By Jeff Vorva
It could be apathy. It could be a strong satisfaction with how the city is being run.
Either way, it's been a long stretch between 100 percent uncontested races during a mayoralyear election in Palos Heights.
Shortly after Palos Heights was incorporated in 1959, the first municipal election was held. On June 6 of that year, 647 voters showed up and Z Erol Smith was elected as mayor and was unopposed. Legend has it that he told people "No one else wanted the job." That year a clerk, treasurer and eight aldermen were elected and they, too, were unopposed.
Since that time, 53 years have passed and there have been 13 more mayor/aldermen elections with at least two of the positions up for grabs.
The 14th election, however, harkens back to the Z Erol-era. The April 9 election features all seven slots available on the council uncontested.
Incumbent Mayor Bob Straz will run uncontested for his fourth term. Straz also ran uncontested in 2005. He beat challenger James Pasquinelli in 2009 and Julie Corsi and Dean Koldenhoven in his first run in 2001. City Clerk Tom Kantas and Treasurer Frank Oswald are also running unopposed.
In the alderman positions, Jack Clifford (2nd Ward), Dolores Kramarski (3rd Ward) and Gerald McGovern (4th Ward) are incumbents who will run unopposed. Donald J. Bylut will run unopposed for 1st Ward alderman, a post currently held by Jeff Prestinario, who is giving up the seat.
For local politicians, running unopposed brings mixed feelings. Some love the thrill and excitement that an election can bring. But running unopposed can also mean not having to spend campaign money and can spend the coming months concentrating on city business and not having to campaign.
"You would like to think that people think you are doing a good job and they are happy with what is happening," Straz said. "In reality you know that's not always the case. But for the most part, they are happy and don't want to take the time and effort to run.
"On the other side of it, you kind of sit back and say 'why don't more people get involved?' When I first ran, I never ran for anything in my life. It's not like you have to be an experienced politician. Off the top of my head, I think everyone on our council had not been elected to anything before this. It's a downside when people don't want to get involved."
Clifford will be back for his fourth term and has also been involved in contested and uncontested races.
"It's an honor to run unopposed so some people think I'm doing my job and I try to represent them and get back to them in a timely fashion," Clifford said. "I think people appreciate what I do for them."
This is Kramarski's fourth term and the first three times she ran, she faced competition. This time she's in without a fight.
"It never bothered me to face someone else," she said. "I welcome it. If you want to run, that's what you should do."
The three veterans of the election wars agree that there are aspects of running for office that they won't be missing in February and March.