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We look forward to hearing from you.

Letter to the Editor About Fighting Brain Tumors

Dear Editor:


Many people in our community, and all over the world, have been personally affected by brain tumors. Kadence Taylor, Clinton Junior High honor roll student and cheerleader, has battled brain tumors on her cerebellum for the past six years. Last July, Weldon Springs Site Interpreter, Carol Thompson lost her fight to a stage IV glioblastoma.


More recently, Brian Kruse - father of the Clinton Community YMCA Arts and Humanities Program Coordinator, Monikka Fuller - lost his life to lung cancer that had metastasized to his brain.


“Today, nearly 700,000 people in the United States are living with a primary brain tumor, and approximately 78,000 more will be diagnosed in 2016. Brain tumors can be deadly, significantly impact quality of life, and change everything for a patient and their loved ones. They do not discriminate, inflicting men, women, and children of all races and ethnicities.” - braintumor.org

"The National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) is fiercely committed to finding better treatments, and ultimately a cure, for people living with a brain tumor today and anyone who will be diagnosed tomorrow.


The NBTS is strategically positioned at key junctions in the drug development pipeline to leverage their collective resources and knowledge for the greatest impact. From catalytic funding to intensive research collaborations to advocating for policies that impact those affected, they are ensuring change on every level."


Awareness, advocacy and research are essential in finding a cure for brain tumors. Currently, the National Brain Tumor Society is not formally represented in Illinois. Help to bring the NBTS to Illinois! Join us at the Clinton Elks, Wednesday, March 30 at 6 PM, in our fight against brain tumors.


As a group, along side the National Director of Field Operations for the National Brain Tumor Society, Craig Strenger, we will collaborate ideas to contribute to advocacy, awareness and fundraising throughout Central Illinois. If you have any questions, please email Lauren Thompson at laurenthompson0715@gmail.com. For further information regarding brain tumors or the NBTS, please visit www.braintumor.org.


I received written permission to use the information (verbatim) available from the NBTS website.


Ramee Larson

Clinton, Illinois

"I Am An Activist"

To the Editor:
A comment was made regarding my letter to the Editor today concerning “Better Government for Dewitt County” the comment was removed I am sure accidentally before I could respond. It would be impolite to not answer the question asked.
Steve Arteman asked me “Bill, are you running for a position? If not, why not?”
My response is I am an Activist, changing from Activist to Politician is what would be required, I have never considered myself a Politician, Political careers are a true labor of love. The mastering of the political process is usually looked upon as a lifelong commitment. On the other hand activism in my view is a responsibility of ever able American. Illinois finds itself short on Activist and long on Politicians, Illinois has the largest local government system in the history of the world, we have more elected officials then we know what to do with. Maybe in Illinois everyone thinks they do not have to be involved in activism since we have a Politician standing on every corner watching out for us. My belief is more Politicians don’t fix a broken government only activism can. Everyone needs to become involved, reach out to your elected officials and let them hear what you have to say.
Thanks Steve for asking, every little bit of activism helps.
Bill Spencer
Kenney IL


Letter Questioning Better Government Committee

To the Editor:
Election season is here again, but this Dewitt County election may not be an election that our nation was founded on. The people of this United States enjoy a two Party System, not a Single Party System. The Dewitt County Board race has been divvied-up by the combined parties before the primary, no reason for holding the primary election as no seats will be challenged. This election will be just a formality it will only take one vote in the primary to decide the final election. This primary will leave No Democrat or Republican running against each other in the main election. Voters will have no choice in elected officials for county board in this year’s election.
Question: Is “Better Government for Dewitt County” really a front for a Single Party System? Is combining the Democrat and Republican parties a good idea?
One-party governments justify themselves through various means. Most often, supporters of one-party governments argue that the existence of separate parties runs counter to government’s unity, it all just works better with one party, we can all get along that way. Others argue that only one party is the true leader of the people, and therefore its right to rule cannot be challenged. Governments ruled under the one party system will either straight out outlaw opposition parties or limit them to operate as a branch of the ruling single party.
Why do we the people of the United States have a two party system and not a single party system? First it allows two separate parties to make efforts to seize control of the government; a single party government always has control of the government permanently.
In a two party system each party creates its platform and recruits members including raising money for the support of its nominees and candidates that reflect its platform. Single party governments have no need for platforms or elections.
Party members in a two party system work within their own party during elections and in the government to get their policies implemented that reflect their party platform. Single party governments have no problem with implementing any policies as there is no opposition to its policies, as it has no other party or platforms to worry about.
At first glance single party system sounds pretty good, no back stabbing mudslinging name calling, the only drawback might be all the back slapping for a job well done.
Maybe we should look at some famous single party governments before deciding if we want to change to a single party system. Some of them include parties with the names “Peoples Republic” “Communist Party” “Workers Party” I think they are in countries named China, Russia and North Korea.
Choice is what a two party system gives us; a single party system takes choice away from us. I can live with rough and tumble elections like all Americans that love their freedom to choose.
Bill Spencer
Kenney, IL

