Plenty to watch with Fox Valley mayoral elections
From Huntley to Aurora, there's no shortage of key Fox Valley mayoral races heading into Tuesday's election. Here's a look at some:
Kevin Burns is seeking a fifth term as mayor in a rematch against former alderman Tom Simonian, whom he defeated in 2017.
Simonian proposes changes to the way Geneva government is run, including having more department heads report to the mayor and city council as appointees, rather than to the city administrator. He wants to set up a budget and finance committee that would include private citizens to examine what he has called the "bloated" budget and suggest cuts. And he says Burns' didn't communicate well with, or do much for, businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, including restaurants. He has also said that Burns favored having businesses that disobeyed the governor's closure orders ticketed.
Burns has pointed proudly to what Geneva has done during his tenure, including projects such as adding a third level to the commuter parking deck. He defends the city's finances, noting that for the past four years the council has approved budgets unanimously. He disputes Simonian's COVID-19-related claims, saying he only raised the ticket idea for discussion by the council because he had received questions about what the city was doing to stop the spread of the virus.
With the retirement of two-term mayor Ray Rogina, St. Charles is poised to elect its second female mayor -- the first was Sue Klinkhamer -- when voters decide between Ward 4 Alderman Lora Vitek and Ward 5 Alderman Maureen Lewis.
At least three new aldermen also will be voted in on Tuesday. Add in the retirement next month of longtime City Administrator Mark Koenen and the continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges for the incoming mayor are many.
Lewis has served on the city council for 10 years while Vitek was elected in 2017. Both are steeped in community involvement, from Lewis' work with America in Bloom to Vitek chairing the St. Charles Initiative that's raising funds for the 1st Street Plaza project.
Among the issues that arose during the campaign was the future of the historic Municipal Building. While Vitek wants to have "tough discussions" about expanding usage of the seat of city government to allow more residents to access the facility, Lewis has been consistently against any redeveloping or repurposing of the building that was a gift to the city in 1940.
Two challengers are vying to unseat Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, saying they disagree with the incumbent's leadership style and believe the city needs new direction.
Development has been a top priority for the first-term mayor, who says his administration has spurred growth and revitalized properties in the city's downtown and beyond through the creation of an economic team, the use of incentives and other mechanisms.
But challengers Judd Lofchie, a 10th Ward alderman, and John Laesch, a former East Aurora Unit District 131 school board member, say the city can do better.
Lofchie, a lawyer and real estate broker, accused Irvin of being too selective toward certain businesses and projects. He encouraged flexibility in zoning regulations and said he would "bend over backward" to get businesses open.
Laesch, a union carpenter and community activist, touted the economic and environmental benefits of transforming Aurora into an energy-efficient city.
The two candidates for West Dundee village president offer vastly different options for voters.
Chris Nelson, a director of government and regulatory affairs with Comcast, is a two-term incumbent while self-employed opponent Joseph Connell is a political newcomer and lifelong West Dundee resident.
Nelson wants to continue the work he's done over the last eight years while securing $275 million in private investment for the village since he took office. Knowing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the poor financial shape of Spring Hill Mall, Nelson recognizes the need to look beyond retail for revenue.
Connell is less specific about his development goals but says one way village government can save residents money is to eliminate red-light cameras and the accompanying fines. He argues the village doesn't need the cameras and can find revenue elsewhere.
Regardless of which candidate East Dundee voters choose as village president on Tuesday, incumbent Lael Miller and challenger Jeff Lynam both offer decades of experience with the village.
Miller, an owner of the Midwest Retro shop in downtown East Dundee, has served as village president for two terms and guided East Dundee through many of its ongoing development projects. Lynam, a four-term trustee and retired financial analyst, agrees with Miller on many issues but believes the village could do a better job expanding its downtown area to the south and would benefit from building a parking garage.
While Miller also sees downtown as important, he stresses the need to look at the entire village's developmental potential, especially the vast acreage south of Route 72.
Longtime incumbent Mayor Chuck Sass faces a challenge -- the first in 20 years -- from two-term village Trustee Timothy Hoeft.
Both are lifelong village residents with long records of serving the community.
Sass, who previously served four years as trustee, hopes to secure one more term from voters. "There are still some things I'd like to get done in the village," he said.
Hoeft, an engineer and excavation contractor, has served as trustee since 2015. He was appointed by Sass to the village's zoning board in 2011 and later served on the plan commission.
Hoeft feels it's time for new leadership and that his business experience will be an asset.
"Our end goal for town is probably real close. We just probably have two different pathways of how to get there," Hoeft said.
• Staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy, Lauren Rohr and Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report.