O'Fallon Progress

‘In with the new, out with the old,’ local boards gear up for new faces on the board

With the 2015 consolidated election in the rear view mirror, many are getting ready to see what the future holds for the local boards gearing up for fresh slates.

With two major referendums on the table in O’Fallon and Shiloh, residents came out in droves to the voting sites on Tuesday, April 7, for the various St. Clair County precincts, far more voters than the previous 2013 consolidated election, according to local officials.

Both referendums, O’Fallon’s possible lease or sale of waste water and should Shiloh become a home rule unit, had overwhelming negative results—the voters said leave my water alone and no home rule in Shiloh.

The 2013 population census showed 29,143 O’Fallon residents and 12,882 Shiloh residents. Of those, 17,161 voters turned out in O’Fallon and 5,736 in Shiloh. This year, the O’Fallon-Shiloh region had an increase in people at the polls with 18,986 voters turning out from O’Fallon’s 22 precincts and 7,983 from Shiloh’s 17 precincts, according to the St. Clair County records.

As the common saying goes, ‘in with the new, out with the old,’ the local O’Fallon-Shiloh boards have retained some members, but also gained new faces, for the school districts and municipalities alike. For specific unofficial results on candidate voter percentages, as well as votes by precinct, visit http://www.countyclerk.co.st-clair.il.us/elections/Pages/results.aspx.

Shiloh Village Board of Trustees

With four candidates vying for three open seats on the village board, the two incumbents—Trustees Kurt Burrelsman and Colleen Powers—will stay put, and newly elected Trustee Greg O’Neil will be the new face.

Former 20-plus year board treasurer and veteran trustee Dan Weidenbenner did not run for re-election.

Weidenbenner did not return calls for comment.

According to Mayor Jim Vernier, Weidenbenner was quite the asset to the village as he has extensive financial accounting knowledge that aided him in decisive choices as treasurer and trustee over the 28 years he was a member of the board.

“We’re sure going to miss him, but after a tenure like his it makes sense,” Vernier said. “I look forward to continuing efforts to better the village with Kurt and Colleen. I congratulate Greg (O’Neil) and look forward to working with him on the board, he’s a friend of mine, a long time resident of the village and former police K-9 officer so I think he’ll be a good fit. And, I know Jerry (Northway) very well too, he’s done a lot of work for our village, and well the residents had a great list of candidates to choose from and they’ve made their choice and we’ll move forward.”

Northway was the only candidate attending the Shiloh election forum.

Powers echoed the theme of embracing positivity while moving forward.

“I’m going to miss Mr. Weidenbenner, he has a lot of knowledge and experience from being the treasurer and trustee, but it’ll be a new experience having Mr. O’Neil on the board with us,” Powers said. “It’s always good to shake things up a bit.”

“I think we need to probably do a better job of communicating the benefits (of home rule and the Crime Free Housing program),” Powers said. “I think a lot of people have misconceptions like with these comes more government control to do things (unwanted by residents), but I think it’s more about being more informed about who and what’s coming into your (village) rather than controlling.”

With no lack in willpower and motivation O’Neil said he’s anxious to shine a light on the Three Springs at Shiloh development, or lack there of.

“I want to get working on this failed development that’s in town—I don’t know a lot about it, but it’s been sitting for a long time and I’ve heard rumors, and to me, it’s a big concern because of the money issue and lack of businesses being (anchored),” he said.

Getting into office officially and familiarizing himself with the board members and issues before the board currently, O’Neil is optimistic about putting more roots down in his hometown.

“I’ve lived her for many years, pay taxes in Shiloh and I’m really curious as to why we’re not growing commercially like I think we should be...people talk about certain businesses planning to come to Shiloh but then they end up in O’Fallon. I want to bring more business to Shiloh,” O’Neil said. “So that’s my issue and motivation for running.”

Shiloh results were interesting according to Vernier, with the new candidate receiving the most support: O’Neil, 662 votes; Powers, 628 votes; Burrelsman, 517 votes; and, Northway, 488 votes.

School boards

District 90 was thrown a curve ball, with incumbent Steve Hellin, board member for four years, and president for two, not being re-elected to the board. With four candidates, three of which were incumbents with tenure on the board with the exception of Rebecca Lin Huller, only three spots were available.

