Belleville voters will see contested races in five wards involving 11 candidates in the Belleville City Council election on April 4.
Three candidates will have uncontested races: Ward 2 Alderwoman Jane Pusa, Ward 4 Alderman Johnnie Anthony and Roger Barfield, who is retiring from the city’s housing department as assistant director May 1 and is a former city police officer, is running to represent Ward 8 on the City Council. Ward 8 Alderman James Musgrove chose not to run for re-election.
The City Council has 16 members with two representatives from each of the city’s eight wards.
Here’s a breakdown of the contested City Council races based on the candidates’ responses to a questionnaire sent by the BND:
Kinsella, 70, has been on the council since 2008 while Schneider, 61, served on the council from 2011 to 2015.
“I am running to keep Belleville on a positive track,” Kinsella said in his questionnaire. “There are a lot of good things happening in Belleville and I want those to continue. We do not want to return to the spirit of negativism that existed a few years ago.”
Schneider said, “I believe that when the leaders in our community listen to people, government can make a difference in the lives of those it serves. I am a true independent that will listen to my constituents of Ward 1 and make sure their voice is heard. ... While we in Belleville have sometimes been let down or deceived by those we have trusted to represent us, I will serve honestly.”
Kinsella and Schneider both said crime is a top priority for them.
Randle, 62, was elected in 2013 while Ferguson, 51, has not previously served in a public office.
“My motivation is really about making a difference in the lives of my neighbors, my ward and my community. It’s about delivering the people’s message, to make sure their voices get heard. My mission is to ensure we get the highest value for our tax dollars,” Randle said in his questionnaire.
Ferguson said he is running because “I wanted to get involved with the forward movement of our city. I want to work towards more commerce and improving the infrastructure of Belleville.”
Randle said public safety is the top issue for him and Ferguson said economic development in the city is a priority for him.
Three people filed to represent Ward 5 after Alderman Phillip Silsby decided not to run for re-election.
Here are the candidates:
▪ Michael Hagberg, 57, is a trustee on the Belleville Township, which is scheduled to be taken over by the city in May.
“I enjoy local politics and have been attending City Council and committee meetings for the past few years. I understand the issues of Ward 5 and would like to bring these to the committee and council meetings,” Hagberg said in his response.
Hagberg said the city’s debt for public projects and sewer expansion is the most important issue facing city leaders.
▪ Michelle “Shelly” Schaefer, 47, is currently serving her second term on the Belleville Township High School District 201 School Board.
“I want to be a part of the team that keeps our amazing community heading in the right direction,” Schaefer wrote. “Belleville is a city on the move, and I am very committed in keeping that momentum going. After being in education for 26 years, I realize the importance of people working together.”
Schaefer said one of biggest issue facing Belleville is diminished state funding.
▪ Suzanne Whitehead, 43, has not previously served in a public office.
“I understand the issues we are facing and am willing to make the tough choices. We need an independent, creative voice on City Council to help address the challenges facing Belleville and I can fulfill that role better than the other options on the ballot,” Whitehead said.
Slow economic growth is the most significant issue facing Belleville, Whitehead said.
“My initial interest in representation derived from recognition that the mayoral and council decisions were not transparent and council minutes were not available for interested citizens,” White wrote in his questionnaire. “I video-recorded council meetings and posted them on YouTube for two years before my election to foster transparency. Most recently, I, among others, strongly advocated for revised city ordinances to be placed online.”
White said public safety is a top issue in his ward.
Stiehl said, “I want to see people debate the issues without name-calling and rancor. I want to see a city government that is responsive to its people and that spends money wisely, and that ensures that Belleville is a place where people want to live and work.”
White and Stiehl both said public safety is a primary concern for them.
“I am running for re-election because I feel there is a lot more work to do to take Belleville to where it needs to be,” Galetti wrote in his response. “Since I was elected in 2013, I think great progress has been made in terms of business development and infrastructure in certain areas of the city that benefit from TIF money.”
Weygandt said, “I see the optimistic energy surrounding so many areas of Belleville, with growth where shopping centers were considered dead. Now they have new businesses and are doing great. With this said, there is more to do. These businesses are vital to our economic growth, and I see opportunities that can further improve the vitality of our city and Ward 7.”
Galetti said crime is the most important issue in Ward 7 while Weygandt said the number of delinquent properties in the ward is a primary issue for him.