By ERIN SANSON
1. November 2022 Election
Voters recently cast their ballots for Sheriff, County Treasurer, and County Board Members in Districts 4, 6 and 7. They also voted in the State wide election, deciding the Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, Comptroller, U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, and voting on and amendment to the Illinois Constitution during the Nov. 8 Mid-Term election.
Shawn Kahl won his third Macoupin County election for Sheriff. He ran as a Democratic candidate, opposed by Gillespie Police Chief Jared DePoppe. The race was close with Kahl having a slight majority with 53 percent of the votes to DePoppe’s 46 percent. There was a margin of only 1,418 votes between the candidates.
The County Treasurer position was also up for grabs. There were two candidates, Democrat Roger Anderson, the sitting treasurer and Republican candidate Lillian Amber McGartland. McGartland won the election receiving 62 percent of the votes.
County Board Seats
In the County Board race Mark Dragovich retained his seat in the fourth district. Dragovich was joined in district 4 by Republican candidate Ross Adden, who received 38 percent of the vote.
In District Six, Aaron Stayton remained in the seat he was appointed to following the retirement of Bill Harding in Jan. 2022. Robert Quarton, who had been on the County board since 1994, lost his seat to newcomer Leann Barr. Barr ran as a republican earning 29 percent of the vote, while Quarton, the only democratic candidate in the District Six contest received 23 percent of the vote.
In District Seven both current board members remained in their seats. Bernard Kiel received 46 percent of the votes while James Ibberson received 31 percent. Christine Bruley-Hill ran as a democrat for the seventh district but could not beat the two incumbents with only 22 percent of the vote.
County Board members following the 2022 midterm are:
District 1: Ryan Kilduff (D) and Holly Klausing (R)
District 2: Jon Payne (R) and Gordon Heuer (R)
District 3: Kristi Dunnagan (R) and Matthew Acord (R)
District 4: Mark Dragovich (D) and Ross Adden (R)
District 5: Larry Schmidt (R) and John Blank (R)
District 6: Aaron Stayton (R) and Leann Barr (R)
District 7: Bernard Kiel (R) and James Ibberson (R)
District 8: Robert ‘Tony’ Wiggins (D) and Harry Starr IV (R)
District 9: Todd Armour (R) and Charles Siegel (R)
U.S. Congressional Elections
In the newly drawn Congressional District 13, Nikki Budzinski beat out Regan Deering with 57 percent of the votes across the seven county district. The Associated Press called the race in Budzinski’s favor at 12:09 a.m. on Wednesday. Deering had the support of 63 percent of county residents. Budzinski received only 36 percent of the Macoupin vote.
2. Granite City woman convicted of first degree murder by Macoupin County jury
Chancey Hutson, 32, of Granite City was found guilty of first degree murder for her role in a 2015 residential burglary that resulted in the death of 34-year-old Woodburn man Cody Adams.
Evidence presented during the trial indicated that Hutson and an accomplice traveled to Woodburn to steal merchandise from Adams’ home in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 2015. Hutson entered the house wearing a mask and carrying a gun. Adams was shot while he fought off the burglary and struggled with Hutson. Adams’ mother woke up to the noise of the struggle and battled Hutson as well. During the violent confrontation, Hutson’s mask came off. However, she was still able to flee the home without any of the occupants being able to initially identify her.
This case went cold for approximately two-and-a-half years, then re-surfaced after a database matched Hutson’s DNA to DNA that had been found on the mask she was wearing on the day of the crime.
The Bunker Hill Police Department, Macoupin County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police, retired Sergeant Pat McGuire, Assistant State’s Attorney Kyle Frericks and former State’s Attorney Jennifer Watson participated in the investigation of the case.
The Honorable Judge Joshua A. Meyer presided over the jury trial which began Aug. 22 of this year.
The jury heard evidence for two days and by the end of the second day were ready to deliver their verdict. Jurors deliberated for just under two hours and returned a verdict that found Hutson guilty on two counts of first degree murder.
According to Macoupin County Circuit Court records, these were the first guilty verdicts for those specific charges in Macoupin County since the 1980s.
Hutson returned to court on Oct. 3 for sentencing. She received a sentence of 46 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Hutson is not eligible for parole until November of 2065.
William D. Kavanaugh, 37, of Edwardsville, the alleged accomplice in the case is still waiting for his trial to begin. He will next appear in court for pre-trial motions on Jan. 18 before Judge Meyer.
