Candidates expect hard-fought battle in four-way Mundelein mayoral race
When Mundelein Mayor Steve Lentz won his second term in 2017, he defeated two rivals, finishing with a mere five-vote margin over the second-place finisher.
In next spring's local election, he'll have three experienced challengers -- village trustees Dawn Abernathy and Robin Meier, and Mundelein High School District 120 board member Thomas Ouimet.
The candidates expect it'll be another hotly contested political battle resulting in significant voter turnout.
"Voter turnout is essential in a four-way race," Meier said.
Mundelein's mayor's office, the clerk's office and three trustee seats will be on the ballot. All the races are contested.
Lentz was first elected mayor in 2013 after four years as a trustee. He won a three-way race in 2013, defeating Meier and Mundelein Park and Recreation District board member Wally Frasier.
Four years later, Lentz narrowly defeated Holly Kim to retain his post. Ray Ladewig finished third.
Lentz said he's seeking a third term "to keep Mundelein moving forward on a quick pace."
"We have initiatives on multiple fronts, and I want to usher in those changes without interruption," Lentz said.
Current village projects include a $10 million flood-control effort and the construction of a park and stormwater detention pond on Courtland Street. The efforts were prompted by a devastating 2017 flood.
Lentz called resolving Mundelein's flooding issues the biggest challenge of his current term.
"I worked with trustees to build a consensus ... to immediately solve this problem," Lentz said. "This was swift action in a short amount of time, and (it) was a huge and impressive accomplishment."
If reelected, Lentz said his third term likely will be his last.
Abernathy, a trustee since 2013, voiced concern about what she sees as fiscal irresponsibility at village hall. In recent years, she voted against spending nearly $348,000 for new gateway signs, opposed a $1 million expenditure to create a public park on the northeast shore of Diamond Lake, and opposed buying the properties needed for that project.
Abernathy repeatedly has voted against increasing the village's property tax levy, as has Meier.
"We gave back furlough days to the employees because we received pandemic funding from the government, yet we still raised taxes on the residents," said Abernathy, who unsuccessfully ran for the state House in 2016. "This is egregious."
Abernathy said she'd propose term limits for local officials -- eight years for mayor and 12 years for trustees.
Meier served as trustee from 2008 to 2015 and rejoined the board in 2017. When she ran for mayor in 2013, she finished third.
Meier said she'd make "common sense" fiscal decisions and support responsible development. She pledged to improve communication from the mayor's office to residents and business owners.
"I have a proven ability to listen, to clearly communicate information ... and to work collaboratively with a wide range of residents and businesses," Meier said. "I want everyone in Mundelein to realize that they have a say in the future of our community."
Meier touted the study she led into the possible uses of the old village hall on Hawley Street as her biggest accomplishment as trustee.
"It was on time (and had) no cost," she said.
Even so, Meier eventually opposed the plan to sell the property to a commercial developer for $1 and to offer more than $1 million in financial incentives. She called those incentives "excessive."
Ouimet was elected to the District 120 board in 2017 and is the panel's vice president. He also served on Mundelein's economic development commission.
A former small business owner, Ouimet said the village needs "fresh perspective," especially when it comes to the business community.
Ouimet believes the candidate field is crowded because people are losing confidence in the current administration. He thinks a four-way race is good for voters.
"This year, Mundelein residents won't have to choose between the lesser of two evils," Ouimet said. "Through this election, their voices will be heard."
As for Mundelein's other races, seven candidates are running for trustee and three are running for clerk.
The trustee hopefuls are Sol Cabachuela, Willie Davismckennie, Ray Mullen, Edith Reese, Jenny Ross, Angela Trillhaase and Tim Wilson. The clerk candidates are Heather Mullen-Gaschler, Karen Walsh and Lisa Willems.