Dec 01

A Message from the County Executive: The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Future

Posted on December 1, 2023 at 1:58 PM by Bryanna Hartmann

For those of us who have lived our whole lives in St. Charles County, time overlaps—the past and the present—and even more so at Christmas time.  

I see the building that used to be the store where we went after school for gum, but now it’s an apartment building.  

I drive down Hawthorn Avenue where I lived as a boy with my parents and my brother and sister in the 1950s. The County Executive in me wants to call the building inspector to find out why this house is so much smaller. Is it sinking in the ground? Or have I just gotten older and taller?

I remember Christmases past in that house. My father—the early rising, hard-working milk man for St. Charles Dairy. He was the one who should have been County Executive. He was the nicest man who ever lived. I try to be like him but realize often I am just a facsimile of my father. We all do the best we can.  

We weren’t poor and we weren’t rich, but as a milkman’s family, we always had plenty of milk and butter and ice cream. And then there was my mother. She was a stay-at-home mom, a staunch Catholic always telling us the right thing to do. Boy, I hated that at the time. But looking back, Mom was right about a lot of things.

Oh, if only I could ring that doorbell on Hawthorn Ave. on a Christmas Eve around 1956 or so. If only I could sneak across the threshold unseen, like the ghost of Christmas past peeking in on the family that was.

The Christmas Eve I’m thinking about, I was about six years old.

That was the Christmas Eve my parents announced, “Santa is coming!!! Hide until he rings the door bell!”

So, we had to go to the back bedroom with our Aunt Verna watching over us. She would tell to be still and listen. We could hear someone going up and down the steps (getting the presents out of the attic), but Aunt Verna told us it must be reindeer on the roof!

Then the doorbell would ring and out we’d run into the living room and there he was standing right next to the tree with our presents all around him—Santa Claus.

Actually, it was our neighbor down the block Mr. Douglas, who did this routine for a few families.

I think he told us “Share your toys and don’t fight. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men,” and then with a few ho-ho-ho’s he left.

Looking back, it’s amazing how we took this cosmic visitation in stride. We didn’t question the logic of Santa lavishing a full ten minutes on us when he had the rest of the world to deliver presents to. It was a simpler time.

And now this December, I still think about Mr. Douglas dressed up as Santa. I think, wouldn’t it be nice if he could zing forward to 2023 in his Santa outfit?

What if he could visit the County Council chambers on a Monday night during a heated meeting?

I picture him coming in the window with a rush of wind and snow flurries like a Frank Capra movie.

Old Mr. Douglas might stroll right up to the microphone during the public comment period, and he wouldn’t even need the whole three minutes, because his message would be short and sweet.

“Share your toys and don’t fight. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men.”

And then he’d climb back out the window with a few ho-ho-ho’s, and the clerk would move onto new business.

My sincere wish this holiday season is that we all get along and respect other and work together, even if we disagree politically. After all, we’re all just passing through another Christmas present.

Merry Christmas,
Steve Ehlmann

Nov 01

A Message from the County Executive: Do You See the Light?

Posted on November 1, 2023 at 2:25 PM by Bryanna Hartmann

I got an email recently from Ray Hartmann of Donnybrook saying that my nomination of conservative Buddy Hardin to the St. Charles City-County Library Board was going to be a topic on the show.

Fair enough.

And then he added, “Why’d you have to go over to the dark side?”

Oh, Ray. We love you! What would our blood pressure be like on Thursday nights without you?

You’re very smart and well spoken. But as Ronald Reagan used to say—there you go again.

Nominating Buddy Hardin is not “the dark side.” Frankly, it’s putting a new light bulb in a hallway that was getting a little dark.

The nine-member Library Board found itself woefully lacking in ideological diversity when it comes to important issues.

Take for instance, when former county-appointed board member Joann Leykam made a motion last year for the board to lower the personal property tax rate—so as not to get a $650,000 windfall from taxpayers due to rising bluebook values for used cars.

There’s nothing dark about that. The St. Charles County Council had already done the same thing.

But on the library board not one other member would even “second” the idea, not one peep—meaning that it died without discussion.

That’s the dark side.

Fast forward to recent events, with parents raising questions about the attire of some library workers, and the appropriateness of some books on the shelf within reach of children.

We’re not talking about Huckleberry Finn or Catcher in the Rye. We’re talking about some book called Bang Like a Porn Star.

These sorts of things need a board that will talk about them.

So along comes Buddy Hardin, the reluctant appointee. He’s not some flaming crusader who called me up itching to get on the board.  I had to ask him to serve.  

I like Buddy because he’s a successful businessman, a pro-family person, married 30 years plus to longtime St. Charles County Recorder of Deeds Barb Hall. Together they have seven kids.  

And he’s not afraid to speak his mind—with tact—and maybe be that other person on the board, another conservative who can “second” the next conservative item that comes along for discussion, so it doesn’t die on the table.

Back before the Culture Wars heated up, I didn’t think so much about a person’s politics before I appointed them to something. But lately I’ve been thinking about what British journalist John O’Sullivan said.

He said that “any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time.”

So, that’s what I’d say to Ray Hartmann. Buddy Hardin’s not the dark side. He’s just a new lightbulb.

Sep 28

A Message from the County Executive: Planning Growth

Posted on September 28, 2023 at 4:16 PM by Bryanna Hartmann

It’s no secret that St. Charles County has seen a lot of growth in the past 10-20 years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, which conducts counts every 10 years, our population was 283,083 in 2000; 360,485 in 2010; and 405,262 in 2020. It is estimated to be 418,696 this year.

With that growth comes the need for additional housing, infrastructure, and other resources. Your County government is constantly working to address all of these issues.

As I’m sure you are aware, there has been a lot of residential construction in the past several years. Single-family homes, condos, villas, and apartments seem to be popping up everywhere.

There is a process developers must follow when wanting to build in unincorporated St. Charles County, and while some may think it’s a lengthy one, others may not think it’s enough. But it was developed to make certain we adhere to the County’s Master Plan – our community’s vision for future growth and development. The Master Plan is reviewed and updated every five years by a 16-member Steering Committee composed of 11 residents from across the county, two County Council members and three County staff members. Public input plays an important role in the Master Plan process.

Development proposals submitted to St. Charles County for approval follow a specific process. After careful study by the County’s Planning and Zoning Division staff, applications requiring approval by the County Council are then reviewed by the County Planning and Zoning Commission. The Commission, which is composed of residents from across the county, considers technical information such as ordinances, plans, and recommendations by Planning and Zoning staff.

The Commission holds a public hearing to listen to and understand the concerns of property owners and neighbors, and then makes a recommendation to the County Council for approval or denial. The County Council considers information from the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as additional public input before making decisions. The County’s Master Plan is an important consideration in this process.

If there is a development you want to learn more about or want to voice your opinion on, I encourage you to attend a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting or County Council meeting when the developments are being discussed. Or, reach out to your County Council representative to express your opinion about the matter.

Your County government is dedicated to making St. Charles County the best place it can be to live, work and play, and that means listening to concerns and getting feedback from all residents.