Better Government for DeWitt County Supporting VanValey for Circuit Clerk

Dear Editor,

I am writing to urge voters in DeWitt County to vote for Michelle Van Valey for Dewitt County Circuit Clerk in the upcoming Republican primary March 15. Her years of experience working in and around the courthouse are invaluable to our county government and to us as taxpayers. She embodies the positive changes our county has worked toward since being overrun by Reform Coalition members, including Circuit Clerk incumbent Pam Barnes.

Under Barnes, the circuit clerk's office has seen 12 employees leave the six-person office in the last three years. This instability only hinders growth of both the staff and making progress to better our community.

Michelle Van Valey will bring stability and customer service back to that office. She has the full support of Better Government for DeWitt County, a bipartisan group of local citizens, and an organization I am now proud to lead as chairman.. I want to encourage everyone to vote Van Valey March 15 to help bring positive change back to DeWitt County.

Tom Hieronymus

Better Government for DeWitt County Chairman

DeWitt County Circuit Clerk Responds to Newberg Letter

Dear Editor:

This letter is in response to David Newberg's letter recently directed at me and my candidacy for the office of DeWitt County Circuit Clerk.  A few months ago Mr. Newberg came to my office and wanted to sit down and chat.  He stated that he looked forward to working with me in the future now that he was Dewitt County Chairman.  This would have been a perfect time for Mr. Newberg to describe to me how I had been rude with residents, but he failed to do this. 


As Chairman of the DeWitt County Board I would have expected that if indeed people had come to him with a complaint that he would have had the common courtesy to tell me what the complaints were about but he decided to wait until a week before the election to bring this to the public's attention - great timing.  Prior to meeting with the finance committee chairperson in November 2015 I was told that all departments were being asked to make substantial cuts.  I promptly submitted a budget that was far more than the 3% cut  suggested to help the county get back on its feet.  I had nothing to do with the "reform coalition's" decision which led to Area Disposal's withholding their million dollar a year fee to the county. 


I was not permitted to hire a 6th employee in my office because the county finance committee went against a memo from Judge Finson which stated that he was of the opinion that 6 deputy clerks were necessary in my office..  Something that Mr. Newberg fails to mention is the fact that I offered the county board an annual payment from one of my accounts to retain a 6th employee but they turned that down. 


Therefore, I have had to do without a much needed 6th employee in my office.  Before I took office, Lori Berger had 6 deputy clerks and 2 part-time clerks.  We have faced high turn-over because times have changed.  Most of my past and current employees consisted of single moms who struggled to pay their bills, provide a decent home and food for their children. 


When I took office the employees starting pay was $9.50 per hour for a 35 hour per week pay period - after taxes and insurance deductions there's not much to take home to pay the rent, utilities and buy food.  I researched this issue and presented the county board with all the necessary documentation and requested that the starting salary be raised to at least $10.00 per hour; I got it raised to $9.79 per hour which is where it is at to date.  Try hiring and retaining an employee who has to be part attorney/part court liaison for that amount of money.  The raise that my employees get is usually 3% per year which is barely enough to compensate for the cost of living. Most of the employees have resigned due to getting a better paying job offer.  I don't blame them for that - they have children to think about. 


Family always comes first in my book. I care about my employees and this county.  If that makes me unfit for office, then that's a sad commentary on life in DeWitt County.   I firmly believe in a strong work ethic.  Excessive absences, lack of attention to detail and using the county's computer to e-mail a lover explicit sexual content during work hours doesn't cut it with me and I have had to let employees go for precisely those reasons. I have a responsibility to the Court, constituents and the County.  I am not going to retain an employee who exhibits a lack of commitment to their job  just for the sake of retention. 


