For the second election in a row, a three-person slate of candidates stressing fiscal restraint and increased transparency in government will be seated on the Glen Ellyn Park District board.
Voters on Tuesday selected Richard Dunn, Kathy Cornell and Gary Mayo for the three available positions on the seven-member board. They join Melissa Creech, Jay Kinzler and Julia Nephew, who defeated three incumbents in the 2009 election, and holdover Ron Aubrey.
This time around, a 12-year board veteran, Ed Hess, was unseated. He finished last in a five-person race with 1,047 votes.
Dunn was the top vote-getter with 1,826, followed by Cornell (1,820), Mayo (1,786) and Catherine Galvin (1,470), according to unofficial results.
In the past two years, board meetings often have been contentious, with Hess butting heads with Creech, Kinzler and Nephew over budgetary issues and park projects. Even some usually routine matters have led to heated exchanges, often resulting in 4-3 decisions.
Hess' slim majority has included Aubrey, William Dallman and Sandy Minogue. Dallman and Minogue did not seek re-election.
In the wake of Tuesday's election, the direction of the board, especially on fiscal issues, almost certainly will shift.
"The previous boards have spent a lot of money and racked up a lot of debt," Mayo said. "We felt that was an unsustainable path and we wanted to move in a new direction."
Dunn said the election was a referendum on some of the actions of the previous board, including approval of added amenities at the Ackerman Sports and Fitness Center that led to about $4 million in added costs, and borrowing to balance annual budgets. On issues involving the district's finances and improved transparency, Dunn said he expects those elected this year and in 2009 to agree.
"Where they stand for balanced budgets, careful scrutiny of projects, and opportunity for citizens to review, then I think we'll probably be voting together," Dunn said.
Cornell said dealing with the district's debt is a "super priority" for the newcomers.
But even in defeat, Hess still argues the district's finances are in order. He says the winning candidates were able to get voters to the polls by emphasizing "negative" issues that he believes "are not for real."
"When people are happy with what's going on and they're happy with all the facilities and programs we have, they're not as motivated to vote as people that have been stirred up by controversy," Hess said. "I think that's what happened. My opponents got the vote out and motivated with perceived issues."
Hess said much of the controversy that has existed over the past two years should be gone, which would be a good thing for the park district. But he also said it's better if there are a variety of opinions on the board.
"It's their ball now. There are no more excuses of saying, 'I got voted down 4-3.' Now it's theirs and they have ownership of everything," Hess said. "They're going have to make their own decisions and stand by them."
Meanwhile, Aubrey, who has been on the board since 2003, said he looked at the election of the new board members as an opportunity for change, and "change can be good."
"I think it's incumbent upon me to listen and observe what it is they want to focus on at first, then think what I can do to make it reality. If it's the right thing to do for the people I serve, then I should be for it," Aubrey said. "I look forward to more common ground."