Metro-East News

July 19, 2014

Major change in Fairview Heights politics; mayor will not run again

Fairview Heights will see a major change in politics after the next election.

Longtime Mayor Gail Mitchell announced Saturday that he will not run for a sixth term as the city's leader.

Next April will mark Mitchell's 20th year as mayor. "I think that's long enough," he said Saturday morning in a pavilion at Pleasant Ridge Park in Fairview Heights.

The more than 60 people gathered for the announcement gave the mayor a standing ovation.

At the same announcement, City Clerk Mark Kupsky said he will run for the top position in the city in April.

"I am officially running for mayor. It's official," Kupsky told the crowd of supporters.

Mitchell, 77, has served as mayor for 19 years. He was first elected as an alderman in Fairview Heights in 1983.

He said he never thought he would last that long in public service: "I figured someone would vote me out," he said, with a chuckle.

He said his wife, Vera, was planning to retire from almost 30 years at the St. Clair County Building, so they decided to retire at the same time.

"We can go out and do our fishing," he said, mentioning his favorite pastime.

Kupsky was elected as city clerk in 2011. Prior to that, he served as city treasurer.

"In many ways, I have a unique background," Kupsky said.

He also claimed that if elected mayor, he will try to work with all members of the City Council.

Fairview Heights politics has been marked by division for years.

Businessman Terry Johnson introduced Saturday's announcement.

"There are several current alderman who would make a good mayor," he said.

But he said Kupsky's experience in City Hall and ability to reach both sides of the table make him the ideal candidate.

"I believe this is the guy who can bring the City Council together on certain subjects because he has a soft-spoken reasoning," Johnson said.

Mitchell planned to use remaining campaign donations to create two $500 scholarships. In addition, Saturday, he presented a $1,000 check to the Fairview Heights Food Pantry.

"That's my way of paying back the community that supported me," he said.

Contact reporter Maria Hasenstab at mhasenstab@bnd.com or 618-239-2460.

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