I currently have the best staff I have hired yet.  I have worked hard to bring about change already in my office.  When I took office, I wasn't satisfied with the performance of the current collection agency that was based in Florida and went in search of a collection agency based in Illinois.  I entered into a contract with Credit Collections Partners, Taylorville, Illinois and their performance has been outstanding.  Credit Collections Partners has collected $27,156.79 in less than a year.  That money is paid out to municipal, county and state in fines, fees and restitution owed to Dewitt County and it's citizens.  The previous collection agency only collected about a 1/3 of that in prior years.  I also painstakingly reviewed several divorce and family files and found several thousand of dollars that were owed to DeWitt County.  Due to my efforts my hard-work has collected $42,671.96 for the county in unpaid Guardian Ad Litem fees. 


I also recently signed a contract with the Illinois Comptroller's office to begin collecting unpaid fines, fees and restitution by intercepting tax refunds and state employee wages.  I am the first DeWitt County Circuit Clerk to sign this contract with the Illinois Comptroller's Office.  Yet Mr. Newberg states in his letter that I lack "oversight".  Mr. Newberg I don't understand how you have failed to see the benefits of having an employee like me.  Most people who have worked hard and stayed after hours several nights a week to produce what I have produced would be overjoyed to have me on their team. 


I'm sorry I don't fit your criteria as a model employee.  Instead, you have chosen my opponent who seriously lacks the experience to supervise an office of 5 employees, has no knowledge of the complex computer system of my office and who has already alienated herself with all of my employees by her remarks that they are rude to our clientele and don't have attention to detail.  You have a serious lack of judgment.

Pam Barnes
DeWitt County Circuit Clerk

Letter Supporting VanValey for Circuit Clerk

Dear Editor,

The election is coming fast and on March 15th, I urge all of Dewitt County to vote for change in voting Michelle Van Valey for Circuit Clerk.  These local elections are very important to the citizens of Dewitt County. This is where your vote truly counts and your opinion matters. Mrs. Van Valey sincerely cares about the residents of Dewitt County. She makes it her mission to help out in the community anyway she can by volunteering her time to help others and organizations aimed to make a difference in this County.  She also donates to several charities because she has a passionate heart and truly wants to makes positive changes in the community she grew up in and loves.  


Michelle Van Valey is honest, hard working, dedicated, and truly knows how to manage an office.  She has been with the Dewitt County States Attorney office for over 10 years and been a great asset to the courts and citizens over this time.  She has had no problems learning new things as she has dealt with change herself in the transitions of new States Attorneys due to the former ones moving on.   She adapted quickly and is very intelligent.  I have no doubt that Michelle Van Valey will be able to turn the Circuit Clerks office into a smooth, friendly, and professional atmosphere.  


It is no secret that the some of the past situations in the Circuit Clerks office have been met with discontent.  We need a change and that change starts with your vote for Michelle Van Valey  for Circuit Clerk.  

Jeanna Salsman
Clinton, IL 

Letter Supporting Michelle VanValey

Dear Editor,

I write this letter not as county board chairman, but as a concerned DeWitt County citizen.

The race for DeWitt County Circuit Clerk is an important one which affects us all. That's why I urge you to vote Michelle Van Valey March 15.

Incumbent Pam Barnes, a product of the failed Reform Coalition, is running under some misconceptions that I would like to clarify.

She claims she voluntarily reduced her budget when in reality, reckless budget tactics of the Reform Coalition forced our current board to cut her budget in order to right the ship and get our county finances back on the right path. She also claims she's running a more efficient office with one less employee, however, due to the budget cuts, Barnes was not permitted to hire a replacement after a recent vacancy.

Barnes lacks oversight of the office - something I feel is important when working for the taxpayers. For the last three years, we've faced high employee turnover in the circuit clerk's office, and often get reports of Barnes' rude interactions with residents when they visit the office.

Barnes is not the best fit for DeWitt County Circuit Clerk. As a republican, I support Michelle Van Valey because she has a wealth of county experience and a desire to bring about the changes needed in the circuit clerk's office.


David Newberg

Clinton, IL

Letter on Barnes-VanValey Campaign

Thank you Pam Barnes for running a Clean Campaign.. You're not the type of person to stoop to the level of running a negative campaign. Nor will you ever.


The sign that was posted in your office was in good humor and funny. Those that were offended should read it again because it's the truth. Like it or not.


The flyer that I received from your opponent's campaign also criticized you for hiring your daughter in law (my daughter ).Anybody who has worked with her knows how good of a worker she is. Voters should ask people who have worked with her at your office and RR Donnelley what kind of person she is. Then they will know the truth. All Ms. VanValey's campaign did is anger people who know her work ethics.


Bringing our grandson into it was pitiful. Shows voters desperation in Ms. VanValey's campaign. When Mr. Kammeyer was asked to remove our grandson's picture from Ms. VanValey's website, his response was to state he felt threatened and then after three attempts of requesting the picture to remove it the pictures were scribbled out, then when it started to become heated the post were all deleted.


