Voters to decide Saverino-Gieser rematch in Carol Stream mayor's race

For the second time in 12 years, Carol Stream voters will see two familiar names at the top of the ballot on Tuesday.

Incumbent Mayor Frank Saverino is running for a fifth term against Rick Gieser in a rematch of their 2011 clash.

With several village department heads approaching retirement, Saverino has argued it's no time to change course. Saverino could match the longevity his predecessor enjoyed if he wins another four years in office. But he once again faces a well-known opponent in Gieser, a village trustee who promises a fresh perspective.

"Carol Stream is a great place," Gieser said, noting the village, which is projected to end the year with a $7 million surplus, has healthy finances. "But we can use some tweaks. We could use some modernization, and I think I'm the person to help lead us into the future."

Born and raised in Carol Stream - his parents still live in town - Gieser won his first trustee term in 2003. He's tried to bring environmental issues to the forefront, calling for a community solar farm and more bicycling paths. He's also campaigning on a message of unity.

"We need to do a better job of letting the community know and letting our diverse population know that they're part of the community too," Gieser, 59, said. "We need to do a better job of promoting businesses, promoting organizations and groups and letting them be part of the community as well."

In their last matchup, Saverino defeated Gieser by 422 votes. Gieser, at the time, gave up his position on the village board to run against Saverino but returned two years later. This time, Gieser can keep his trustee seat if Saverino prevails again.

"At the minimum, I'm offering choice to the residents, and I think that is a good thing," said Gieser, a publicist for Zanies Comedy Club. "If you look up and down the Carol Stream ballot if you're voting in Carol Stream, you're going to see there's not much choice."

Saverino says his professional experience sets him apart from his opponent. He owns a food brokerage company based in a Carol Stream industrial park. Saverino started the business in 1981 by selling coffee and his wife Bobbie's homemade sandwiches for vending machines out of the first floor of their house. The company now encompasses convenience store sales, vending and wholesale distribution.

"The way I run my business is the same way we try to run the village," Saverino said. "If you take in X amount of dollars, you spend less than what you take in. You always have to have money to take care of those hidden costs and hidden things that are going to happen."

As mayor, he's known for his tell-it-like-it-is style. Saverino, 78, started in local politics as a trustee for the Carol Stream Fire Protection District. Saverino was first elected mayor in 2007, replacing Ross Ferraro, who held the top post for 20 years.

"I've been the mayor for 16 years, and I have never had a problem with trying to get things done," Saverino said. "I would like to lead, but I will not make all the decisions on my own. Everybody on the board has input."

The village board voted in 2019 to establish a municipal property tax to help pay for rising police pension costs and a five-year infrastructure plan. The village's largest single revenue source is still sales tax dollars. Saverino doesn't foresee the village having to raise taxes.

"When you look at what we charge, that $3.8 million is such a small amount compared to everybody else around us," Saverino said of the village's property tax levy.

Since January, Saverino has financed his campaign with $14,000 from his own pocket, state filings show. Saverino has said that this is his last reelection bid.

Gieser reported receiving two major donations in February: $2,500 from the LiUNA Chicago Laborers' District Council political action committee and $1,000 from the IBEW Local 701 PAC.

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