CHANNAHON – Although he won’t officially announce his candidacy until later this month, Chris Balkema of Channahon confirmed he has thrown his hat into the ring of Republicans who are running in the primary election for Congress in the 11th Congressional District.
The primary is not until March 18, with the general election Nov. 4, 2014, but the candidates are getting an early start vying for the seat currently held by Democrat Bill Foster.
Also reportedly running are Republicans Ian Bayne of Aurora; Craig Robbins, whose campaign office is in Naperville; and state Rep. Darlene Senger of Naperville.
“I believe there is a vacuum of leadership at the federal level,” Balkema said. “I would like to help Congress resolve some of these pressing financial issues that are facing our country.”
Balkema currently is in his second term on the Grundy County Board, representing District 2.
After moving to Channahon a few years ago from Peoria, he began to take an interest in how his community and schools were run.
He started attending village board and school board meetings and talking with others in Channahon and Minooka about local issues.
“As I became more aware of ways to serve the community,” he said, “I became interested in ensuring our kids the highest quality education, while also lowering the costs to taxpayers.”
Balkema was elected to the Minooka District 111 School Board in 2009 and served one term before leaving to devote his time to the county board.
He said his leadership skills from his 20 years at Caterpillar, where he currently is purchasing manager, along with his experience on the school and county boards, make him most qualified for Congress.
Using what he calls “process improvements,” Balkema said he was able to help make positive changes on both boards he has served.
During his time on the school board, Balkema said he participated in rolling out long-term strategic goals that improved education, while increasing fiscal responsibility. The district was able to streamline costs, he said, as a result.
On the Grundy County board, Balkema said he supported measures that resulted in board members’ mileage reimbursements being cut by about half, bringing them in line with federal standards.
He said he also worked to help get rid of what he called the “Cadillac-type health care plan” for board members who did not work full-time at their county positions.
“I didn’t think that was appropriate,” he said of taxpayers paying for the premiums of the board members. “I became very convicted that wasn’t right ... We saved around $200,000.”
Balkema said he believes he can make a positive difference at the federal level in Congress.
“I feel I’ve been given the gift of leadership and I would like to lead in Congress and help them resolve some of these financial issues,” he said. “I believe we can see a 1950s-era manufacturing boom in the country ... I also believe the corporate tax rate of 38 percent is way too high and that the individual tax rate is way too high.”
Balkema said he feels the country’s debt level should be reduced and that the government needs to realize it can’t spend more than its revenues.
He also hopes to help bring a more bipartisan attitude to the floor.
“All of us have certain beliefs and convictions and moral principles, but I believe we need to bring the sides together,” he said.
Balkema’s wife is Jill, and they have two sons, Luke and Max, and a Portuguese water dog named Bingo.
He said his free time is devoted to his family and activities with them, such as attending their basketball games and going boating and tubing on the river.
He said he loves living in Channahon and the area is perfect for raising a family.
“Channahon is a fantastic bedroom community,” he said. “It’s a wonderfully quiet community with lots of energy and activity.”
The Balkemas also attend Village Christian Church in Minooka.