I personally contacted Ms. VanValey asking her to stop attacking my child her response was -I didn't have anything to do with that. Really? And she wants to run a  county office? Manage people? Ever hear of accountability? Parents or grandparents of a child in that position would not see that as being very professional. Simply might be someone with "keyboard courage " stirring the pot , but costing her votes. My daughter is not running for office so why is Ms. VanValey and Mr. Kammeyer attacking her? I would like to also mention that Ms. VanValey is also related to the "daughter n law" that she and her campaign manager are attacking, but where was that ever mentioned?


My family has never been into politics , never really cared about politics, for your opponent to drag my family members into an election is reprehensible, despicable and pitiful.


Dawn Massey

Clinton Il


Letter from Pam Barnes, DeWitt County Circuit Clerk

Dear Editor:
I have just finished reading my opponent’s flyer that I received today in the mail and I would like to set the record straight.  David Holt was NEVER my campaign manager in my prior campaign.  I managed my campaign on my own from beginning to end. 
I hired my daughter-in-law in 2012; a full two years before she married my son and they were not even a couple when I hired her. 
The DeWitt County Circuit Clerk’s office handles hundreds of cases being sent to the collection agency and occasionally a case may get mistakenly sent but corrected immediately upon notification of the error.  Mistakes happen.  No office in the county is immune to making mistakes. 
When I first took office, the starting salary for a deputy clerk was $9.50 per hour for a 35 hour week (take home pay = $332.50/week).  I tried to convince the County Board to raise their starting pay to at least $10.00 per hour but all the County Board was willing to pay was $9.79 per hour which is where the starting salary is at this date.  It’s difficult to retain employees to work for this amount when they can go somewhere else and make more money. 

The majority of the employees have left due to finding  better paying jobs, one girl moved back home to Kankakee, and yes, I fired some employees due to excessive absences, failing to follow instructions after repeated training and one for improper use of  her e-mail account during working hours.  I had a couple of really bad years due to the fact that I wasn’t able to hire people with a legal background due to the salary being so low. 

I believe that DeWitt County residents deserve conscientious, hard-working employees who have good attendance. I have had many DeWitt County residents and attorneys remark to me that they appreciate the courteous, respectful and competent help they receive from my staff.  My current staff is the best staff I’ve had yet.  You can sling mud at me all you want but please don’t criticize my employees because they don’t deserve it.
Before I took office I knew several of the past county board members; I count Keith Koons as part of our family because my daughter dated for several years and is now married to his nephew.  I have known Pete Daugherty and Sherrie Brown for a long time.  I’m not going to allow anyone to choose my friends for me – that would be puppetry.
The sign in my office was meant as a joke.  If it offended anyone, I apologize.  However, most people looked at it and laughed because they knew it was a joke or they didn’t notice it at all.
I am committed to running a clean, honest and honorable campaign.  It’s disappointing that my opponent has chosen to do otherwise.
Libel is a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation.  The allegations that my opponent has made are irresponsible, incorrect and insulting.
So much for being competent and ethical.  

Pam Barnes

Clinton, IL


Letter Supporting Michelle Van Valey for DeWitt County Circuit Clerk

Dear Editor,


The March 15 primary election is fast approaching, and I want to encourage DeWitt County residents to get out and vote for Michelle Van Valey for DeWitt County Circuit Clerk.


Since taking office, incumbent Pam Barnes has led an office wrought with dysfunction and questionable staffing decisions that affect the taxpayers. It's time for a change.


Hiring and training new people costs the county money and that's exactly what Barnes has done since she took office. Instead of cross-training employees and working to manage their workload, Barnes has fired or lost 12 employees in the three years she's managed the circuit clerk's office. Those employees that do stay are treated with disrespect and are ridiculed when seeking Barnes' guidance.


Barnes also seems to favor only family, as her daughter-in-law was hired, and shortly thereafter was promoted to bookkeeper. What's more distressing is the fact that Barnes and her daughter-in-law serve as the only two signatures necessary on county checks.


Barnes was supported by the Reform Coalition, which counts former board chair Sherrie Brown, and board members Terry Hoffman and Ron Savage as members. These people drained our county's coffers, putting us in financial crisis. Even though Brown, Hoffman and Savage currently sit on the county board, they refuse to work with other board members and are leaving their constituents underrepresented.


I urge you to help make DeWitt County government better by voting Van Valey March 15.


Aaron Kammeyer

Clinton, IL

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