There will be at least six new faces in the mayoral fraternity in DuPage County after Tuesday’s election, and possibly more.
The April 9 ballot features four contested mayoral races without an incumbent as well as two uncontested races in which newcomers are guaranteed seats.
In Addison, Rich Veenstra, the village’s deputy mayor, is running unopposed to replace Larry Hartwig, who is stepping down after 19 years.
Alex Demos, a Glen Ellyn business owner, also is running unopposed for village president after incumbent Mark Pfefferman decided not to seek another term, per town tradition.
Meanwhile, four incumbent mayors — Tom Weisner in Aurora, Jeff Pruyn in Itasca, Joe Broda in Lisle and Tony Ragucci in Oakbrook Terrace — are unopposed in their bids for another term.
Here’s a look at how contested races for mayor are shaping up in DuPage:
Incumbent Frank Soto is facing one-time political ally Oronzo Peconio and park board member Rich Johnson.
Soto, who unseated 24-year incumbent Village President John Geils in 2009, says Bensenville has come a long way since then, garnering the highest sales tax revenues in the village’s history with 152 new businesses locating there in 2012.
Peconio, a village trustee who ran on Soto’s slate in 2009, says Soto’s administration started well but later “got off the wagon,” due to high salaries for village management and lagging economic development downtown and along Irving Park Road.
Johnson, a 12-year member of the Bensenville Park District board, is not running as part of a slate like Soto and Peconio, and said he would bring “a level of choice to this election.” His opponents have tried to tie him to Geils, since Johnson’s wife, Patti, was on the village board when Geils was village president.
Former state Rep. Franco Coladipietro is taking on 20-year incumbent Bob Iden for the top spot in Bloomingdale after deciding last year not to seek re-election to the state House.
Coladipietro says the village has become “stagnant” in business growth and should be more proactive in attracting developers. He said he has “the energy and a balanced array of business, community and legislative connections to steer” the village forward.
But Iden said he regularly meets with owners and general managers of Indian Lakes and Stratford Square Mall, as well as restaurant owners in town. He also said Wal-Mart wants to expand.
Iden also touted his involvement with major players throughout the region during his time as chairman of the DuPage Regional Planning Commission, president of the DuPage County Mayors and Managers Conference, and executive board member on the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus.
Linda Jackson, the longest-serving village president in Glendale Heights history after 15 years, is facing challenges from former village Trustee Ed Pope and former Queen Bee Elementary District 16 school board member Marilyn Liwanag.
Jackson says the village has improved since she’s taken office, with construction of a senior center, upgrades to the village’s sports hub and aquatic center, and new businesses like Valli Produce and car dealerships.
Pope, a village trustee for 10 years until he lost in the 2011 election, says he’s shared a similar vision to Jackson’s but promises to be more aggressive in attracting big-box retailers and other businesses to North Avenue.
Liwanag, a school board member for 12 years, said she would bring a “new vision” to the village. She’s proposed an initiative to encourage businesses to employ qualified village residents in an attempt to combat high unemployment.
Three candidates are running to become the next village president of Lombard following the death of William Mueller last August. Trustee Keith Giagnorio faces former York Township Trustee Moon Khan and former DuPage County Treasurer John Lotus Novak.
Giagnorio said he would be able to “hit the ground running” as village president and bring unity to a board that has been divided since Mueller’s death. Giagnorio has sided on the board with trustees Greg Gron and Bill Ware against trustees Peter Breen, Laura Fitzpatrick and Zachary Wilson.
Khan said he would bring diversity to Lombard’s all-white village board and stop the “obscene fighting” going on among village board factions.
Novak, who served three decades as the county treasurer, said he entered the race after witnessing trustees’ inability to choose temporary leadership for more than a month after Mueller’s death. He said he would be in a “strong position to do something about the current dysfunction” of the village board.
Longtime incumbent Village President Gayle Smolinski is facing three challengers in her bid for a sixth term.
