A desire to bring balance to a county board with bad spending habits is partly what motivated pediatrician Chris Wangard to run for public office.
The successful Madison County board member-elect defeated Don Sonnenberg after the Troy residents battled each other for County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan’s open seat in District 2. The recent election was the first in which Madison County voters elected a chairman at-large.
A young doctor in a growing practice, Wangard also was propelled into politics so that he could take a stand on legal reform.
“Clearly, at the county board level you’re not going to fix the legal environment,” Wangard said. “But we need representatives at every level of government—local, county, state and in the judiciary—who are sick and tired of judicial abuse.”
At Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics in Edwardsville, where Wangard practices medicine, the doctor-turned-public-official has seen his medical malpractice insurance rates increase by nearly 300 percent over the past four years. When he started in 2000, his annual premium was approximately $4000. Most recently it rose sharply to nearly $24,000.
“Part of the increase was due to a maturing practice,” Wangard said. “But mainly it’s just skyrocketing rates.”
Wangard believes he was victorious because he simply worked harder than his opponent.
“I plain old out-worked him,” he said. “I am reasonably sure I knocked on more doors. I was also getting very good advice.”
Before the county chairman was elected by voters at-large, the position was bestowed upon the ranking popular partisan in a vote among board members. In Democratic control for decades, the chairman would also hold position as county board member.
When new members are sworn into office, there will be 11 Republicans on the county board of 29 seats.
Dunstan, a popular figure among Democrats and Republicans alike, easily defeated his Republican opponent, Eugene Frizzo, 56 to 44 percent.
“Generally, the (county board) district leans Republican,” Wangard said. “Dunstan had been successful because of his popularity. But the district has shifted to the Republican side.”
While Wangard does not point to any one particular problem area in the county’s budget, he does lament the board’s imprudent across-the-board budget spending increases.
“It’s low grade mismanagement.”
Wangard does have political ambitions beyond the county board.
“But I am not vaguely close to pursuing those. Let’s just see how this goes first,” he said.