by Randy Pierce
MADISON COUNTY — Subsequent to her appointment being approved last month, Jennifer Korte is expected to be attending her first meeting as the newest member of the Madison County Mental Health Board this week.
That meeting, to be held at St. John’s Community Care, 222 Goethe Avenue in Collinsville, Thursday, November 16, at 4 p.m., has an agenda which includes funding approval for participation by board members and staff to attend a statewide conference next month and for two members of the staff to attending a national conference in February.
Korte’s road to this position was not a smooth one, the appointment having surfaced in early October,
before the Madison County Board Government Relations Committee, chaired by Stacey Pace of Troy, after it was postponed from the previous month.
Proposed by Madison County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler to fill an open position created as a result of the resignation of The Rev. John Pawelchak from the mental health board, with a term to expire at the end of 2025, the appointment of Korte was adamantly opposed by one of the committee members, Alison Lamothe of Edwardsville.
In that Korte earned a bachelor’s then a master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and St. Louis University, respectively, then worked in the field of drug abuse, mental illness and neurological impairments until 2005, according to Lamothe, she commented, “I do wonder what she’s done in the 18 years since she’s not worked in her profession to remain current in her field,” also remarking that there have been many changes in this area since then.
Stating she has heard from “several constituents” opposed to the appointment which she considers political in nature, Lamothe continued to elaborate by pointing out Republican Korte made an unsuccessful run against the incumbent Illinois 112th district state representative, Katie Stuart, a Democrat, in 2022.
The comments by Lamothe went on to address what she characterized as Korte “has never stopped campaigning” against Stuart since that election, frequently sharing social media posts questioning, objecting to and disputing matters related to the incumbent state legislator.
After Lamothe’s citing specific examples of what she was referencing regarding Korte, Prenzler interjected that the latter was simply exercising her rights related to freedom of speech.
Lamothe, in turn, disagreed with that statement, saying Korte has publicly exhibited biases which justifies opposition to her placement on the mental health board.
County board member Terry Eaker of Bethalto commented it was his understanding Korte has spent the 18 years referred to by Lamothe as an at-home mother. Responding she does not object to that, Lamothe reiterated her concern about what Korte has done during that time to stay current on mental health issues.
Dalton Gray wondered if it was Korte’s political views or how she expresses them that causes Lamothe’s objections. She answered that the party affiliation of the proposed appointee “had nothing to do with” how she felt about her taking this board position.
Two others present, Mike Babcock of Bethalto and Jason Palmero of Glen Carbon, commented they had positive conversations with Korte then the latter of the two men said, “Whether people have conservative views or liberal views, I don’t think that stops them from becoming committee members.”
When the appointment of Korte was advanced to the full county board, Lamothe was joined by Michael “Doc” Holliday and Bill Stoutenborough, both of Alton, Shawndell Williams of Granite City and Victor Valentine of Edwardsville in opposing it while Pace, Babcock, Eaker, Gray, Palmero, Frank Dickerson of Worden, Mick Madison of Bethalto, Valerie Doucleff and Michael Turner, both of Godfrey, Robert Pollard and Matt King, both of East Alton, Bob Meyer, Nick Petrillo and Denise Wiehardt, all of Granite City, Ryan Kneedler and Paul Nicolussi, both of Collinsville, Charles “Skip” Schmidt of Edwardsville and Chris Guy of Maryville supported it.
At that time, Lamothe repeated some of the statements she had made at the committee level and said Korte “has made herself a self-appointed watchdog of all things Katie Stuart.”
Lamothe further accused Korte of “fueling fear and hate mongering” in regard to the conflict in the Middle East and also making anti-transgender comments in social media posts.
When Eaker said, “I laud (Korte) for standing up against Katie Stuart” and mentioned political favoritism concerning the governor, Prenzler said he did not feel it was appropriate to make comments about others than the appointee in this situation.
Dickerson said he respects Korte’s personal rights then Gray called her a “good person” while adding, “Anybody can take social media comments out of context.”
Prior to all of this and the final vote of approval, Korte had addressed the county board under the public comment segment of the October meeting, sharing her feelings about how mental health can affect everyone and is not a partisan issue, adding that she was present at the September meeting of the group she has been appointed to and was “impressed by the passion and dedication of” its members, describing them as diverse with various professional backgrounds.
Korte further said she had a lot to contribute to the mental health board based on her background as a social worker and personal experience along with having professional interaction with the developmentally disabled plus persons with drug/substance abuse problems and other mental issues.