(Tribune illustration)

The two Republicans running for the Kane County Board seat currently held by Mike Donahue are longtime residents of Geneva, and each says his background better qualifies him for the job.

John Martin, an attorney and founder of a Wheaton-based law firm, and Thomas Matson, a local businessman with experience in communications, are vying for the GOP nomination for the Dist. 11 seat in the March 18 primary. The district includes parts of Geneva and Batavia. No one is running in the Democratic primary.

Donahue is not seeking re-election.

Martin, 66, who specializes in commercial real estate law, said his experience would make him an asset to the board, especially when it comes to the redevelopment of Settler’s Hill — one of Donahue’s main projects in recent years.

“I’ve spent my professional life appearing before plan commissions and zoning boards and village boards and city councils, so I understand that environment,” Martin said. “For me, this is simply moving to the other side of the table.”

Over the years, Martin has served on the Geneva’s plan and zoning commissions as well as several other committees.

“I’ve always believed that you should be active in your community,” he said. “What separates me in this is continuity of activity professionally and on a volunteer basis for many, many years.”

Though Matson, 52, who was born and raised in Geneva, has not served on any city commissions or run for office before, but he said his communications background and retail experience at his family’s business, Matson Jewelry, would make him a unique addition to the board.

“Do you want someone with the business background or do we need another attorney the board,” Matson said. “In this day and age in this economy I’m the right person for the job.”

Matson said that if elected he would be an advocate for small businesses in District 11 and work to offer them incentives to create jobs.

He added that he would like to pursue a zero-based budgeting model, where the county would essentially “start from scratch” each year and do a cost analysis to determine each department’s budget rather than just relying on previous years’ funding.

“I’m just one that is fiscally conservative but I believe in growth too if there are projects that lend themselves to a real benefit to the community,” Matson said.

Both candidates would like to see the completion of the Settler’s Hill project, which would turn a landfill into a recreation area. The also both would like to maintain the county’s commitment to a frozen tax levy.

But the two differ on a proposed tax on the county ballot that would raise about $12 million annually for developmentally disabled services.

“I think that if we’re going to have a viable society we need to look at the strong and look at the people that need assistance and from my standpoint it's a donation,” Martin said. “Offering that kind of assistance to somebody I think that’s part of our life’s mission.”

Matson, who has a child with Down syndrome, said he did not support the referendum proposal and argued instead for a similar program in the private sector that would involve a coalition of special-needs parents who would raise money for services.

“As a father of a special-needs child I understand the need to provide services to those with developmental disabilities,” Matson said. “My main concern though is another layer of government that we can’t afford.”

sbaer@tribune.com

Twitter @skbaer