Vimbai Chikomo Dec. 8, 2015, 7:30am


Former mayor of Belleville, Rodger Cook, recently announced he is joining the race for St. Clair County Board Chairman running as a Republican in next year's elections.

In his press announcement, Cook stated that the county suffers from “a dark cloud of corruption” that has loomed over it for years.

Cook recently explained his remark to the Record..

“We have, in our county for probably 40 years, one-party rule," he said. "That gives party bosses unchecked power to do as they please. Instead of representing the people. They represent what’s best for the party to keep them in control.

“We’ve had scandal after scandal, corruption, drugs in the court house, and I could go on and on. I believe that in government, people are best served when you elect people that get in office and represent and make decisions that are best for the people.”

Cook, who was mayor of Belleville from 1993 to 1997, will be running against the three-term incumbent, Mark Kern, for Chairman. The two have gone head-to-head in the past. In 1997, Kern won over Cook for mayor of Belleville.

Cook said that one of the core issues he will be looking into is the MidAmerica Airport. He believes the airport is a burden to taxpayers and thinks its construction was a big mistake.

The airport became operational in 1997, and was created to alleviate some crowding at Lambert – St Louis International Airport. However, the airport has not serviced any major airlines to date. Some reports have estimated that the airport has cost taxpayers $313 million.

“I have, over the years, followed that very closely," Cook said. "I was the mayor of Belleville when that was being built. It was completed near the end of my term. I was not involved with that because I wasn’t involved with the Democratic Party.”

Cook went on to say that he had a lot of friends knowledgeable in aviation, and promised that, once elected, he would put together a commission of people with backgrounds in development and aviation to see how the airport “can be moved off the backs of taxpayers.”

One way Cook said he wants to put "people first" is by making the playing field level for job opportunities within the government.

“When one party rules for so long, the payrolls are bloated, the pensions are bloated, and things are done without competitive bidding on projects," he said. "The jobs are handed out and not advertised to the general public."

Cook further stated that the people of St. Clair County can expect him to serve them the same way he did when he was mayor of Belleville.

“I’ll go in and eliminate all the waste in government and bring the government back to the people," he said, "We’re gonna make decisions like you and I make decisions in our households. If we can’t afford it, we won’t do it. We’ll find another way to make do.”

Cook is certain that if things don’t change drastically, St. Clair County will be doomed.

“We are one of the highest taxed counties in the country," he said. "And if we don’t put a stop to this, we’re gonna be taxed out of here.”

Cook will be unopposed in the primary election on March 15, 2016. He will face Kern in the general election Nov. 4, 2016.

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