Decision time: Big mayoral races on the ballot in Elgin, Naperville
Suburban voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide who should run some of the region's biggest towns.
In Elgin, voters will choose whether to grant a fourth term to Mayor Dave Kaptain or pass the baton to city council member Corey Dixon, who is hoping to become the city's first Black mayor. In Naperville, voters will be selecting the first new mayor to lead the city in eight years. And in the shopping destination town of Oak Brook, there is no incumbent running for village president.
Here's a look at those marquee races.
Kaptain is facing a tough reelection challenge from Dixon.
Both born and raised in Elgin, the two candidates view the replacement of lead pipes as the most important infrastructure project in the state's sixth-largest city. Elgin has roughly 13,000 lead service lines. Because of a state mandate, the city has 40 years to replace all the lines at an estimated total cost of more than $135 million.
Kaptain and Dixon have gone toe-to-toe over downtown development, the city's council-manager form of government and their opposing visions for roughly 38 acres of prime real estate located north, east and south of the Gail Borden Public Library near the Fox River.
Dixon argues the city should take a more aggressive role in business recruitment. He would focus on creating an entertainment hub and adding more dining options in downtown Elgin.
"Now, downtown is much better than it was even two years ago or four years ago, and so we're headed in the right direction," Dixon said. "But we just have not been able to get over the hump. Now, I believe that we can get over the hump, but we have to be intentional about what we want. We can't wait on the market to determine what comes into our community."
Kaptain touts housing developments that have made the downtown area more residential.
"We have to merge the people that are living downtown and their quality of life with the people that want to come downtown for the afternoon or the evening, and that's part of the plan," Kaptain said. "That plan was to bring more residential down there, and we've literally added hundreds and hundreds of residential units the last 20 years. I think that's a pretty significant change."
Dixon, 40, works for the Kane County Sheriff's Office as an administrator. Some of the biggest contributions to Dixon's campaign last month included $11,500 from the Realtors Political Action Committee, $1,500 from Steven Hovany, a housing consultant, and $1,000 each from the IBEW Illinois PAC and Maybach International Group, a logistics company, state filings show.
Kaptain, 75, is a retired chemist at the Fox River Water Reclamation District. His campaign reported receiving $1,000 each from McGrath Honda and Bob Tzotzolis, whose family owns Elgin Fresh Market, along with a $27,000 loan from his wife in March.
For the first time in 12 years, voters won't find Gopal Lalmalani's name on the ballot for village president.
Three village trustees are facing off to succeed him: Asif Yusuf, A. Suresh Reddy and Laurence Herman. Lalmalani, who chose to step aside rather than seek an unprecedented fourth term, has endorsed Herman, president of an Oak Brook-based insurance company and a former tax attorney.
The redevelopment of McDonald's former corporate campus looms large. Ace Hardware has signed a lease to move its corporate headquarters into the old McDonald's executive building. A portion of the heavily wooded site is zoned for residential.
"The one thing I would definitely not want there is apartments," said Reddy, a physician, during a forum hosted by the Oak Brook Homeowners Association.
Designed by renowned architect Dirk Lohan, the campus was sold to self-made billionaire John Paul DeJoria in 2019.
"That is a gorgeous campus and whatever happens to it cannot destroy the ambience and the natural beauty that exists today," Herman told the Daily Herald. "The people that bought that from McDonald's that are currently looking to redevelop it have informally approached the village on multiple occasions with a lot of proposals that are dead on arrival because of the intensity with which they want to develop it."
As Oak Brook faces an aging population, Herman is receptive to one type of housing on the campus: empty nester.
"But any such proposal would have to be totally in keeping with the natural beauty that parcel has," he said. "Nothing can destroy that."
Yusuf wants it to remain an office campus, though he's open to a "limited amount of ancillary retail there."
"We need to work closely with the owners to try and attract additional commercial tenants," said Yusuf, who works in real estate.
The candidates also have pledged to do all they can to keep Oak Brook in a select group of Illinois communities that do not levy a municipal property tax. The village instead relies almost entirely on sales tax revenue from the Oak Brook Center mall and other commercial properties to pay for municipal operations.
Three hopefuls -- Scott Wehrli, Benny White and Tiffany Stephens -- are vying to replace Mayor Steve Chirico, who announced last year he wouldn't run for a third term leading the city of 149,000.
White, a city councilman, and Wehrli have clashed over Naperville's ban on the sale of certain types of high-powered rifles. White voted with the council majority in supporting the gun sale ban in response to the Highland Park mass shooting and other massacres.
"The No. 1 responsibility for any elected official is the health and welfare of their community, and that is what really drove that decision," White said. "Now, will this stop the next thing from happening? ... One thing we will be able to say is that we made it a little bit tougher."
A gun shop owner and the National Association for Gun Rights filed a lawsuit over the legality of the local ordinance. A federal judge in February rejected a request for a temporary restraining order seeking to block enforcement.
"Do any of us feel safer since July of 2022 since this ordinance was passed? And I don't think anybody could say, honestly, that we are any safer than we were in July of 2022," Wehrli said.
White, a West Point graduate and retired Army officer who has lived in Naperville for 17 years, runs the Junior ROTC program as a department head at Joliet West High School. He has two years left on his current council term. He also is a former Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board member and a former member of the city's fire and police board.
Wehrli is a lifelong Naperville resident. He runs the family-owned Dukane Precast construction company and has worked part-time with the Naperville Park District police for many years. While Wehrli hasn't run for public office before, he's been involved with city government for nearly 30 years as a Naperville liquor commissioner.
Stephens overcame a court challenge to her candidacy over residency issues. She founded the Caring for Childhood Daycare and Kids Teen Rider, a nonprofit that provides transportation to children in need.
• Daily Herald staff writers Rick West and Kevin Schmit contributed to this report