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April 30, 2013 | 02:09 PMEditor's note: This is the first in a two-part series about Bill Antti, Genoa City's new village president. This installment focuses on Antti himself and how he sees village politics. The final installment will discuss what he sees as the village's most crucial issues during his two-year term.
GENOA CITY — When it comes to village politics, Bill Antti isn't loud, flashy or emotional. That seems about right, considering he's a retired quality engineer with more than 30 years' experience who holds a degree in mathematics and a double minor in science and engineering.
"I like to pose a hypothesis and either confirm or refute it," he said during an April 25 interview. "If you present the facts, usually you can make a logical conclusion."
That's the mode of conduct Antti employed as a trustee since 2000. Now, he takes center stage.
On April 2, Antti won his first bid for the office of village president, in an uncontested race.
At the village's April 16 reorganization meeting, Antti asked the board and village department heads to create specific goals. On April 25, he discussed several ideas they're working on with the intention of improving communication between village government and the people it represents.
But he also talked about some things people sitting in the audience at regular board meetings may not know — himself, and his perceived general misunderstanding of village government.
"A lot of people, I think, get on the board because they think water rates are too high, taxes are too high," Antti said. "I think a lot of people don't realize there are state restrictions Ö all of these things that influence what we do. A lot of it is out of our control."
Is that how Antti began his local political career as a trustee in 2000?
"I ran because I wanted to be more involved in the community and more aware of what was going on," he said.
A former Scoutmaster and little league coach, Antti said it was part of a natural progression.
"You do that when the kids are younger," he said about his involvement in those child-geared programs.
"Then, when you get older, you do something for the community itself."
Antti said there is an obligation to serve, one which sort of falls in line with why he became a quality engineer, having worked over the years as Sta-Rite, Delavan, and Sun Electric Corp., Crystal Lake, Ill.
Because being a quality engineer, he said, means ensuring the level of service a product provides the customer.
"I think a lot of times, companies, they're in business to make money, but I think the best way to do that is to make a good product," Antti said.
Antti said being in village government is not so different from quality engineering. Only in village government, he's "an advocate for the electorate," he said.
What makes him the right person for the job?
Experience, he said, along with being open-minded, well-researched and knowing how to work with others.
But Antti seems to have the same desire as anyone else who sat in the president's chair.
"I guess I'd like to be remembered as somebody who worked hard to do the right thing for the village," Antti said.
Born and raised in Chicago, Antti said he and his wife, Pat, moved to Genoa City in 1978 because they wanted to raise their children outside of the city. Those children are adults now — Brent is a certified financial planner in Oshkosh, Heather a copy editor for Rotary International in Evanston, Ill.
The name Antti should be familiar to anyone who attended or worked in the Brookwood School District. Pat was a librarian at Brookwood for 26 years.
Although Bill began his run as trustee in 2000, it wasn't by an election victory. In fact, he lost his first election attempt. However, one of the trustees, Tom Holden, resigned that summer because of health concerns. Antti said the board asked him to serve that term.
He remained, successfully being re-elected, and now is the person on the village board with the most experience.
Antti's financial skills earned him the chairman's spot on the board's Finance Committee for years. He also chaired the Economic Development and Zoning and Human Resources committees, as well as headed the subcommittee to create a village master plan in the 2000s.
When asked what's the most rewarding part of being in village politics, Antti said it's when he accomplishes something.
"Like the master plan," he said. "What we wanted was to have something that was specifically for our community, an honest vision of where we're going to go in the next 25 years."
Now, in addition to his role as village president, Antti chairs the Finance Committee and the planning commission.
But as president, Antti's at the helm. He said they talked about department and village board goals April 16, and there are ideas floating around in an effort to show the general public how government works.
For example, he said, the police department provides a list of calls each month to the board, so trustees can see how many calls were logged for each type of incident. Antti said something like that — even in the form of a graph on a bulletin board — could help people understand what happens, say, in the office of village clerk-treasurer.
"They get a lot of different calls, from a lot of different people, about a lot of different issues," Antti said.
The village's website will be key in this, he said, and they're talking about posting village regulations online.
In addition to increasing the level of transparency, Antti also expressed a desire to help improve people's understanding of village government, specifically the powers of the board.
When asked to sum up that power, Antti discussed different types of scenarios.
One, he said, relates to how people often assume that once they are elected, they can lower taxes. Aside from state regulations by which the village is bound, "there's kind of a dilemma" that Antti said some people may not understand.
"There are two things you can do — raise taxes or cut services — in order to be fiscally responsible," Antti said.
It's a fine line, he said. A board could decide to cut services, but it may not be providing enough to its community. The other side is, a board could raise taxes, "but then people can't afford it," Antti said.
People who, like the customers he was the voice for in quality engineering, he was elected to represent.
When asked why he thinks he had a relatively easy bid for village president in the April 2 election, Antti seemed to draw his answer from his experience as a Human Resources Committee chairman than being at the head of the Finance Committee.
"I guess my strength is I can lead the board in a positive direction," he said.