3. Carlinville Woman charged in toddler’s death
Ashley Bottoms, 33, of Carlinville was charged in the Oct. 20 death of three-year old Hunter Drew, who died in her care. She was arrested on Oct. 22 and charged with involuntary manslaughter and endangering the life of a child causing death.
She was in court on Nov. 10 before Judge Joshua Meyer for her preliminary hearing. Bottoms pled not guilty to the charges at her preliminary hearing.
Bottoms allegedly pushed Drew into a half wall while breaking up a fight between two juveniles. The child struck his head on the ledge of the wall, causing blunt force trauma and a brain bleed. The charging documents from the Macoupin County State’s Attorney’s office state Bottoms observed the child in distress due to the injury and drove the child around in a car for three hours without seeking medical care. Bottoms sought medical attention at the Litchfield Fire Department after being informed the boy was unresponsive. He was later pronounced deceased.
Bottoms will appear in court again on Jan. 18 for pre-trial.
4. New Carlinville Public Safety Center
The former Frontier Building in Carlinville underwent a transformation over the past year into a multi-purpose Public Safety Center. An Open House was held on Oct. 17 to showcase the new center. The 6,800 square foot building is the new home of a state-of-the-art police department, emergency management, and public safety center.
The increased space and comfort, thoughtful design, and expanded capabilities of the new Police Department all lend themselves to a long-term positive effect to both the staff and citizens of Carlinville.
5. Macoupin County Named Inaugural U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence Finalist for 2023 Program
Macoupin County is a finalist in the nonpartisan U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence inaugural cohort of Centers for Election Excellence, a recognition that Macoupin is committed to leadership in election administration and looking to develop even more resilient, trustworthy, and voter-centric election administration practices.
As a Center for Election Excellence, Macoupin County will have an opportunity to join together with a bipartisan group of election officials to support each other, and keep their skills fresh. The diverse inaugural 2023 cohort of Centers for Election Excellence include:
-Contra Costa County, CA
-Shasta County, CA
-Kane County, IL
-Macoupin County, IL
-Ottawa County, MI
-Clark County, NV
-Brunswick County, NC
-Forsyth County, NC
According to a recent study from MIT, public spending on election services ranks near the bottom, about the same as what local governments spend on parking facilities. This means professional development opportunities for election department staff can be extremely limited. The Alliance will provide Macoupin County staff opportunities to collaborate with and share best practices with their colleagues from around the country, creating a national community of learning and support.
“I am thrilled that after a nationwide call for applications from jurisdictions across the country, we have chosen Macoupin County as a Center for Election Excellence,” said Tiana Epps-Johnson, executive director of the Center for Tech and Civic Life. “Macoupin County is a leader in safe, secure and inclusive elections that put voters first. I’m thrilled to work with the Macoupin staff to take their election administration work to the next level.”
“As County Clerk, I am excited that the Election office has been chosen as one of the ten initial finalists,” Pete Duncan, Macoupin County Clerk said. “We have always strived to provide each voter with the best possible voting experience and this opportunity will only enhance our ability to do that. While we may be one of the smaller finalists selected, I believe this shows that Macoupin elections can compete with anyone when it comes to providing a fair election process that every voter can trust.”
The U.S. Alliance for Election Excellence launched in 2022 and is a five-year, $80 million nonpartisan program that brings together election officials, designers, technologists, and other experts to envision, support, and celebrate excellence in U.S. election administration.
6. Severe Storm Leaves Many Powerless
A severe storm rolled through Macoupin County in the early hours of the morning on Fri. June 17.
Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued early that morning following a group of storms moving southeast through Missouri to the St. Louis area. The warning for Macoupin County was originally in effect until 8 a.m. on Friday, but was later extended to 11 a.m.
Initial reports from the National Weather Service office in St. Louis indicated that winds of up to 60 mph were possible. Later reports showed that wind gusts of 70 mph were seen in Litchfield during the storm.
Electricity merely flickered for some Macoupin County residents while others went without power for almost 36 hours. Trees were uprooted, causing damage to homes and vehicles. Damage was caused to many power lines and poles throughout the area as trees fell into line and equipment, like trampolines became tangled in the power lines.
Ameren Illinois activated its emergency crews and engaged more than 100 tree trimmers to help with storm damage. Ameren reported that more than 53,000 outages were reported in the southern and southwestern portion of the Ameren Illinois service territory. MJM Electric Co-Op also worked throughout the weekend to restore power. Power was restored to all areas by the afternoon of Sun. June 19.
