When he ran for a fourth term as mayor of Woodstock, Brian Sager announced it would be his last.
Now he has announced what’s next.
Sager told The Independenthe would campaign as a Democrat for the 63rd District seat in the Illinois Legislature, now held by two-term Republican Steve Reick.
Sager, who will be 67 next month, decried the extreme partisanship in politics generally and the Legislature specifically. Most voters, he said, don’t care about party affiliation as much as they do results from elected leaders.
“They want to send people to the Legislature who are simply willing to work together,” the mayor said. “I have a record of that.”
Sager served 16 years on the City Council before winning the first of four terms as mayor in 2005. City elections are nonpartisan.
If he wins the District 63 seat in the November 2020 election, he will have to give up the last few months of his final term as mayor the following January. The City Council would fill the position until the municipal election in the spring of 2021.
Sager has spent most of his professional career in higher education, holding degrees in animal and plant science and agricultural economic development before earning a doctoral degree in international development and a second master’s degree in instructional strategies.
His academic roles have included professor for 18 years at McHenry County College, during which he was recognized with an Outstanding Faculty Member award. He later was MCC’s vice president of Academic and Student Affairs and served a stint as acting president. His credentials have led to his position as general livestock superintendent of the Illinois State fairs in Springfield and DuQuoin.
Sager’s political life has included service as a Republican precinct committeeman, and Republican Gov. Jim Thompson appointed him as Illinois’ Far East trade representative to Hong Kong, a post he held for two years in the late ’70s.
But Sager said he parted ways with the party over his support for Democrat Jack Franks for McHenry County Board chairman. Franks held the 63rd District seat in the Legislature for 18 years before giving it up in 2016 to run for board chairman.
Franks has since nominated Sager for McHenry County representative on the Regional Transportation Authority Board, a post Sager has held the past 16 months.
‘Less government better’
The mayor described himself as a fiscal conservative – “I believe less government is better” – though he is more libertarian on social matters.
“I don’t believe you can dictate or legislate morality,” explained Sager, who said people should be able to make their own decisions about whether to have an abortion, smoke marijuana, or gamble.
Sager has spent considerable time in Springfield already, not only at the State Fair but visiting the Legislature to promote causes for Woodstock, most recently the improvement and widening of Route 47 through the city.
While he said he has “learned a lot” through his numerous trips to the Statehouse, he is dismayed by how politics has interfered with effective government.
“The Legislature has become incredibly partisan,” he said, “to the degree that they’re unable to effectively serve. … That’s the antithesis of what I stand for.”
Despite the partisan nature of legislative politics, Sager said he hoped to take his approach of “consensus and resolution” to address state issues in the Legislature the way he has dealt with city issues as mayor of Woodstock.
“My responsibility is to build bridges,” he said. “That’s the role of elected officials, … to come together, to work together to make good things happen.”
Geographically, the 63rd District covers roughly the northwestern two-thirds of McHenry County. Besides including Woodstock, the district represents Marengo, Harvard, Hebron, Wonder Lake, and McHenry. It also takes in a sliver of western Crystal Lake as it surrounds that community.
Sager said he was in the early stages of organizing a campaign committee and starting fundraising in preparation for the March 17 primary election. He is open to public suggestions about the campaign.
“People need to feel welcome, that their voice is being heard,” Sager said. “… I’m willing to have a open conversation with anyone about anything.”