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Local News

Garcia, incumbents ahead in race for Joliet Junior College board spots

Eight candidates sought three spots on board

Two incumbents and one challenger appear to be in the lead in the race for three spots on the Joliet Junior College Board of Trustees.

Nancy Garcia, a Romeoville resident, 2013 JJC graduate and immigration rights activist, finished first among eight candidates in the unofficial results, according to the college.

Incumbents John “Jake” Mahalik of Joliet and Mike O’Connell of Shorewood appeared to finish second and third, respectively, to retain their seats.

JJC’s district stretches over seven counties, including Will, Grundy, Kendall, LaSalle, Kankakee, Livingston and Cook.

With 338 out of 341 precincts reporting on JJC’s website on election night, Garcia was the top vote-getter with 19,748, then Mahalik with 18,387, O’Connell with 17,670, Budzinski with 15,043, McDonnell with 12,550, McCullagh with 9,896, Williams with 9,334, and Rademacher with 8,622.

Garcia campaigned on trying to bring more representation for students of color and first-generation college students like herself to the college’s leadership. She said she would work to improve conditions, which would allow historically underserved students to better navigate the college environment and successfully transfer to a four-year university or the workforce.

“It is time that the Joliet Junior College Board reflects the diversity of the student body,” Garcia said in a candidate questionnaire submitted to the Herald-News.

Of JJC’s more than 14,000 students, 10 percent are African American and 28 percent are Latino. The overall minority population, according to the college, is 42 percent.

Mahalik and O’Connell touted their continued fiscal responsibility on the board, especially through difficult times, including the state budget crisis during which the college had to dramatically raise tuition to keep a balanced budget.

The board voted to reimburse students for the increase, and has made some more modest increases in recent years.

O’Connell said he and the board still had work to do to continue to cut operating costs, streamline parts of the college and make spending more efficient. Mahalik said he wanted to keep JJC as a quality, low-cost option for students in the district.

The Will County Clerk’s Office will have official election results April 23.

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