Rock Island County Board Chairman Phil Banaszek says he’s preparing to exit the office at the end of his term as chairman, and gets choked up thinking about it.
“I’ve done the best job I personally can. I’m comfortable with it. I sleep well at night. It’s something when the time comes for me to leave, I won’t want to leave,” he said from his second floor office in the county building Thursday.
“If the voters of Rock Island County lay the blame on me, I’m willing to accept that. If they think because of my tenure as Chairman in the past 21 months, I’ve caused all this to happen, and they want to blame it on me, wear themselves out,” he said.
He says he inherited a wealth of problems and challenges, a county in debt and dysfunction. He also says several board members were not as prepared on the issues as they should be.
“There’s 18 or 19 board members who routinely don’t know what they’re voting on. Who’s fault is that? Its their fault,” he said.
He also believes Democratic County Chair Doug House unfairly threw him under the bus by publicly calling for his resignation.
“People shouldn’t be fooled by the Democratic Party Chair asking for my resignation going into an election cycle,” Banaszek said. “He’s got reason to be concerned here, also. When I get a letter from him a month ahead of time praising me for my leadership as Chairman and the job I’m doing and a month later, he’s sitting at Democratic headquarters in front of cameras asking for my resignation?”
“And I’m not crying about it or complaining about it, it is what it is. It’s kind of a perfect storm situation and I’m the guy behind the desk. It starts here and the buck stops with me,” he said.
Banaszek says he is staying in office until December, and will collect his $72,000 a year pension as a former board chairman after that.
“I don’t make up the rules, I play by them,” he said.
He said he tried to lead the board, but may have rubbed some people the wrong way.
“Sometimes you have to make the tough decisions,” said Banaszek. ” It’s going to change how things have been done for years. Sometimes you have to make the right decision, what your heart, your gut, fact and figures tell you to do. Is it the end of my political career? Maybe. If it is, politics is part of my life, but it’s not all of it.”
At one point, Banaszek suggested it’s never over til it’s over, and talked about trying for another term as chair.
“There’s nothing written in stone that I couldn’t have another shot at county chairman,” he said.