Bongard credits drive to improve Charlestowne Mall with St. Charles city council win
Ryan Bongard received more votes and won by a wider margin than any of the other four candidates who claimed city council seats in last week's consolidated election in St. Charles.
Bongard and his opponent, longtime 2nd Ward Alderman Art Lemke, agreed the beleaguered Charlestowne Mall in the southeast corner of the ward was a deciding factor for voters.
While Bongard, the challenger who also ran in 2019, stressed being aggressive in finding an answer for the mostly vacant site, Lemke tempered expectations by saying he's one of 10 voices on the St. Charles city council and there's only so much that can be done while dealing with the mall owners.
Voters were swayed by Bongard's message. He received 64% of the 898 ballots cast for the 2nd Ward race.
"The mall is the elephant in the corner of the room," Bongard said. "And I get that the city doesn't own the mall, but there's ways to get the owners of the mall and the involved parties together. Let's get creative and think outside the box."
Lemke, who has served a total of five terms as 2nd Ward alderman, acknowledged the results served as a referendum on Charlestowne Mall.
"People have said I was scalded with that, and that's OK," Lemke said. "I've been scalded before. But the citizens have to put that in perspective. No one person can fix that problem."
When Bongard is sworn in at the May 3 city council meeting, he knows he'll need to strike a balance between the needs of the 2nd Ward and the needs of the entire city. But he said he believes the future of Charlestowne Mall should be a priority for all of St. Charles.
"I'd be lying if I said I won't be looking at things in terms of how they'll impact the 2nd Ward," Bongard said. "But your responsibility is certainly to the entire city, first and foremost.
"Whatever is decided on, there's a chain reaction throughout the city," he said. "What you figure out with the mall, everything's just going to build off it."