BRAIDWOOD – Braidwood will have a new mayor by the end of this month after Jim Vehrs unofficially won an electoral rematch over Mayor Bill Rulien.
According to unofficial results, Vehrs won with 715 votes, 57 percent of the total, compared to 545 votes for Rulien.
Vehrs lost to Rulien in 2013 for mayor when the pair ran for a two-year, unexpired term. Rulien was the incumbent in both races after being appointed to the seat following former Mayor Jerry Pressley's death in 2011.
"All the volunteers worked quite hard to get me elected," Vehrs said. "I'd like to thank all the citizens of Braidwood who came out to vote, business organizations and owners and also my family."
Vehrs also withstood a petition filing challenge by City Administrator and Police Chief Richard Girot enroute to winning the election.
Vehrs credited more marketing and his previous experience running for mayor as keys to his victory.
Vehrs, 54, has worked as a heavy equipment operator for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 for the last 25 years.
He has a wife, Pamela Vehrs, three children and six grandchildren.
"I want to put the pride back in Braidwood," Vehrs said.
Vehrs said some of his main goals for Braidwood are to bring in new business and retail development, build a better relationship with the school district, and be a police-friendly town.
"We have a reputation for our town of police harassing people," Vehrs said. "That's what people think."
He said his goal is to prevent situations such as a driver getting a ticket for a broken taillight instead of getting a warning and being given time to fix the light.
But Vehrs' main goal is to build a Dial-A-Ride senior citizens program that will enlist volunteers to drive seniors to doctors appointments and other destinations.
Vehrs said he decided to run again after he heard a referendum was put on last November's ballot asking residents to raise taxes to fill a police pension fund that has spiraled out of control.
"That pushed me over the edge," he said, adding that residents shouldn't have to bear the burden of previous administrations' mistakes. The referendum ended up failing.
Rulien said he doesn't plan to run for mayor again.
"We annexed hundreds of acres of land for future industrial or commercial development," Rulien said of his accomplishments in office, adding that the city also attracted new businesses such as Casey's General Store and Warren's Collision Center.
But Rulien wished he had more time to accomplish long-term goals.
"What I can say is, I did not run a negative campaign," Rulien said, adding that he thought the race featured misinformation about him. "I did not put the name of any of my opponents on any literature, but there were many personal attacks against me."
Braidwood Mayor unofficial election results:
• Bill Rulien: 545 votes
• Jim Vehrs: 715 votes
Source: Will County Clerk