Wehrli tops White in Naperville mayoral race
Naperville voters chose a political newcomer with a familiar name as their next mayor.
Scott Wehrli, a lifelong Naperville resident with deep family roots in the community, edged two-term city councilman Benny White in Tuesday's race to replace Mayor Steve Chirico, who chose not to run for a third term.
Wehrli had 15,634 votes compared to White's 13,265 votes as of 10:30 p.m., according to unofficial results.
Tiffany Stephens, who runs a nonprofit organization, was a distant third to White and Wehrl.
Wehrli had never run for political office before. He's led a family-owned construction business, Dukane Precast, has been a member of the city's liquor commission for decades and works part-time for the Naperville Park District police.
While acknowledging and embracing his lack of political experience, Wehrli said his time with law enforcement and on the liquor commission prepared him to be mayor.
Wehrli's family has been in Naperville since the 1840s. Scott Wehrli's first cousins, Grant and Mary Lou, served, respectively, as a former state representative and Naperville Park District board member.
Addressing supporters Tuesday night, Wehrli said he'd spoken to White, who wished him well.
"This has been quite a year," Wehrli said. "I am blessed to call Naperville my home."
Wehrli, 53, held off a challenge from White, a retired Army officer who heads the Junior ROTC program at Joliet West High School. White was an Indian Prairie Unit District 204 school board member and served on the city's board of fire and police commissioners before being elected as a city councilman in 2017 and earning reelection in 2021.
The two candidates participated in numerous forums to discuss their shared priorities of public safety, economic development and sound governance.
One notable difference regarded the city's ordinance banning the sale of certain high-powered weapons. White defended his vote to approve the local law, while Wehrli questioned the law's effectiveness.
In terms of public safety in general, Wehrli said his experience with the park district police offered him a unique perspective. Wehrli's concerns included the rising number of illegal guns being seized by police, citing that as evidence criminals are entering the city at disturbing rates.
The two candidates agreed the economic progress seen downtown and in the northern part of Naperville needs to be spread elsewhere in the city.
Wehrli said he'd target underperforming assets throughout the city, but especially in southern Naperville because of the fewer commercial properties in that region compared to downtown and northern Naperville.
Bridging the growing partisan gap in the city was another campaign issue for the candidates.
Wehrli said one of the top concerns he heard from residents while knocking on doors was the increasing partisan rhetoric in the city. He said compromise may not make everyone happy, but it's the best way to keep the city moving forward.
Wehrli, who has a wife, Lynda, and two children, graduated from Naperville Central and North Central College in Naperville.
When he's sworn in later this month, Wehrli will become just the third Naperville mayor since 1995.
"Fifty-three years ago, I was an adopted kid from Chicago and got brought to a place called Naperville by two loving parents," Wehrli said. "And I got thrust into this amazing Wehrli family."