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McLean County Explores Political Caucuses

McLean County Board
Eric Stock
McLean County may bring partisan caucuses to county government.

McLean County is exploring bringing partisan caucuses to county government to enable the political parties the formally meet to discuss their legislative priorities.
County Board Vice Chairman Jim Soeldner said the caucuses would enable board members to hash out legislative issues in a formal process without having to worry whether they have a quorum of committee members meeting in private.

Jim Soeldner closeup
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
McLean County Board Vice Chairman Jim Soeldner said political caucus meetings could help streamline government by enabling county board members to more openly discuss issues before they vote.

“They are open to the public, minutes have to be taken, so it’s not a case where we are really hiding anything,” Soeldner said. “It just gives us another opportunity to talk about issues.”

Soeldner cautioned the caucuses aren't intended to be political, though he acknowledged two counties that have caucuses, Sangamon and Will, have indicated increased levels of partisanship.

“Every group has people on the fringes or on the far side, right or left, and I think there’s going to be strong people who want to make it political, but I think we also have people who are more moderate in those groups who would be willing to say we don’t want that to happen,” Soeldner said.

“If that happens we are just going to disband the whole thing.”

County Board Chairman John McIntyre said he’s not a fan of the idea, and he doesn’t think there’s enough support on the board for them.

“For us to have a caucus for each party, in my opinion, it promotes partisanship that we don’t want at our level,” McIntyre said, referring to the partisan caucuses in the Illinois legislature which are not subject to the Open Meetings Act as local caucuses would be.

“We would have to dedicate a County Board staff member to take minutes of the meeting. We would have to publish the meeting or else we are violating the Open Meetings Act. It just makes no sense to do that,” McIntyre said.

County administration is looking at how party caucuses operate in Sangamon and Will counties to determine how much county staff would need to be involved.

McLean County Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Woods told the county’s rules subcommittee the county doesn’t need to formally adopt caucus rules. It would simply need to meet open meetings guidelines.

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Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.