Madison County township candidates face off in April election

Edwardsville Township Supervisor Frank Miles (left) is being challenged by W. Barth Legate (right) in the April election.
Edwardsville Township Supervisor Frank Miles (left) is being challenged by W. Barth Legate (right) in the April election.

Township elections are usually fairly quiet and uncontroversial, but something seems to have caught the public’s attention this year, at least in Edwardsville.

Edwardsville Township Supervisor Frank Miles is challenged by W. Barth Legate in the April election. But far more unusual is the number of people running for township board. Of the four seats coming open, only one incumbent is choosing to run again: Kenny Krumeich. When the petitions were turned in, there were only two more candidates, which left no candidate for the fourth seat.

That is, until the write-ins began. As of mid-March, there were nine write-in candidates registered with the Madison County Clerk, for a total of 12 candidates for four seats. Since then, one write-in candidate has unofficially withdrawn his name.

This comes despite what most of the candidates say is a board with little controversy.

“I think people want to be a part of what’s going on in Edwardsville Township,” Miles said. “They’re excited about the things that we’re doing at the park, things we’re doing for seniors, for folks in difficulty in the community, working with the school district … they want to be a part of it.”

In order to be elected as a write-in, the candidate must have registered with the county clerk as an official write-in candidate. In a primary, the write-in candidate must receive at least as many votes as would have been required to file a petition by the deadline. But in a consolidated election, they only need to place among the top four vote counts for a four-seat election, according to Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming-Mendoza.

To a certain extent, Miles said he thinks the interest came about because of the empty seat. He said he’s attended election forums and spoken with many of the candidates. “They all have great ideas of what we’re doing at the township,” he said. “I’m very excited at the level and caliber of the candidates: people who have a wide variety of backgrounds and great ideas, which is what we need in Edwardsville Township and in all of local government.”

For his own part, Miles said the township has been working on restoration of the airplane in what many affectionately call Airplane Park. He has also placed a high priority on Edwardsville Township’s social service safety net, and is working on a partnership with the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon Ministerial Alliance to leverage their resources to help more people.

“With the state cuts to social services for senior citizens, there will be a need for others to pick up that slack, and hopefully we can do that at the township,” Miles said.

Another priority for the coming term, Miles said, was what to do about the township buildings. Their main office building currently is not ADA-compliant for disability access and needs renovations. The Hays-Mallory historic building next door is no longer up to code. It will cost $20,000 just to demolish it thanks to asbestos, he said, and while Miles is open to proposals for saving it, that will cost even more money, he said.

Legate agrees that the buildings are a high priority, and believes the Hays-Mallory building should have been torn down some time ago.

“I’m starting to get a lot of support, which was unexpected because Mr. Miles has been in politics for a long time,” Legate said. “He’s a good self-promoter, and takes a lot of credit for things that happen … There are a lot of things the township hasn’t done, just kicking the can down the road. The township board has for years let the supervisor run the show.”

The three official candidates for township board are Matthew Chapman, Kenny Krumeich and Charles “Skip” Schmidt. The write-in candidates are Veronica Armouti, Tom Cromer, Kevin Hall, Stanley Huddleston, Larry Miller, Amber Ottwein, Brian Paul and Susan Young.

Emmet Beetner has informed the News-Democrat that while he is listed as a write-in candidate, he has withdrawn his name due to the number and caliber of candidates running.

Meanwhile, other notable township races in Madison County include:

▪  Bob Daiber is a busy candidate. He is the current Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools, and six weeks ago he announced he is running for governor of Illinois.

In between, he’s unopposed on the ballot for another term as Marine Township Supervisor. Why run again when he has so much else to do?

“Because I haven’t been elected governor yet,” Daiber said, laughing. He’s keeping up with all his jobs from the campaign trail, he said. For example, on Wednesday morning he was in Granite City for a school visit from astronaut Leland Melvin, then went to Chicago to meet with several groups including the Illinois Education Association. But he’ll be heading back to speak in Monroe County on Thursday night, and to wrap up the fiscal year for Marine Township.

“I utilize my weekends well, let’s put it that way,” Daiber said.

With his job as regional superintendent, Daiber said he intends to stick through his other responsibilities at least through the end of the fiscal year and balance out the checkbooks through July. At that point, he has said, he will know whether he’s getting enough traction to realistically stay in the governor’s race.

So far, he said, it’s going quite well. “We’ve gotten a lot of traction in the six weeks we’ve been at it,” he said. “The campaign has become a reality for a lot of people.”

Naturally, however, Daiber said if he wins the Democratic primary, he will have to think seriously about stepping down from both his other positions to put his full energies into the campaign.

▪  Andy Economy is facing a challenger for his long-time position as Venice Township Supervisor. Economy resigned as chairman of the Metro-East Sanitation District in November 2015, hours before the Madison County Board was to vote on a resolution for his removal. Economy had served on the sanitation board since 1998, but a News-Democrat investigation showed that as a board member, he had voted a dozen times to pay his own auto body shop for more than $44,000 in repair work.

Economy said that issue was “over and done with,” and that he believes township residents are happy with his work.

“I’ve been doing a good job for 24 years,” he said. “We have money in the account we didn’t have before; everything is running smoothly.”

His priority will be to find some new money for road repairs in the township, Economy said.

Economy’s opponent is Nick Antonovich, who could not be reached for comment.

▪  In Jarvis Township, the clerk and supervisor are each unopposed, with a slight change: they’ve switched jobs.

Alan Dunstan had served as Jarvis Township supervisor since 1985, as well as his long-time service as county board member and chairman. In November, he lost his seat as chairman to current Chairman Kurt Prenzler. At that time, he also decided to step down as township supervisor.

The board of trustees appointed township clerk Kelly Huelsmann to take his place, and then appointed Dunstan as clerk. Dunstan said he considers himself semi-retired, but as clerk, he will be able to ease Huelsmann’s transition and assist with the business of the district.

As part of the process, Dunstan said they were able to eliminate an administrative assistant position for cost-saving reasons. Now he and Huelsmann are working as a team to streamline Jarvis Township.

Huelsmann is a 1987 graduate of Triad High School and lives in Troy with her husband and two children. “While a few responsibilities have changed hands, we will continue to efficiently function as a team and we are all committed to continuing to serve our constituents to the best of our ability,” Huelsmann said in a statement.

The decision was finalized by the township board in February, with a unanimous vote. Both candidates are unopposed in the April election.

“Kelly Huelsmann is doing a tremendous job as supervisor,” Dunstan said. “She is the boss. I’m taking a back seat.”

For Dunstan’s part, he’s decided to step back a bit from public life. “I’m not sure I will quit politics altogether — I wouldn’t go that far,” he said. “At this time, I thought it was best to move on a bit.”

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald