Collaboration and compromise have been the keys to Will County’s many successes in the past year, said Executive Larry Walsh in his State of the County speech Thursday morning.
The county’s many achievements — its strong financial health, current building projects and capital improvement plan, new businesses, like Amazon’s five facilities, and thousands of new jobs — were made possible by working together with the county board and elected officials throughout the county, in a “disciplined approach to governing,” the Elwood Democrat said.
Will County also has been recognized for ending veteran homelessness, remodeling its Sunny Hill Nursing Home, and battling the heroin epidemic, he said.
“The success we enjoy now is no accident. It is the result of many years of being fiscally responsible, planning wisely, and working together toward shared goals. It is also maintaining our top priority — serving our residents,” Walsh said, noting that some have taken “a number of years.”
When he took office in 2004, there were no financial policies or list of capital projects to support a growing population, he said.
The county now has a solid cash reserve policy, a AA-plus financial rating, a strategy to streamline its operations and build a new Public Safety Complex, courthouse and health department facility, a design for a new interchange at I-55 and Weber Road, and a nearly-completed Community Friendly Freight Mobility plan to address infrastructure issues, he said.
The strength of the county is based on many things, Walsh said, citing its diverse population and central location, which has made it the “largest inland port in North America.”
That has been a “blessing and a challenge,” he said, which is why they worked with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Center for Economic Development to create the freight mobility study.
The goal of the study is to remain economically competitive while maintaining a quality of life for residents, the county executive said.
“Each day there are challenges, but working together we can achieve great things. Our strength is our collaborative approaches to addressing the obstacles we face, working with our public and private sector partners, and (engaging) our residents,” Walsh said.
“Our strong foundation, strategic planning, and measured actions will keep Will County a major player in the state, the nation, and the world. I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished so far and enthusiastic about what the future holds for Will County,” he concluded.
Republican Majority Leader Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, also acknowledged all the work that has been done by the executive’s office and the county board to achieve these results.
In its 180 years, the county had never before done a comprehensive capital plan, but it has proven to be a “great guiding light,” Maher said.
“In our mission to determine the vision, set the policy and allocate the resources, you all have done a great job of working through these processes,” he said.
“It shows that when you do it right and take your time, you really can have engaged government, and having an engaged board to work with executive’s office, the ones who benefit are citizens of Will County,” Maher said.
Democratic Caucus Leader Herb Brooks Jr., D-Joliet, said he always looks for two items in the executive’s annual speech — that the county is maintaining its AA-plus financial rating and that they are working together.
“That is a fine achievement on both sides,” he said.
In his remarks, Board Speaker Jim Moustis said the county achieved a “great milestone” last month by effectively eliminating homelessness among veterans.
Members of the county’s Veterans Affairs Commission were the ones who “rowed the boat upstream to make a difference.”
They were the first to address veteran concerns, and deserve special recognition, he said.
County board members are also the “rowers,” he said.
“Much of what goes on in the county starts in the rowboat. I am proud to be in the rowboat with you,” Moustis said.