7. Mask Mandates
The Macoupin County Public Health Department announced the Covid-19 county positivity rate was at 15.2 percent in the first week and a half of January was almost double the goal which is a positivity rate of 8 percent or less. The rate jumped from an 8.8 percent positivity rate on the week of Jan. 2.
The effect on Macoupin Schools
Illinois Public Schools were then implementing new CDC and IDPH recommended isolation periods which had not been adapted for schools by the time Macoupin County schools had returned following the winter holiday.
Carlinville School District Superintendent Dr. Becky Schuchman sent out a letter on Jan. 5 detailing the high case number on what was only the third day back to school after winter break. At the time the Health Department reported 10 students being positive and 20 in isolation, Schuchman explained that the numbers were actually much higher due to the availability of at-home tests. It was reported by Schuchman that over 100 students had tested positive, were symptomatic, or had a direct exposure over the two days school was in session.
The letter to parents also warned that the schools or district may be forced to switch to remote learning, use built-in emergency days, or take an adaptive pause. Schuchman cited concerns over not only student exposures but staffing as well.
Carlinville was not the only district in the county to have sent out such a letter at that time. Southwestern Superintendent Kyle Hacke sent out a letter on Friday Jan. 7 telling Southwestern parents to be prepared to take an adaptive pause and switch to remote learning. Staffing concerns were also an issue addressed by Hacke.
The Staunton School District took an adaptive pause that began Tues. Jan. 11 for all students in grades 8-12. The pause lasted until Friday Jan. 14 and students returned to school on Tuesday Jan. 18, following Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The district explained the transition to the adaptive pause as a result of multiple outbreaks in classrooms and at extracurricular activities.
Following the same trends of 2021, 2022 started out with discussion and debate over mask mandates in public and in schools. The Illinois State Board of Education announced Jan. 7, 2022 they would be adopting new masking guideline provided by the CDC, which called for a five day isolation rather than ten days, regardless of vaccination status.
Any staff or students who tested positive for Covid-19 and did not have symptoms or whose symptoms were resolving could be released from isolation. If a fever or other symptoms persisted after the five days the individual needed to remain in isolation until they were fever-free and other symptoms had improved for 24 hours.
Schools also had to ensure any staff or students who tested positive wore a well fitting mask around others for 5 additional days after they were released from isolation, including at home. If the individual was unable to wear a mask around others they needed to isolate for a full 10 days. Positive students were required to avoid contact with immunocompromised individuals. If masks had to be removed, a 6 foot distance was required until 10 days after the onset of symptoms or a positive test result.
In February the Sangamon County Circuit Courts issued a temporary restraining order on school masking mandates. With the restraining order in effect students and staff were allowed to attend school without masks. Administrators for schools asked for patience as they were looking for guidance at the time as well.
Mask mandates were lifted for most public spaces by Governor J.B. Pritzker on Feb. 9. Mask mandates in health care facilities were dropped Oct. 18.
8. New Macoupin County Fair Queens
Other contestants trying for the Little Miss title included, Braylee Frankford who was the third runner up and Hadley Vaughan was named second runner up. The Little Miss first runner up was Nora Meisenheimer.
In the Junior Miss contest, Mary Behme was the third runner up and Heidi Kahl secured the second runner up position. Victoria Collins was announced as the first runner up.
In the Miss contest, Miss Congeniality was awarded to Kieran Weller. The third runner up was Alexandra Henry-Allen and Braylee Gilmore finished as the second runner up. Sara Wiese was named the first runner up.
9. Jerel Loveless honored for 50 years of service
A proclamation for Jerel “Jerry” Loveless was read at the Sept. 5 Carlinville City Council meeting in honor of his 50 years of service to the Carlinville Fire Protection District. Over those 50 years, Loveless rose to the position of Fire Chief for Carlinville. During his time as Chief, Loveless also served on the Macoupin County 9-1-1 board and oversaw the move to the current firehouse on West Second South St. Loveless is still involved with the Fire Department, where he is currently listed as a Firefighter.
10. Carlinville city pool reopened
After closing in August 2020 the Carlinville City Pool finally reopened in June with several new additions. The new facility features a splash pad and zero-depth baby pool with an accessible ramp.
After the Illinois Department of Public Health inspected the facility, the Carlinville park District was given the green light to re-open. The pool was re-opened on June 30, with hours of noon-5 p.m. each day.