Lake County mayoral elections to watch for on April 6
Voters in many Lake County suburbs will go to the polls Tuesday to pick their village or city's top elected official. Of the 42 mayoral or village president seats up for election in Lake County, 17 are contested. Here's a recap of six generating the most buzz:
The race for mayor in Mundelein has been a rough-and-tumble affair, with two-term incumbent Steve Lentz battling challenges from three veteran politicians.
Village trustees Robin Meier and Dawn Abernathy and Mundelein High School District 120 board member Tom Ouimet each are hoping to take down Lentz, who won reelection in 2017 by only five votes.
Lentz has campaigned on the progress Mundelein has made during his tenure, particularly redevelopment efforts in the downtown area and a current $9 million flood-relief project in an older neighborhood near Route 45 and Division Street that was prompted by a costly 2017 flood.
Abernathy has attacked Lentz over spending, particularly the cost of an ultimately scrapped plan to build a park on the eastern shore of Diamond Lake. Meier assailed that plan, too. And both she and Abernathy have said there isn't enough transparency in local government, something Lentz strongly denied.
Ouimet has criticized Lentz and the board over the residential-heavy redevelopment projects in the downtown area.
Incumbent Tom Poynton is seeking a third term as Lake Zurich's top elected leader. Running on his record, he touts the village's stabilized finances which include a balanced budget, a 28% reduction in inherited village debt and a AAA bond rating.
Poynton is being challenged by Jeffrey Halen, who served two terms as a trustee before unsuccessful village board bids in 2017 and 2019. Halen says if elected he would improve the village's infrastructure and enable downtown development. During the campaign, Halen has produced videos promoting Lake Zurich businesses and says if elected he will work with a task force to fill empty storefronts and help existing businesses struggling from the pandemic.
Poynton is running at the top of the Lake Zurich Forward Slate. The group includes incumbent Village Clerk Kathleen Johnson and the two incumbent village board members up for reelection. Halen is supported by current board member Janice Gannon, who ran on a slate with Halen in 2019.
With Mayor Kristina Kovarik not pursuing a fifth term, Gurnee voters Tuesday will choose between two attorneys to serve as her successor: Tom Hood, whose decades of experience in village government include eight years as a trustee, and David Weinstein, a Woodland Elementary District 50 school board member since 2019.
Weinstein, an attorney for 30 years, said if elected he would do everything in his power -- including shutting down Vantage Specialty Chemicals in Gurnee -- to eliminate ethylene oxide, a colorless cancer-causing gas -- from village air.
Hood is running on his long experience in village government and has Kovarik's endorsement. He said he will be proactive on ETO and other environmental issues, but that attempts to shut Vantage down would expose the village to costly litigation and run counter to the advice of attorneys.
Longtime incumbent Larry Hanson, who served 14 years as village trustee before being elected Antioch mayor in 2009, is seeking a fourth term. He faces attorney and entrepreneur Scott Gartner and Stacy Ellis, the widow of Illinois State Trooper Gerald "Jerry" Ellis, who was killed two years ago by a drunken driver.
Hanson, a lifelong resident, cited the village's strong financial position, influx of new businesses and downtown programs as "real results" of experience.
Ellis has called for more transparency, responsiveness and accountability in local government.
Gartner said it's time for a change at the top, adding the village needs to develop a foundation that entices visitors and businesses downtown.
Whatever the outcome Tuesday, Wauconda will have a new mayor as incumbent Lincoln Knight is not seeking reelection but instead is running for Wauconda Township supervisor.
Current village Trustee Jeff Sode is pursuing the top spot and is being challenged by Sandra Jo McClain, a social worker making her first run at public office.
Sode, a vice president of special projects for engineering construction firm ThermFlo Inc., noted the village's ongoing implementation of a long-range strategic plan. He said the village has made progress on a number of fronts and he wants to continue to help guide that growth.
McClain said she has been immersed in work, volunteer and other activities in town for 18 years. She said residents' voices are not being heard at village hall and wants to bridge the gap.
Sode is in the middle of his term, so if he loses he will remain on the board.
In Vernon Hills, incumbent Mayor Roger Byrne is running for an eighth term after 27 consecutive years in office. He's being challenged by Brian Lohse, a real estate attorney seeking his first elected office.
Byrne had considered making the current term his last. But he shifted gears saying there is ongoing work, mainly the planned $250 million redevelopment of Hawthorn Mall, he'd like to see through.
Lohse, who has a range of business, real estate and legal experience, wants to bring a fresh perspective and new voice to local government. He says he doesn't minimize the achievements of those who have made Vernon Hills a top place to live but wants to build and improve on what's in place.
• Daily Herald staff writers Russell Lissau and Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.