Incumbents Rebecca Drury, with 2,242 votes; and Mary E. Baskett, 2,127 votes; retained their spots on the board, while Huller also made it with 1,630 votes. Quenetta Chambers, 1,510 votes; Hellin, 1,464 votes; Stephen Gorazd, 1,435 votes; and John Valentine, 1,230 votes; rounded out the District 90 race.

With the increase in voters due to the hot topic referendums, the District 90 school board was one that was obviously impacted, according to Hellin.

“Of course, I’m disappointed with the results, but I’m also confident the elected board members will continue to maintain high academic standards in District 90 while preserving fiscal responsibility,” Hellin said. “There is a whole slew of information that the average voter doesn’t know, but I’m hesitant to (delve) into that...what’s interesting though is looking at the voter turnout from four years ago and now—I was elected on (originally) with about 1,100 votes, and this time I had close to 1,500, but it wasn’t enough, so the turnout was remarkably higher relative to four years ago, and there’s two reasons for that: one being the water issue has people all fired up.”

Hellin alluded to a second reason, but said there are a lot of moving pieces to be taken into account when considering factors like union endorsements and funding coming in from the federal level.

Drury commented that although saddened to see her tenured colleague go, she is optimistic for the board’s promising future.

“It was very nice to see the support out there. I try to be honest and fair and do a good job, and it looks like it’s been appreciated,” Drury said. “I was sorry to hear about Steve, I mean he put a lot of time and effort into his work with the board for all these years, and it’s always a shame to lose a fellow board member, especially when he did such a good job.”

Excited to begin working with the board, Huller said she is proud to be given the opportunity to serve the community where she lives.

“I really feel I have an excellent skill set and this is a good match for my skills to serve the community with parents, school staff and other board members to work towards a better O’Fallon,” Huller said.

In District 203 the voting panned out with the only incumbent—Mark Christ—remaining on the board, with 3,424 votes. Voter support was at a high for Donna Johnson with 3,540 votes. The other candidate to secure a spot on the board was Brandt L. House with 2,770 votes. Jim Rubush finished with 2,488 votes.

With regard to District 104, only one candidate, Christopher M. Monroe, was on the ballot. There were three write-in candidates as well, including, Annette Clover, Andria Mouser and Laurie Burian. Only one of those candidates attended the election forum held prior to elections—Laurie Burian, a resident for 21 years.

Monroe, 222 votes; Burian, 19 votes; and, Mouser, 17 votes, were elected for the three open slots.

“If elected I promise to listen to the concerns of parents, teachers, staff and administers in an open and respectful manner. I will work diligently to support proven programs, policies and professional educators that provide the excellent education that has been a cornerstone of this district,” Burian said.

No candidates were listed on the ballot in School District 85, to serve an unexpired two-year term. The write-ins were Kelly Waldrup, 423 votes; Theodore J. Schaal, 414 votes; and Leslie Tesluk-Ecker, 401 votes. All three made the board.

Whiteside School District 115 did not have any candidates on the ballot for the two spots to serve an unexpired two-year term. For the three available spots serving a full four-year term on the board of education, Frank Jr. Bennett, 383 votes; Terri McKee, 384 votes; and Edward Matt Erkman, 366 votes; all made the board.

O’Fallon City Council

The aldermanic race had some interesting developments. Ed True, a 15-year Ward 2 veteran (and also a member of other various committees) and longest incumbent on the board, lost a tight race to Bob Kueker, 416-406.

“I am looking forward to working with our residents, the other aldermen, the Mayor and city administrators to guide the city forward in an affordable manner and which maintains the quality of life that we all enjoy,” Kueker said. “I want to thank the residents of Ward 2 for giving me this opportunity to serve the city.”

In Ward 3 incumbent Kevin Hagarty bested Vern Malare 499-272.

In Ward 6, Ned Drolet, who previously served in the same capacity, won with 289 votes, compared to 245 votes for new candidate Ashely Jones.

“As alderman for 14 years, I was able to gain insight of city operations such as the budgeting process. Also, I have knowledge of the Community Development and Public Works Departments. I believe this insight and knowledge will enable me to ask more discerning questions,” Drolet said in his pre-election bio.

According to Jones’ candidate flier, “...I have been fortunate to call O’Fallon my hometown for most of my life. My father is an O’Fallon native and I have chosen to raise my child here because I want her to receive the same terrific education I received at O’Fallon schools, and I want her to have a chance to enjoy the same great quality of life we all enjoy as residents (here).”

The Progress regrets not being able to obtain comments from all candidates.