North Chicago treasurer candidates both offer business, political experience

Steve Sadin
4–6 minutes

Experience will not be an issue as North Chicago Democratic primary voters pick their candidate for city treasurer.

Four-term incumbent Kenneth Robinson faces a challenge from former Lake County Board member and current Foss Park District Commissioner Vance Wyatt in the Feb. 23 Democratic primary, as both candidates offer a variety of business and political experience.

Since there is no Republican primary and no independent candidates are seeking this office, the winner will be uncontested in the April 6 general election.

Before he was elected treasurer in 2005, Robinson said he was the president of a courier company. He became a business owner in 1996 when he acquired a Baskin Robbins franchise in Waukegan, operating it until 2015.

Until six years ago, Robinson said he both operated his ice cream business and handled the city’s treasurer duties. Raised in Chicago, he moved to North Chicago in 1976, working in the tax department of Abbott. He has a business administration degree from Illinois State University.

Along with serving on the park board, Wyatt said he works as a financial analyst for CVS Health. He has been there for the last five years. He works on the insurance side of the business, and not the pharmacies.

“I’m always looking for additional ways to save money,” Wyatt said. “It’s something I do well.”

Along with his position in the corporate world, Wyatt was a member of the North Chicago Library Board from 2011 to 2017, when he was appointed to complete the County board term of Audrey Nixon who died that year. He lost the seat to current member Angelo Kyle in 2018. He also served on the park board from 2015 to 2017, and again since 2019.

A second generation native of North Chicago, Wyatt has an undergraduate degree from National Louis University and an MBA from Concordia University.

Wyatt and Robinson currently serve together on the Park District Board of Commissioners. Robinson is its president, and Wyatt vice president. Both said they plan to continue in those roles regardless of the outcome of the treasurer’s race. Both are content with the relationship.

The treasurer maintains the city’s financial and accounting records, reports and statements, according to the city website. Much of the work is dictated by state and city laws.

Some of the treasurer’s duties are preparation of the city’s payroll, management of employee benefit programs, overseeing payment of bills and management of daily operations of the finance office. The treasurer also administers the city’s investment strategy.

Among the issues facing North Chicago which the treasurer can influence, both Robinson and Wyatt consider meeting pension obligations, assisting with balancing the budget, developing programs and finding additional revenue sources among the most important.

Both Robinson and Wyatt recognize the need to meet state regulations for pension contributions. Though Robinson said the city has until 2045 to fund 90% of its total pension funds, Wyatt said North Chicago is currently between 32% and 36%, leaving it well short of the goal.

Robinson said the task was made easier in 2019 when police and fire pensions were consolidated on a statewide basis, significantly reducing administrative operating costs. Wyatt said he will lobby the state for further consolidation of funds for other municipal employees.

Wyatt said he would like to add programs the treasurer’s office can do for residents. He would like to add personal finance classes to help people manage their money more easily, like getting a bank account rather than use a currency exchange to cash their checks.

“Using a currency exchange is like a tax on the poor,” Wyatt said.

Though Robinson said programs the treasurer’s office can offer are limited, finding beneficial ones is a win for the office and the people.

Balancing the budget is primarily a legislative function of the City Council, but Robinson said it has been done consistently since he was first elected in 2005. Wyatt said he would do his part to help add revenue by prudently investing the city’s funds under the confines imposed under state law. Robinson pledged to do the same.

“We always pass a balanced budget,” Robinson said. “I watch everything very closely, and by the end of the year we are always on the plus side.”