April 22, 2014 | 10:24 AMIf you don’t know Cheri Borowiec, chances are that you’re new to Genoa City.
The longtime local parks advocate, former Brookwood School Board member and village utility receptionist, along with husband John, current owner/operator of The Cheese Box in Lake Geneva, can now add village of Genoa City trustee to her resume.
“I felt like there needs to be a woman on the village board, just for balance,” Cheri Borowiec said in an April 15 interview. “It looked like that wouldn’t happen.”
After Karen Bullock decided not to seek re-election April 1, Borowiec filed her candidacy papers and ran uncontested in the at-large race. She received 87 of the 229 votes, according to the April 1 election results posted on the Walworth County website.
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That was the largest number of votes for any of the trustee candidates, which also involved two incumbents running for re-election. She attributed her success to her reputation, built on long years of service to the village, but acknowledged that there was a low voter turnout.
But those low numbers, she said, might be because the village never posted that April 1 was Election Day until that afternoon. “This is the kind of thing that irritates residents.”
Borowiec said running for village trustee had been “part of my mind” for a while. Once the village board eliminated her utility receptionist job effective Dec. 31, 2013, making the bid for office was no longer a conflict of interest.
In a Jan. 8 phone interview, village president Bill Antti spoke favorably of Borowiec’s decision to run for trustee.
“Borowiec has a history with the village, she’s been active with the parks, she’s got a good idea of what’s going on,” he said. “She’s always been very supportive of the village.” But she’s taking office in a time of general distrust in the board.
“Right now, the residents feel like they don’t have a voice,” Borowiec said. “They don’t trust what happens in the office. … I feel like I’m in a position to bring them that voice.”
Borowiec said she brings to the position a unique perspective on the village and its residents, “knowing the residents in a way that trustees don’t get to know them,” largely because of her seven years of interacting with those who come in to pay their water bills.
“I’ve received a lot of input from residents, what they’re happy about, what they’re not happy about. The thing is, we can’t change water rates … but maybe we can help residents in how they’re able to pay.”
But the main thing, she said, is improving communication between board members and those who elected them.
“It just has a lot to do with the residents feeling like they’re being listened to.”
If there was anything the controversial village hall discussion exemplified last year, it’s that some residents don’t have that feeling.
But Borowiec said she thought trustees did listen to the people, and provided more than ample information about the issue. A webpage and meetings about the subject were posted. “There was never a lack of information out there … even from the very beginning.”
However, Borowiec also said there are some complaints that it appears trustees may not be listening to. She said some residents may not understand how the village’s police department works and they “don’t see what they’re getting for their tax dollars.”
“I think, even if we believe we’re getting through to people, we still have to make a stronger effort.”
She said the village’s website needs to be improved, and the community board near the corner of Freeman Street and Walworth Avenue can be used more to post upcoming events and other announcements.
Borowiec also said people should feel comfortable to call trustees with questions, concerns and complaints.
“The village is looking out for them. It’s not all about petty, personal agendas. It’s about the community.”
Before Genoa City
When Borowiec, who is from Chicago, moved to Genoa City in the 1980s, she thought the village was like Bedford Falls, of “It’s A Wonderful Life.”
“It seemed like everybody cared about each other,” she said. “I’d like that to come back. I know it’s still there somewhere.”
Borowiec said in the 1980s, people hung out on their front porches. Block parties were frequent, people left their front doors unlocked and, if a child left a bicycle in their front yard, “people didn’t steal them,” she said.
Although issues like the race track proposal, high water bills and village hall building projects tore the community apart, it always came back together.
Borowiec said she’s proud of her community “because of the community spirit it had.”
“I would like to see that sense of community come back,” she said.