Voters will have a choice to make on Nov. 8 regarding the next Champaign County commissioner.
Current commissioner Bob Corbett’s term will end on Dec. 31. Currently serving State Rep. Nino Vitale won the Republican nomination for commissioner in the May Primary. No Democrat filed for the May Primary and no Independent candidates filed for the Nov. 8 election. Vitale was term-limited in his state representative seat after being elected to four terms.
However, a write-in candidate, Todd Woodruff, will also be available as a choice to voters.
Vitale’s is the only name that will appear on ballots. Voting for Woodruff will require two steps: darkening an oval and hand-writing his name.
The Urbana Daily Citizen invited both candidates to respond to a survey regarding their qualifications to be county commissioner and specific questions about the future of the county.
Listed below in alternating order are the biographies and the candidates’ answers to the questions. Biographies are listed in the alphabetical order of the candidates’ last names.
Nino Vitale: Champaign County is unique and an exceptional place to live and raise kids. I am strongly pro-life, pro-2nd amendment, and will advocate to ensure our law enforcement has the resources they need to ensure a safe community. I fully intend to be creative with economic growth while balancing the unique nature of our county and maintaining the semi-rural, non-urban atmosphere. I do not want the big-city problems that exist in major cities. Our Christian heritage is important and has been largely forgotten in the cities.
I have been a resident of Champaign County for over 24 years. Our local family business employs over 350 people, and I have also been Champaign County’s State Representative for eight years. I am a Dean’s List MBA graduate and I have extensive background in business, finance, and government. Most importantly, I deeply care about our community and want my five boys to stay here, live, work, and thrive.
Lastly, my business background and working in large multinational firms like Apple Computer, Wendy’s International, and Frigidaire Appliances, just to name a few, has prepared me to handle the unique scenarios that will be presented to the commissioners. Visit www.VoteVitale.com.
Todd Woodruff: The son of Max and Yvonne Woodruff, he is the husband of Teri of 34 years, father of two sons and has two granddaughters.
He is 55 years old, a Republican and has lived in Champaign County his entire life.
“I was raised farming with my Dad and grandpa Roland and after high school went to auctioneer school in which I worked with my great uncle Merlin Woodruff for approximately 13 years. I continue to auctioneer (34 years) along with farming.
“Over the years Teri and I expanded starting a transportation company consisting of 48 trucks and 130 refrigerated trailers transporting food, then expanded into temperature controlled warehousing also food. At the same time we’ve continued to grow our farming operation including our registered Jersey dairy along with our Angus breeding herd,” he wrote.
“Five years ago we acquired the old Rothschild facility – now called ‘The Woodruff Farm’ – where we process our dairy products along with a marketplace raising our own products and supporting other small producers. We are expanding with a restaurant on that property. In June of 2022 we purchased Woodland Golf Club and also intend to open a restaurant there. One of my passions is supporting 4-H.”
Questions and answers
1. How do you plan to use your acquired skills and experiences to improve life in Champaign County if you are elected commissioner?
Woodruff: Improve quality of life? How much better can anyone make “life” in our county? You make your life what it is not the commissioners. The commissioners simply try to make wise decisions for what’s best long term for our county. Good people make a good county and that’s what we have.
Vitale: I think one of the most critical skills someone can have is listening. My grandfather used to tell me you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice as much as you talk. We have a lot of smart people in our county and I plan to listen to them. I also bring experience in the areas of business, finance, family, and government. I have served eight years in the statehouse, worked almost 30 years in business, and have been married 25 years while raising five boys.
2. Do you believe large renewable energy projects should be granted tax favored status by the county (aka: payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT) and what would influence your decision in specific cases that come before the commission?
Vitale: Absolutely not. I have been very clear on my position on the tax breaks for foreign companies and Chinese Solar Panels littering our prime farmland. The answer is NO! In most cases these are foreign companies, who have already received tax breaks from the federal government. They are double dipping in our paychecks and want our local money too. Enough is enough. Pay the full amount of tax like every other business does in our community. If you want to come here, be a partner, not a free loader. I would vote no.
Woodruff: For starters I’m not a big fan of “large” renewable energies entering our farm land, but if so, we would simply have to analyze what makes the most sense financially for our county based on the project. Every deal poses something different so at this point there’s no black and white answer in my opinion.
3. What is the greatest strength of Champaign County?
Woodruff: That’s easy, “our people.” Because of our rural base, as a rule of thumb we have a lot of people with common sense. This is a strong baseline for decision making and the willingness to get along, compromise and keep the county moving in the right direction.
Vitale: PEOPLE are what make this county great. While the federal government and our state governments are both a mess, our county government has been doing a very good job. Our county has NO DEBT and I’d like to keep it that way. We also have many local companies and people who are very creative about making this county great. We have the benefits larger cities have, but without big-city negatives. I love the fact that I can live here and never leave the county. The less we are tied to what is happening in the cities the better.
4. What is the most fixable weakness of Champaign County, and how would you propose to improve on this weakness?
Vitale: Property taxes are a real problem. We must be very careful and responsible about not adding taxes that are tied to our homes. For most, our home is our most important asset and if someone cannot pay their taxes because they are getting too high, they could lose their home, even if the home is paid off. That is tragic to me.
Woodruff: We currently have a debt-free county (which most don’t) and very financially stable. I credit this to the great job our current commissioners have done. The only thing to focus on is keeping it that way and being open-minded to new opportunities that come about as long as they are a good fit for us.
5. What is the most achievable opportunity for Champaign County that has not been realized yet?
Woodruff: I don’t know how to answer that. People live in our county because they like the way it is. You can’t force progress, you can only try to position yourself to be able to obtain opportunities as they present themselves.
Vitale: First, we must support the businesses and farming community with which we live. They are already here. Supporting these groups with well-trained employees has become a significant problem. Our schools and education need to reflect a skill set where students want to work, live, and contribute. If we build a community of people with solid moral character, we will stand above other areas and thrive. We also have several new restaurants and shops that help create a destination feel for our county. We can continue to build our county and become known as a destination area with great shops, food, and amazing landscapes.
6. What is a threat to Champaign County that you can identify and how might you attempt to fix this vulnerability?
Vitale: We have to be on the lookout for infiltration of drugs and crime that spills from the cities. The cities have become dangerous. The reason we live here is to avoid the crime, the drugs, and many other problems that exist in cities. Having well-funded law enforcement and a community that keeps an eye on things is key. We cannot totally depend on law enforcement. Our families will be key. If mom and dad are raising their kids properly, those kids will not end up causing problems in our community. The family is the first and best government.
Woodruff: Not voting for Todd Woodruff. And that is the decision of our people.