz said the village code enforcement officer position has been improved.
"I did get (the board) to finally give our code enforcement officer the ability to write citations," he said. "He couldn't before."
Wrzeszcz also said now the retention ponds in Hunter's Ridge are regularly maintained.
This has been a longstanding issue where the ponds were not mowed because there was a question as to who owned them, he said.
"It hasn't been a total disaster," Wrzeszcz said about his presidency. "But I'm 70 years old and I think it's time to bail and get someone else in there — and not Bill Antti."
Looking for opportunities
Antti said he thought Wrzeszcz came into the job with the attitude that, if he wanted something done, that's the way it should be.
He said sometimes, Wrzeszcz wasn't able to present his ideas in a way that would garner support.
"I think government works more slowly than John thought it would," Antti said.
So why is Antti running for village president?
He said he believes he can bring people together to improve the community. Antti said he wants to improve communication and capitalize on opportunities to bring different groups together. Antti said for example, Country Thunder presents an opportunity for some group to conduct, say, a breakfast on the event grounds (a portion of which is located in Genoa City). He said it could be a fundraiser.
There's also the idea of a summer enrichment program for Genoa City youngsters.
Antti said perhaps there's a way the school and the village could work together.
"Maybe it's just a matter, just a realization, that a group can understand something is available. … What I would like to see is maybe a way of communicating better between groups," Antti said.
He also said he would like to see better communication between village government and its residents.
As for the problem of bringing businesses into Genoa City, Antti said, "I don't know if I have a good answer for that."
But, he said, he'd be willing to listen to ideas. Antti said although the village board instituted a tax incentive program to give new businesses a break in Genoa City, "people aren't clammering to come in" to the village.
"Unfortunately, the economy is such that we haven't been able to implement that (program) a lot," Antti said.
Still, does that mean the board is ineffectual? Is it time to get the old-timers off the board?
Antti said although change is good, it takes at least one two-year term — sometimes two terms — to feel comfortable on the village board, to fully understand it.
"I think you need some experience, but I think you also need people who are new to the board," he said.
Antti said he wonders if people fully realize that the village board affects their lives more than federal government.
So many people usually turn out to vote in U.S. presidential elections, he said, but for local races, the turnouts aren't that large.
"I'd like to see more people involved," Antti said. "I'd like to see more people running."