Photo by Sharon L. Filkins
The mayoral and trustee candidates forum in Worth drew a large crowd last week. Taking part in the forum were (from left) Randy Keller, candidate for mayor; Christopher Lesik, facilitator at the forum; Village Clerk Bonnie Price and Mayor Mary Werner.
Worth Mayor Mary Werner and her opponent, Randy Keller, talked about a variety of issues during a candidates forum held March 14 at the Worth Park District Terrace Centre.
Keller had served as mayor of Worth from 2009 to 2013. Werner defeated him in 2013.
Worth Village Clerk Bonnie Price was also present at the forum. She has been the clerk since 2001 and has served under three different mayors. She is a Certified Municipal Clerk and is running unopposed for a fifth term in the Tuesday, April 4 election.
Sponsored by the Chicago Ridge/Worth Chamber of Commerce, the event was designed for residents of Worth to have the opportunity to hear why the candidates were running and why they should be elected. A second goal of the program was also to provide residents with the opportunity to submit questions to the candidates. Over 100 people gathered for the event.
Up for re-election as trustees are incumbents Tedd Muersch, Jr., elected in 2013 and now seeking a second term, and Richard Dziedzic, who has served since 2009 and is seeking a third term.
Trustee Colleen McElory chose not to run in the April 4 election. Vying for the open position are candidates Brad Urban and Bahira Karim, both longtime Worth residents.
Chamber officials who were on hand for the forum were Bill Ritter, president; Christopher Lesik, the vice president who served as the facilitator of the forum; Ann Walsh, secretary; and directors Colleen Ritter, Kathy Jean and Jean Braun. They gathered written questions from the audience, and after reviewing them, selected 10 directed to all the candidates.
Several questions were directed only to Werner and Keller. The first question for the mayoral candidates was “What can you do better than your opponent?”
The question opened the door for Keller to hammer home his accusations that Werner was not communicating well with the people with her plans to eliminate a printed newsletter mailed to residents.
“I have heard from many residents that they miss the newsletter I had initiated, ‘It’s Worth Reading.’ It included stories about our residents and our businesses,” Keller said.
Werner countered that residents receive informational inserts with their water bills and that the village has updated and improved its website and Facebook pages to provide information to residents.
“Additionally, we have an open door policy at the Village Hall. Residents are encouraged to stop by and visit with me, or our Village Clerk Bonnie Price, to ask about anything they are concerned about,” Werner said.
Questions presented to all the candidates ranged from qualifications to serve and their opinion on term limits and Home Rule.
As for qualifications to serve, Dziedzic, who owns a retail store, said that a business sense is needed in order to deal with prospective businesses and what their needs are.
“I have that because I own my own business and I can apply that knowledge in my position as a trustee.”
Dziedzic oversees the Building, Licensing and Ordinances for the village.
“As for term limits, I don’t think they are necessary for our village. If residents don’t think we are doing our jobs they won’t vote for us again. It is pretty simple,” he said.
Muersch cited his experience in financial advising and family experience in running a restaurant as qualifications to serve. He oversees the Water’s Edge Golf Course, which has recently hired both a general manager and a food and beverage manager.
“We are doing exceedingly well in revitalizing the golf course and I look forward to seeing it become a valuable amenity in our village,” Muersch said.
Regarding term limits, Muersch said he agreed with Dziedzic.
“State-wide, they are needed, but I don’t think they are necessary in Worth. Residents decide if we are doing our job satisfactorily.”
Karim is a 27- year resident of Worth who has raised five children in the village and has been employed for 19 years at Worth School. She serves as a translator for the Worth Police Department and bases her qualifications to serve as trustee on her years of volunteer work for the village.
She has volunteered many years for Worth Days, worked on the Mosaic Project and helped plan the Centennial Celebration. She also worked on the Banner Program, encouraging businesses to purchase the banners to advertise their business.
Karim acknowledges that Worth is a diverse community and has seen many changes, but she is dedicated to encouraging people to become more involved with their community.
Her opponent, Urban, is a life-long resident of Worth who attended Worth schools. He has coached baseball, been a Scoutmaster, and is an officer at Marrs-Meyer American Legion Post, where he initiated the Thanksgiving and Christmas Days with Navy recruits from Great Lakes. He is a member of the Worth Lions Club, where he helps prepare and disperse gift baskets to the needy at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
He is retired after a 30-year career as an operating engineer and now wants to dedicate his time and energy to Worth. He said as a trustee, he would be available to meet with prospective businesses. Urban said he did not think term limits were necessary on a local level.
“If a trustee is not doing his job, residents will vote him out. We are your neighbors. What affects you, affects us,” Urban said.
At the end of the evening, several residents, who declined to give their names, complained that their questions had not been selected and that the questions had been slanted favoring one or more of the candidates.
In response, Bill Ritter explained that the staff had used three criterions in selecting the questions that would be asked.
“We eliminated duplicate questions, we did not use any that were personal attacks or were not pertinent to the election.”