“I thought people cared more about local government and democracy, I guess not,” Jerry Northway said with a heavy tone after being the only participant in the 12-minute long election forum at the Village of Shiloh Senior Center last Wednesday, March 11.
The moderator, the co-host sponsors, the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbie Arell-Martinez and O’Fallon Progress staff member, Shiloh District No. 85 Superintendent Dale Sauer and three residents, as well as aid to the event Sid LeGrand of O’Fallon, are the only people who showed at the March 11 candidate forum.
According to the public announcement, ‘all candidates (were) invited,’ but only one, Jerry Northway, was present. Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier was not present, nor were any of the current trustees—except for Tina Warchol—were present. The two incumbent trustees, Colleen Powers and Kurt Burrelsman, weren’t present either; however, Burrelsman provided his formal reason and public apology for not being able to attend. According to Busse, Burrelsman had important family matters to address, that couldn’t be avoided.
The Village has three candidate slots open for election with four candidates running—two incumbents, Powers and Burrelsman, who have been in office for more than one term, and two new candidates, Greg O’Neil and Northway.
O’Neil said he was planning on attending with positivity, but his toddler granddaughter was taken in for emergency surgery due to extenuating circumstances resulting from a previous surgery.
“I wish I could’ve been there honestly, but I had to be there for my granddaughter and my family because we were told she could’ve possibly passed away in her sleep due to a severe sleep apnea condition,” O’Neil said with a sigh. “I hope I can still be elected because I have a lot to bring to the table.”
O’Neil said he is excited to see people at the poles on election day and ready to get into office as village trustee.
“I believe we need a new face and ideas in the village to address the stalled development along Frank Scott Parkway and Green Mount Road,” O’Neil said. “I believe we can do better with the quality of houses being built. (I also) need to know how the bond’s will be paid back and where funds were spent.”
Trustee Warchol said she was disappointed that not only her colleagues, but also more residents were not in attendance.
“I thought at least one other one would have shown up,” Warchol said with a sigh. “...Jerry, bless his heart, is a true champ for braving the (forum) by himself. I have faith he could help the board (if elected).”
Before departing after the brief forum, the Progress attempted to obtain comments from the three elderly residents in the audience, but was unable as one resident left before the forum commenced and the other two opted not to comment because the couple said they had “only became residents very recently and didn’t feel (they) knew enough about the local village government to have an opinion.”
According to the Census Bureau’s 2013 records, the village has approximately 12,880 residents.
“I’m appalled that (only three) residents of Shiloh were here,” Northway said. “But, I’m so happy that those three took time to come period.”
The forum was structured with three main questions and one other randomly chosen question provided by sponsors, and one rebuttal for each candidate. No rebuttal’s were necessary, as Northway was the only candidate being addressed by the moderator.
The moderator inquired how candidate Northway felt about the lack of development and more anchored tenants on Three Springs at Shiloh property on the corner of Green Mount Road and Frank Scott Parkway, which he said he hopes his time on the board could help move possible projects forward.
“I think Three Springs needs to pick up on development because it’s such an asset to the village,” Northway responded.
Other topics of inquiry included the candidate’s take on the possibility of the village board adopting a Home Rule ordinance to make way for the possibility of a Crime Free Housing Program, which Northway said he supports “to help protect the future of Shiloh.”
“Our family moved to the village in 1988 and have witnessed a population growth of over five times. With our limited remaining boundaries, it is necessary that our focus remains centered with planning, zoning and public safety in mind,” Northway said. “As a fast growing community, I am very pleased with the direction in which we are choosing to grow and would be honored to serve as your trustee. I come to you with over 30 years of experience operating a small successful business along with 20 years working part time for our community.”
As Northway said, the lack of reciprocating ideas didn’t offer encouragement for the village’s future, other than he hopes he can offer his time, energy and commitment to the continued growth and development of the village that he’s proud to live in and possibly represent.
Vernier said he was unable to attend unexpectedly due to a commitment, as a parishioner, at Corpus Christi Church in Shiloh.
“The ladies from the parish were cleaning the church that night and Father (Monsignor Jim Margason) asked me to assist another parishioner to clean the light fixtures at the church that were filled with (bug carcasses) and seeing as I have special equipment, an electrical scissor lift that goes about 16 feet in the air...and it took longer than expected,” Vernier noted.
Vernier was present at the last election forum that took place at the Senior Center in 2013.