Metro-East News

All but one Belleville City Council member will run again in April election

Belleville April election

Terms are expiring for eight Belleville aldermen. Seven intend to run to keep their posts. The election is April 2.
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Terms are expiring for eight Belleville aldermen. Seven intend to run to keep their posts. The election is April 2.

All but one of the Belleville aldermen whose terms expire next year will run in the April 2 election to retain their post.

The City Council has 16 aldermen, with two representatives in eight wards. The 2019 ballot will have races for eight aldermen, one from each of the wards.

Seven of the eight aldermen whose term expire next spring said they will run again.

Scott Tyler, the Ward 3 alderman, said he will not run for re-election. Here are the seven aldermen who said they intend to run to keep their seats: Joe Hazel in Ward 1, Mike Buettner in Ward 2, Raffi Ovian in Ward 4, Ed Dintelman in Ward 5, Andy Gaa in Ward 6, Phil Elmore in Ward 7 and Roger Wigginton in Ward 8. Also, two candidates have told the BND they intend to run: Lillian Schneider in Ward 1 and Scott Ferguson in Ward 3.

If Hazel and Schneider both run as announced, it would be a rematch of the Ward 1 race in 2015 when Hazel defeated Schneider.

So far, this would be the only contested race in the city since Ferguson would be seeking the seat to be vacated by Tyler in Ward 3.

Tyler, who is a firefighter for the city, was elected in Ward 3 in 2015. Tyler decided not to run for re-election because when he attended city meetings, he would have to get someone to cover for him at the firehouse. He said by state statute he could request the city pay for a firefighter to work for him while he attended a meeting but he did not want to do that.

“Maybe when I retire I’ll run again,” Tyler said. “I’ve been able to get a lot of stuff done in four years as far as my ward.”

He said he worked to get residents to clean up properties that had abandoned furniture and cars on blocks.

The filing period for City Council candidates is Dec. 10-17.

If you win the election, you get an annual salary of $11,086.

Here’s a review of the nine candidates and their comments about why they are seeking office:

Ward 1

Hazel was elected to the City Council in 2015.

He wrote in an email he wants to run for office again because “I have the needed experience residents of Ward 1 should expect out of their representative to the Belleville City Council. I have worked on Finance, Police and Fire, Master Sewer and Ordinance & Legal Review committees and also the Planning Commission. These appointments have provided a wealth of knowledge and information I will apply to help lead Belleville in a positive direction.

“More work is certainly needed and I hope to continue getting things done for Belleville and especially our Ward 1,” he wrote.

Schneider served on the council from 2011 to 2015. She lost her re-election bid in 2015 and she unsuccessfully ran for Ward 1 in 2017.

“I am running because I think we’re handing out way too many development agreements, we’re not showing any profit on the ones we do,” Schneider said.

Schneider criticized the city’s recent purchase of a used garbage truck. She said the city should have bought a new truck with money that had been granted to businesses.

“We need to stop handing out all these development agreements and start taking care of our infrastructure,” she said.

Ward 2

Buettner has represented Ward 2 since 2015.

“I enjoy helping individuals who have issues, whether it’s derelict properties, broken sidewalks, streets, problem neighbors,” Buettner said. “I like handling the situation, dealing with them, trying to fix what the issues are.

“And I also want to be a good steward of the taxpayer’s money,” he said. “I think somebody needs to watch it and kind of hold the line a little bit, and make sure every dime is spent correctly because it’s not our money to spend, it’s the taxpayer’s money.”

Ward 3

Ferguson, who unsuccessfully ran for a Ward 3 seat on the City Council in 2017, said he intends to run again.

“I love my neighborhood,” Ferguson said. “I love my community. I love the ward and I truly love Belleville. I love the direction it’s going.

“In a city that is as old as our community, there’s always room for improvement, upkeep and I just have a passion for that.”

Ward 4

Ovian was elected in 2015 to represent Ward 4 and he plans to run for re-election.

“We need a master plan to develop for infrastructure repairs,” Ovian said. “It’s critical.”

He said he wants another term in office to see this plan “come to fruition” because it is the “the most important thing right now” facing the city.

Ward 5

Dintelman was elected in Ward 5 in 2015.

Since taking office, he said he has learned “how to get things done” for residents.

“When I first got into it, I didn’t really know how the city of Belleville operated. I was very curious about it,” he said. “Once you learn the system a little bit, it makes you a better alderperson and I think that I’m so much better now than I was … three and half years ago when I started. I thought I could continue on.”

Ward 6

Gaa was appointed to represent Ward 6 in March 2017 after former Alderman Paul Seibert stepped down to take his late wife’s seat on the St. Clair County Board.

“I am running for alderman in Ward 6 because I have really enjoyed the past year and a half as alderman,” Gaa said in an email. “There has been positive momentum in Belleville the past few years and I believe our city is headed in the right direction. I have enjoyed helping out residents in our ward and working with city staff when confronting problems and concerns from my constituents.”

Ward 7

Elmore said he is seeking re-election “to maintain a good line of communication with the constituents of the 7th ward and to continue to work towards improving all areas of infrastructure and housing.”

Elmore was an alderman from 2009 to 2013 and then was elected in 2015 for a term that ends next spring. He also ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2013.

Ward 8

Roger Wigginton won the Ward 8 race in 2015.

“We’re getting a lot done and I want to continue this momentum,” Wigginton said. “We brought back two out of three shopping plazas to life.”

In 2016, the city approved a redevelopment agreement for the Shopland Plaza that allows businesses there to charge an extra 1 percent sales tax and money raised from the tax is used to pay for renovations at the center at the intersection of Foley Drive and 70th and West Main streets. Also in 2016, the city approved a $275,000 TIF grant and an extra 1 percent sales tax for improvements to the Market Place Shopping Center in the 6400 block of West Main Street.

Mike Koziatek joined the Belleville News-Democrat in 1998 as an assistant editor and is now a reporter covering the Belleville area. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee and grew up in St. Louis.