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Former prison worker says he’s confident he’s qualified to run the county

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Phil Banaszek is the steward in charge of millions of taxpayer dollars as Rock Island County Board Chairman, but his background is not in finance or public administration.

He worked in the boiler room as a fireman at the East Moline Correctional Center.

When asked if he thinks he has the qualifications for the job, Banaszek said he's confident the answer is yes.

"There's a learning process as there is with any job. I'm confident with my skills and decisions I've made as chairman,"  he said.

He cites his years on the county board as on-the-job training for his $90,000 a year role as chairman.

"I had 18 years on the board, in finance, and know how things work," he said.

Doug House, the head of the Rock Island County Democrats, questioned Banaszek's leadership and called for his resignation.

House also called for a committee to investigate the possibility of hiring a professional county administrator.

At least 15 of the larger counties in Illinois have gone that route, including Peoria County, which has about 30,000 more residents, but seven fewer county board members.

"County government is complex and we have a series of very diverse services that are provided and it's helpful to have an individual who is specifically educated and trained to run that type of organization," said Lori Curtis-Luther, Peoria County's administrator.

Curtis-Luther has a masters in public administration and says her role is to help policy makers make good decisions for taxpayers.

"I think a county administrator professionalizes the organization.  Peoria County has a 130-million-dollar budget. I'm responsible for making sure that we're managing those finances appropriately, that we are budgeting appropriately, and at the end of the day, one individual should be held accountable. I think that having a CEO, having a county administrator, brings that accountability to government," she said.

Peoria County has had a county administrator since 1979.

Curtis-Luther says the county board passed a resolution to create the position.

Banaszek has been on the job as chairman for 18 months, voted in by his colleagues on the board after the retirement of Jim Bohnsack.  His term ends in December.

Banaszek says he has no intentions of stepping down from the job.