The race for the District G seat on the Effingham County Board features an unsuccessful candidate from four years ago who has been to nearly every board meeting since that time, against a man best known for his eponymous barbecue sauce.
Republican Ed Hoopingarner didn’t let a narrow loss in the 2008 GOP primary to board chairwoman Carolyn Willenburg deter him from seeking another try. But the Jackson Township resident faces a challenge from Democrat Doug McCain, a former hog farmer who spends most of his time nowadays marketing his barbecue sauce.
Willenburg chose not to run for re-election.
District G covers most of the southwest quadrant of the county, including the Mason and Edgewood areas.
Ever since his unsuccessful primary run four years ago for the District G seat on the Effingham County Board, Jackson Township resident Ed Hoopingarner has been a fixture at board and committee meetings.
Come Dec. 1, Hoopingarner, 62, wants to change seats. He wants to move from the audience to a seat at the board table. To do that, the Republican has to beat Democrat Doug McCain in the Nov. 6 general election. Incumbent Carolyn Willenburg has chosen to retire from the board after three terms.
District G covers most of the southwest quadrant of the county, including the Town of Mason and the Village of Edgewood.
Hoopingarner estimates that he has attended more than 400 board and committee meetings in the four years since his narrow primary defeat at the hands of Willenburg.
“I’ve also done a lot of research and looking up facts,” he said. “I’ve been an interested citizen.”
Hoopingarner said the biggest issue on the County Board continues to be transparency.
“I don’t believe they are as transparent as they could be,” he said. “Certain regulations are not being followed, and I want to make sure the board is in compliance.”
Hoopingarner said transparency is in the best interest of the public.
“The board is elected by the people,” he said. “If there’s something you feel needs to be a secret, maybe it shouldn’t be done.”
Hoopingarner said other issues this year are 911 consolidation and renovation of the old courthouse. He said the ad hoc committee of the county 911 board that recently began meeting is a step in the right direction.
“I think they are on the right track by studying the efficiency of the system,” he said.
Hoopingarner said conversion of the old courthouse into a museum is an important community project, as long as county taxpayers don’t have to fund it.
“I don’t think taxpayers should have to fund it, but I think the county board should support the effort of the museum people,” he said.
Hoopingarner said his goals for the upcoming term are a review of past policies and a willingness to make the board more proactive. He said one way to stimulate proactivity is by working with other government representatives.
“I’ve talked to our representatives in Springfield and Washington,” he said. “It’s important that we keep in touch with them to let them know our needs.”
Hoopingarner said contact with the state and national capitals is particularly important in economic development efforts because of the state and federal programs available.
“We need economic growth with jobs that can support a family,” he said. “By working with these representatives, we can do that.”
Hoopingarner said he is the best choice for District G because of his willingness to serve the community.
“I’ve been involved in the community since the early 1990s,” he said. “I feel like the people need a voice.”
The Bridgeport native graduated from the old Bridgeport High School before attending Lincoln Christian College. He eventually became an Illinois state trooper.
Hoopingarner has been on the Effingham Unit 40 Board of Education, and is currently a Jackson Township trustee, as well as a Republican precinct committeeman from Jackson County.
Hoopingarner and wife Mary have four grown children and eight grandchildren.
While Doug McCain might be best known for the barbecue sauce sold to dozens of stores within a 100-mile radius of Effingham, the rural Mason man wants to be known for something else soon.
McCain, 58, is the Democratic candidate for the District G seat on the Effingham County Board. He squares off against Republican Ed Hoopingarner on Nov. 6.
McCain, a lifelong resident of Effingham County, said he’s been interested in county politics his entire life. His late father Robert was a township road commissioner and member of the Effingham Unit 40 Board of Education.
McCain said it’s undeniable the county has to watch its pennies.
“The money situation needs to be looked at,” he said. “I’d like to see the county get back on a solid financial footing.”
One thing the board can do, he said, is combine some committee of the whole meetings to cut down on mileage and per diem paid to board members.
“I’ve been going to a lot of committee meetings and I’d like to put two of them together,” he said. “Instead of having one 30-minute meeting at a time, we can have two.
“That way, a board member working doesn’t have to take off work as much,” he said.
McCain said he’d also like to explore ways to expand or remodel the county jail in an effort to relieve overcrowding. In addition, he’d like to see the old courthouse restoration effort continue.
“I don’t want to see the county put a lot of money into it, but I’d like to see the old courthouse restored through grants and private donations,” he said.
McCain said his efforts to build his barbecue sauce business have enabled him to encounter many people.
“I’m a people person,” he said. “I am interested in what happens in the county, but I’m also interested in what happens to people.
“I’ve probably been to more weddings, funerals and wakes than anybody else in the county,” he said.
McCain is an Effingham High School graduate. The lifelong bachelor still farms row crops, but he gave up raising hogs after being seriously burned in a propane tank explosion more than 10 years ago.
McCain belongs to several organizations including Salem United Methodist Church in rural Altamont, and Effingham County Farm Bureau. He has been particularly active in the Farm Bureau, having served as president and vice-treasurer. He is now treasurer of the organization.
In his younger days, McCain was a member of the state Young Farmer committee.
Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or at firstname.lastname@example.org