Area voters will next Tuesday decide who they want as their mayors, trustees, aldermen, school board members, etc
It is disheartening there are so many uncontested elections here in the southwest suburbs — there are no races in Palos Hills for mayor or aldermen, nor has anyone challenged any of the incumbent trustees in Evergreen Park. There are also several school boards, library boards and park districts with uncontested races. This could be interpreted as residents being completely satisfied with their existing leadership, but we hardly think that’s the case. We chalk it up more to people not wanting to waste their time and effort running against incumbents when the chance is greater they will be hassled, intimidated or have their character questioned than it is they will be elected.
There are certainly other factors at play in this trend, but whatever the case may be, we still have several hotly contested elections in this area. In Oak Lawn, opposing political factions headed by the incumbent mayor and the challenger to his seat have full slates of candidates vying for six spots on the Village Board. In Worth Township, an upstart group of primarily Oak Lawn residents is attempting to oust the old school administration that has ruled the township for more than a decade.
So, without further ado, our endorsements.
Worth Village Board
In a typically heated race, village Trustee Mary Werner is running against incumbent Mayor Randy Keller. We have questions about both candidates: Werner has limited experience in government, having served just two years as a trustee; while Keller’s representation of the village’s financial figures in an attempt to boast about his record as mayor is questionable at best. Keller likes to talk about a supposed $1.7 million shortfall he claims to have closed after being elected in 2009; however, what he doesn’t like to acknowledge is that the money was for one-time expenses toward street reconstruction and the firefighters who were absorbed into the North Palos Fire Protection District.
We can’t deny Keller has helped reduce spending — he has helped trim the fat from the village’s budget with a conservative approach to village management, and the 1-percent sales tax increase implemented after voters approved a referendum in 2011 has contributed more than $200,000 to the village coffers — so we have to give credit where credit is due.
However, we have a hard time supporting a mayor who has in our opinion attempted to misconstrue facts, has waged petty battles against political opponents or merely those he perceives to be opponents, and whose administration lacks transparency (at least in the three years and several months before this week, when Keller was more than forthcoming with financial figures that could help him be re-elected). Getting even basic information from Keller or village finance director Dwayne Fox can at times be like pulling teeth, and asking questions pertaining to the information they provide has at times been met with either non-answers or defensiveness. It can also not be overlooked that two trustees we consider to be excellent public servants with no axes to grind have left Keller’s party.
Is Keller a bad mayor? No. Is he the best Worth has to offer? Maybe not. This is admittedly a tough call, but we think voters should choose Mary Werner as the next mayor of Worth.
Incumbents Colleen McElroy, Rich Dziedzic and Jim Serpico, and political newcomer Tedd Muersch Jr. are up for the three available trustee seats.
McElroy is a tireless worker who is engaged in the community and may have her finger on the pulse of Worth to a greater degree than anyone on the Village Board, maybe even in the village. We would advise her to get her ducks in a row before pursuing some endeavors — bar crawl, anyone? — but all razzing aside, McElroy has served Worth well and we recommend voters re-elect her.
We cannot help but be impressed with Muersch, who grew up in the family that owns Krapil’s the Great Steak and has a business acumen that is off the charts. The fact he is “only” 29 shouldn’t deter voters, the Worth Village Board would be well-served with some young blood and different perspectives, and Muersch’s understanding of business and finance may transcend that of all but a select few people who have served on the board in the past 20 years. We think voters should elect Muersch to his first term in office.
We don’t know much about Rich Dziedzic, to tell you the truth, but he seems like a nice guy and he is an experienced business manager. He has been part of a Village Board that has reduced spending and put the village on more financially stable footing. We think voters should re-elect Dziedzic to a second term.
We recommend voters re-elect Jim Sexton, under who the village has seen unprecedented development and progress in the midst of a prolonged recession. Sexton’s hardline tactics can be questionable and he is not beyond reproach, but tell us what other southwest suburb of comparable size has done as well as Evergreen over the past eight years and we’ll say you are either lying or terribly misinformed. Property taxes in Evergreen have remained low compared to other area suburbs, and to drive though Evergreen gives one the impression the country is undergoing an economic boom. Meijer, Menards, Walgreens, Culver’s, etc., not to mention the possible redevelopment of the Evergreen Plaza, which if it happens could be the greatest commercial progress of all.
We applaud Shawn Good for presenting a challenge in this race — even after she was booted from the ballot by an electoral board composed of Sexton’s political allies she persevered and waged a write-in campaign — but Sexton is clearly the best choice for Evergreen Park.