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Local News

Joliet: meet your candidates

Twelve candidates running for five spots on Joliet City Council

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk speaks to a packed council chamber after taking the mayoral oath of office May 4, 2015, at Joliet City Hall.
Mayor Bob O’Dekirk speaks to a packed council chamber after taking the mayoral oath of office May 4, 2015, at Joliet City Hall.

Twelve people filed by last week’s deadline to run for five spots on the Joliet City Council in the April 2 election, and whoever gets elected may have to make some big decisions soon.

The current council has been pushing off any search for a new city manager with the idea that the final decision may be left to whoever gets elected in April.

Other issues in the coming months and years include the search for a future source of the city’s water supply, a decision perhaps in the next year on plans for a new retail district at Interstate 55 and Interstate 80 and the ongoing march of warehouse development on the city’s south end and the controversies that go with it.

Getting elected or re-elected to the City Council promises to be interesting for the winners.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk also is up for election but faces no opponent.

The three at-large council positions represented by Don Dickinson, Jan Quillman and Michael Turk are not on the ballot again until 2021.

Here’s a quick look at who’s running for the seats in five council districts.

District 1

This district includes familiar West Side areas such as the Louis Joliet Mall and stretches beyond Route 59 into far West Side sections of Joliet.

Incumbent council member Larry Hug faces a challenge from Marc Ragusa, a veteran campaigner who vied unsuccessfully for an at-large council position in 2017.

Ragusa, a Navy veteran with management experience in the telecommunications business, told The Herald-News when he filed his election petitions that top issues are infrastructure, safe neighborhoods and a future water supply.

Hug, an independent insurance agent and chairman of the council’s Economic Development Committee, said he believes the city is on the right track and he wants to see more revenue-generating development come into Joliet.

“We’ve been able to balance the budget and build more roads without increasing taxes,” Hug said.

District 2

Incumbent council member Pat Mudron calls this district “truly the old area of Joliet,” saying that voter turnout in the West Side district tripled that of other districts in the last election.

Voters have three candidates with roots in Joliet and name recognition.

Mudron, who became famous as a state wrestling champion in the 1960s at Joliet Catholic High School, is opposed by Roger Powell Sr., a former basketball standout at Joliet Central High School, and Vincent Alessio, whose family has been involved in both local business and government.

Alessio, 27, said his youth has drawn a positive response during door-to-door encounters with potential voters.

“I think I have a different perspective on some issues than people who have been in local government for some time,” he said.

Powell has government experience. He is a commissioner with the Housing Authority of Joliet and has run twice before for a City Council seat.

District 3

Incumbent John Gerl is not running, which means someone new will represent the council district that stretches into the farthest Kendall County reaches of Joliet’s far West Side.

Business owner Sherri Reardon faces retired city worker Joe Mutz.

Mutz has proven electability, having been voted onto the Joliet Park District board, where he is vice president. Reardon has name recognition in Joliet and heads the longtime Illinois Securities Insurance Agency in Joliet.

Both candidates say their interest in the office is based on giving back to their community, with Mutz touting his longtime connections to the West Side and Reardon mentioning her civic involvement in assorted organizations, including Will County Habitat for Humanity.

District 4

This district crosses the Des Plaines River, taking in much of the East Side, downtown and near West Side neighborhoods.

Incumbent council member Bettye Gavin faces James Foster, an electrical contractor who finished a close second to Gavin in 2015, and Damon Zdunich, who is part of a business group redeveloping the old Diocese of Joliet campus into a winery.

Gavin, a community advocate who heads the Forest Park Community Center, heads the City Council’s Prison Committee that has overseen the opening of the Old Joliet Prison.

Foster, a lifelong Forest Park resident, is making economic development and public safety two of the top issues in his campaign.

“I’m just thankful for all the people who supported me the first time around, and we’re looking to retain those votes and gaining some,” Foster said.

Zdunich, an accountant, said his candidacy was propelled in part by a citizens’ proposal he presented as an alternative to the city plans for Evergreen Terrace redevelopment.

People liked “how we put the facts together in a relatively short time to challenge the city’s proposals,” Zdunich said.

District 5

Council member Terry Morris and Suzanna Ibarra, chairwoman of Will Count Progressives, face off in sprawling District 5, which ranges from old sections of the East Side through the south end of the city, where Joliet’s logistics district is growing fast, and into sections of the West Side.

“I think the city is moving forward,” said Morris, who would focus on economic development and affordable housing in a third term.

Morris owns the Minor-Morris Funeral Home in Joliet.

Ibarra, a professional photographer, said environmental issues will be one focus of her campaign, but said she will listen to voters to learn “how they would like to be represented.”

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