David Michael of Highland, Republican, announced last week that he plans to run against incumbent Kelly Tracy for the Madison County Board District 4 seat.
Michael, is a certified public accountant and director of development and finance at Father McGivney Catholic High School in Glen Carbon. He said he plans to bring "conservative principals and financial responsibility" to Madison County government.
“Growing up in a small business environment you can’t help but talk about politics, from federal level all the way down – everything was game at my dinner table. So my sisters and I are all very involved,” Michael told the Record.
He earned his bachelor in accountancy in 2010 from the University of Illinois, followed by a masters in accountancy in 2011.
Michael said he chose to work for his church instead of pursuing employment in the public accounting field.
“I spent five months studying abroad in Costa Rica and lived with a low-income family," he said. "And just seeing how happy they were with what little they had, and seeing what faith was upon their life, and what joy they had from being around each other…that really prompted me to ask questions about what I was giving my life to. And I realized that you don’t really need to have a big lucrative career or tons of money to be happy. Those things are fine, but it shouldn’t be my entire goal."
Michael comes from a family of business owners. His family owns the popular restaurant Michael’s restaurant in Highland, and said that he attributes his desire to participate in local government by seeing his parents and grandparents struggle with taxes and regulations as they worked hard to support their families.
“It’s easy to see from owning a small restaurant just how much we pay in taxes and fees," he said. "We should definitely pay our fair share, it’s part of being a part of the community. But I think there is a fine line of when it becomes too much. So I’d love to be that voice and advocate for the farmers and small businesses in the area. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about."
Michel, who described himself as a fiscal conservative and social Christian, has experience in fundraising, which is what he does at Father McGivney High School. He said he ran a $3 million campaign a few years ago for the school.
In 2013, he embarked on a personal project and launched a campaign to build a well close to a school for disabled children in Gonaives, Haiti. Within a few months, Michael had raised more than $8,000 from family and friends, and worked with a local non-profit to accomplish his goal of providing safe drinking water for the children at the school.
Incumbent Kelly Tracy, Democrat, told the Record that she had heard good things about her opponent and welcomes the challenge his announcement brings.
“It’s always a good thing when you have opponents," she said. "That’s what the system is about, so it keeps me on my toes."
Tracy, who owns a silk-screening and heat press shirt shop, has held the District 4 seat since 2007, and was unanimously approved by the Madison County Board when her predecessor resigned.
“I’ve really been able to get a lot of good things accomplished, and a lot of good work done in my community," she said. "And I’m not done yet. That’s why I’m running again!”
Tracy said that she is proud of the changes she has helped make in Madison County.
“Some of the great things are that we’ve been able to keep the tax levy as low as possible," she said. "It has been reduced every year that I’ve been on the board. This year I’m happy to say it was reduced [by] 2.3 percent. So I’ve been able to keep all my promises that I would the county’s portion, which is the only portion I have control over."
Tracy also mentioned that the board has done a lot with the parks in her district.
“I sit on a board of really great people with parks and recreation, and we’ve been able to get a lot done for communities that would normally not be able to afford playgrounds and all kinds of new improvements to the park,” Tracy said.
When it comes to running government budgets, Tracy believes her experience as a business owner plays a significant role in her decisions on the board because she has to make decisions on tough cuts every day.
“I’ve been in business for 13 years," she said. "Nobody really handed my anything. I’ve had to work hard for it. The same goes for running budgets and things over at the county. You have to work really hard to make the cuts that are necessary to ensure you have a good business, and you have to make cuts in government to make sure you continue to run the county responsibly.”
Tracy concluded that she views campaigning as on ongoing process that keeps her honest.
“Campaigning never stops," she said, "But nothing keeps you more honest than running for an election every day of your life.”
Michael and Tracy will run unopposed in the March 15, 2016 primary election. They will face one another in the Nov. 4, 2016 general election.