Eckert appoints Lindenwood professor to serve on City Council

News-DemocratJune 12, 2013 

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert.

ZIA NIZAMI — znizami@bnd.com Buy Photo

— Mayor Mark Eckert announced Wednesday his appointment for the Ward 4 alderman vacancy.

The City Council on Monday will consider James J. Davidson, who goes by "Jim," a retired Southwestern Illinois Correctional Center warden, for the position.

Davidson, who has never held political office, now works as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Lindenwood University-Belleville. He was in the Army for two years before being honorably discharged in 1972.

"This man here is the person for the job," Eckert said. "He has a great background and a true willingness to get involved."

The Ward 4 seat came open after former alderman Dean Hardt ran mid-term for city treasurer and won in the April 9 election.

If approved, Davidson will immediately be seated on the council Monday, which also happens to be his birthday.

"I'm retired and basically I still think that I've got some years left in me so I wanted to do something," said Davidson, 62.

Davidson and his wife, Loretta, has lived in Ward 4 for the past 10 years. He also has lived in Swansea and East St. Louis.

"I live here so I'm concerned about the environment of Ward 4. I want to see it grow, not decline," Davidson said. "My property values are related to the growth and strength of this area. If I can help maintain that, it benefits me, it benefits the city and other people in Ward 4."

Some city leaders had called for Eckert, head of the Belleville Good Government Party, to appoint an independent to fill Hardt's seat because Hardt is an independent.

Eckert said he picked an appointment based on the candidate's ideas for Belleville and willingness to serve.

"I'm looking for people who want to be here," Eckert said. "It was not the very first question out of my mouth. To be honest, I don't even know if we talked about it. That wasn't a prerequisite to me asking him. I think he's extremely qualified."

When asked about political affiliations, Davidson said Wednesday he considers himself to be part of Eckert's Good Government Party.

But Davidson also said he thinks the word "independent" is misused.

"Didn't an independent on the City Council run for state representative as a Republican?" Davidson said, referring to Ward 2 Alderwoman Melinda Hult's run for the 113th Illinois House.

Davidson also said he hasn't thought about whether he will run for election for the seat in 2015.

The other Ward 4 alderman is Johnnie Anthony, of the Good Government Party.

Anthony won the seat in April by three votes, 289-286, from Tim Carpenter, the incumbent.

Carpenter confirmed Wednesday he did not file for a full recount of the ballots after doing a discovery recount on May 7.

Eckert said he was waiting to see whether Carpenter, an independent, would be challenging the election results before making an appointment.

"While Mr. Carpenter never did contact me ... I don't feel comfortable reappointing him," Eckert said.

Carpenter said he didn't ask Eckert to be reappointed.

"He would never appoint me anyways," Carpenter said. "Why would he pick me? He never called me in four years as a City Council member. It's not going to happen."

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/BNDBelleville.

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