Smolinski said she’s worked hard to boost the village’s downtown and touted the addition of a Starbucks in recent years. She says it’s been “a balancing act of keeping the small-town feel, keeping the community that people move to town for, and yet growing our own economy, the way we look, and the way we do business.”
Political newcomer James Banks, an attorney and former Chicago police officer, said the village should be more proactive in attracting businesses.
Also making his first run for office is Jim Schelling, a territory manager with Rochester-Midland Corp., who said residents have told him their No. 1 complaint is the lack of downtown development.
Village Trustee Ronald Baker also is running for village president, but has not returned calls or emails seeking details about his candidacy.
Trustee Deborah Bullwinkel is facing former Villa Park Police Chief John Heidelmeier in the race to replace Tom Cullerton, who was elected to the state Senate.
Heidelmeier was chief for two years before he and the village board reached a settlement agreement that allowed him to retire in January 2012. A memo obtained by the Daily Herald indicates Village Manager Rich Keehner sought to fire Heidelmeier for providing incorrect information to some police employees regarding upcoming changes to their duties.
Another memo lists what Keehner called “weaknesses” with the department under Heidelmeier’s leadership, including improper management of cash and weapons in the evidence room, “unrestricted access” to the police station for a felon and failure to properly handle a complaint of excessive force against an officer.
Heidelmeier has declined to comment on his termination due to a nondisclosure agreement.
Meanwhile, photos of Heidelmeier that had been posted on a pornographic video-chat website surfaced last month, forcing him to apologize publicly for what he called a “personally embarrassing” image.
The 23-year police department veteran said he is a proven leader with a talent for building relationships and rallying groups around a shared vision.
Bullwinkel said she is an “inclusive leader” and “big-picture thinker” who would create a detailed plan for progress and keep the community informed.
David Brummel, Warrenville’s mayor since 2005, is facing a challenge from Michael Hoffmann, a semiretired electrician who says he was motivated to run because of the threat of flooding in town.
Hoffman said he believes Warrenville’s flooding is partially caused by Fawell Dam in the McDowell Grove Forest Preserve near Naperville and believes it should be removed. He said if elected he would push for a study on what would happen to flood elevations in the city if the dam were removed.
But Brummel says the dam doesn’t need to be removed, and there’s currently a list of projects on which the city and county are working to alleviate flooding.
Three candidates are seeking to become mayor of West Chicago following the death of Mike Kwasman.
Ruben Pineda, who was appointed acting mayor in May after 15 years as alderman, is the city’s first Hispanic mayor in a town where just over half of residents are Hispanic. He said he believes the evolution of more Hispanic leaders could help bridge the divide between the Hispanic and Caucasian populations in town. He said some residents — particularly seniors — don’t see him as Hispanic, but as someone “who’s lived here for 52 years and done a lot for the community.”
Alderman Nicholas Dzierzanowski said he believes the town isn’t racially divided, “except for a few individuals who have racist overtones, but I certainly don’t have them.” He did say there are still some places in the city he feels unwelcome, especially “Mexican markets” in the city’s downtown because their signs are only in Spanish.
Former Alderman Wayne Woodward said he still believes there’s a divide, though he’s been helpful to anyone who has called for his assistance.
Trustee Erik Spande is taking on newcomer Rob Hanlon in a race to replace incumbent Deborah Birutis, who, citing the prevalence of conflict on the board between two factions, decided not to seek re-election. She has endorsed Spande, a member of the Winfield United slate appointed to the board in 2011.
Spande previously opposed the rezoning of Roosevelt Road for commercial development but said he wouldn’t try to rezone back to residential if elected and the rezoning is upheld in court.
Hanlon, the chief information officer with an Oak Brook-based company, said he’s committed to “removing barriers to progress” in developing business along Roosevelt.
Both candidates agree commercial redevelopment on Roosevelt shouldn’t happen until after the village updates its comprehensive plan.
Spande has proposed increasing fees and bringing back the village’s long-dead vehicle sticker program to generate money for road repairs. Hanlon said he opposes vehicle stickers or raising property taxes, insisting that “the answers exist within the resources we have.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.