MATTOON -- Republican candidates Jeremy Doughty and Rex Dukeman are running in Tuesday's primary election for Coles County Board District 4.
This district encompasses Lafayette Township in and near Mattoon; and covers voting precincts Lafayette 1, 2, 3 and 4. District 4 incumbent Republican Cory Sanders is not running for re-election. There are no Democratic candidates for District 4 on the primary election ballot.
Jeremy Doughty, assistant director of Eastern Illinois Area Special Education, said he decided to run for county board at the suggestion of other community members as another way to serve his community. Doughty said he was a member of the City of Mattoon water board and then its Public Works Advisory Board for a total of more than 10 years. In addition, he is actively involved with the Apostolic Center in Mattoon.
"When asked to serve, I do," Doughty said. "I believe in trying to serve whenever I can."
Dukeman, co-owner of Elliott Furniture in Mattoon, said he decided to run because he thinks that the county's commercial and industrial property reassessment has not been handled properly. Dukeman said he first got involved with this issue after finding out in December 2016 that the reassessment would increase Elliott Furniture's property tax bill by 72 percent and the bill for some nearby properties by even more.
Since then, Dukeman has become a leading member of the Concerned Taxpayers of Coles County and has regularly attended county board meetings alongside fellow members of this taxpayers group.
"It was time to stand up for what is right," Dukeman said. He and other Concerned Taxpayers members have questioned the legality of the board's hiring of an outside appraiser for the reassessment process.
In addition to his community service, Doughty said he has professional experience as an assistant director working with the Eastern Illinois Area Special Education's staff of approximately 250 employees and with related boards and committees. He said this background, including dealing with EIASE's federal funding, would help him on the county board.
"I think things through. I listen. I am not afraid to make what I believe is the right decision," Doughty said.
Dukeman said he has more than 40 years of experience in business management that he could bring to the county board, including operating Elliott Furniture for eight years now. In addition, he said being a member of the Concerned Taxpayers has given him familiarity with the county's budget and experience with researching property tax issues. He said this experience would help with answering tough questions on the board.
"It's going to take some research. You are going to have to do homework," Dukeman said. "I definitely think that is going to be a huge asset."
If elected, Doughty said one of his goals will be to help promote economic development. Doughty noted that he is taking part in the Mattoon in Motion community planning effort as a member of workforce development committee, which aims to help ensure that existing and new businesses have qualified workers available locally. He said keeping county property taxes low is essential to development and is also one of his goals.
"I believe the county should be fiscally responsible. It's taxpayers' money, and we need to ensure it is being spent where it is needed," Doughty said.
If elected, Dukeman said he wants to see Charleston and Mattoon work together more on a stepped up countywide approach to economic development to help Coles County stand out in Illinois. Dukeman said one his other goals is to make sure that property tax assessments are conducted in a fair and equitable manner for commercial and residential lots.
The Concerned Taxpayers group is fighting the reassessment project that began more than a year ago because the county had not reassessed its commercial and industrial property since a 2001 countywide reassessment. The current reassessment is being done in one quadrant of the county per year instead of all at once.
The taxpayers group's opposition included filing a federal lawsuit against the county. A judge dismissed the case based on a jurisdiction issue, a decision the Concerned Taxpayers are appealing.
Dukeman said he is hopeful that the court proceedings will be resolved before the end of the year and he does not think that these proceedings will prevent him from voting on related issues with the county board.
Regarding this issue, Doughty said a reassessment needed to be done to make sure that commercial and residential property owners are paying their fair share and that one group of property owners is not subsidizing the other. However, Doughty said the county should have exercised better oversight to not let 16 years pass between reassessments.
"This whole situation is unfortunate," Doughty said.