Gobczynski, Thoele up for District I County Board seat
Two Teutopolis-area residents with familiar last names are vying for the District I seat on the Effingham County Board.
Democrat Rebecca Gobczynski and Republican Joseph Thoele are competing for the opportunity to succeed the retiring Larry Vahling on the board.
Neither candidate is any stranger to the board. Gobczynski’s husband Leon was County Board chairman in the early 2000s, while Thoele has been to most of the board’s meetings in the past year.
Gobczynski is a retired French teacher at Altamont High School, while Thoele is a farmer.
District I includes the Teutopolis and Montrose areas.
While Gobczynski is not a particularly common last name in Effingham County, it’s instantly recognizable among basketball fans and followers of county government.
That’s because former Teutopolis High School basketball standout Leon Gobczynski chaired the Effingham County Board for several years before resigning in 2002 to devote more time to his insurance business.
While Leon Gobczynski has stayed out of elected office since his resignation, wife Rebecca is trying to win Leon’s old seat on the County Board.
Mrs. Gobczynski, 59, touts her education and life experience as a plus.
“I feel my education certainly helps,” she said. “I have been around Effingham County government since the mid 90s.”
Gobczynski, who retired earlier this year after 27 years as a French and English teacher at Altamont High School, said she would draw on her teaching experience as a board member.
“Working as a teacher has broadened my horizons,” she said. “I also believe living overseas enables me to deal with people from various backgrounds.”
The fact that she is retired, Gobczynski said, means she can devote as much time as needed to the board.
The Gobczynskis spent several years in Europe while Leon played professional basketball.
Like other candidates, Gobczynski believes the budget is the single most important issue. She believes that more than $400,000 in “wasteful spending” can be cut from the budget.
“Taxpayers are very concerned about how their money is being spent,” she said.
Not only should the county have a balanced budget, Gobczynski said, but she believed there should be a comprehensive plan to guide officials into the future.
“The plan should have long and short-term goals,” she said.
Gobczynski said improvements to the 911 system should be included in any comprehensive plan. Like many others, she is looking forward to a proposed study that may lead to consolidation of the county’s two dispatch centers. She said consolidation could save millions of dollars over a 10-year period.
Gobczynski added that she would like to see more government transparency.
“We need easier access to government information and topics,” she said. “There are ways to get much of this information on the Internet.”
Gobczynski is a St. Anthony High School graduate and has a bachelor’s degree from Quincy College (now University) and a master’s in educational administration from Eastern Illinois University.
She is a member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Teutopolis, Daughters of the American Revolution and National Society of Mayflower Descendants.
Gobczynski lives in Teutopolis with husband Leon. The couple has two children and three grandchildren.
Joseph Thoele is a man of few words. But the Teutopolis-area farmer said he has the common sense to serve on the Effingham County Board as its District I representative.
“I have the common sense to make decisions that come before the County Board,” Thoele said.
Thoele, 45, said his experience as a St. Francis Township trustee will help him understand the county budget.
“I have budget experience by being on the township board,” he said.
Thoele said the budget is undoubtedly the top county issue, though he also acknowledges the 911 consolidation and radio issues are also important.
Thoele said steady conservative hands are needed to properly manage the county budget.
“I would like us to remain conservative in the budget process,” he said. “I don’t want us to go out and start spending money we don’t have.”
One county project Thoele would consider pursuing is a possible expansion of the county jail.
“We need to look into the most efficient way to add onto the jail,” he said. “We need to create more space for inmates and enhance the safety of correctional officers.”
Thoele said he is looking forward to the proposed 911 efficiency study, which will likely include a recommendation on whether the county’s two dispatch centers can be combined.
“I think we need a study before anything can be done,” he said. “Just to go out and say we can save a lot of money by consolidating is irresponsible without knowing what the study will say.”
Thoele would like to also improve radio communication among public safety agencies.
“It will be nice to get the bridge working,” he said. “I think we need to exhaust all of our options before taking additional action.”
Thoele said the complaints of sheriff’s deputies expressing concerns about radio communications should be taken seriously.
“We need to do something,” he said. “We’re dealing with officers’ lives.”
Thoele has farmed his entire adult life with the exception of two years of U.S. Army service in the mid 1980s. He is also a member of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Teutopolis Knights of Columbus, American Legion Post 924 and Effingham County Farm Bureau. He is presently vice president of the county Farm Bureau.
Thoele and wife Julie have two children and live in rural Teutopolis.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at firstname.lastname@example.org