Reviving community pride and restoring open government are among the goals of three people who unseated small-town mayors in Tuesday’s election.
“Before the school was dissolved (in 1993), Wapella was known as the Wildcats,” said Richard Karr, who defeated incumbent Mayor Mark Miller by a 143-86 vote. “Our town really rallied around our school. This may sound naïve, but I want to create a Wapella Pride atmosphere with a new Facebook account, and design ‘Wapella Pride’ T-shirts. I want to improve Wapella and get it back to the way it was when I was a kid.”
Reviving the hometown of his childhood also was on the mind of Dwight Mayor-elect Jared Anderson, who defeated incumbent Bill Wilkey in a four-way race. The vote was 539 for Anderson, 322 for Wilkey, 217 for Marla Kinkade and 73 for Ryan J. Van Der Karr.
“I have three young children,” Anderson said. “I want to make sure that they get to enjoy the things in this town that I was able to enjoy as a kid.”
In Fairbury, Robert Walter Jr., who has been mayor since 1997, lost to Lynn Dameron, who served as mayor from 1989 through 1997, by a margin of 682 to 416. Dameron, a retired businessman, said he doesn’t plan on making sweeping changes when he resumes office.
“My goal is to bring our government back to a point where we have an open council and the citizens have a chance for input,” Dameron said. “We will conduct all of our business in the open and do more work on long-range planning.
“I had some residents approach me about running for mayor because they wanted the city to be more open,” Dameron said. I campaigned on that promise and apparently, the people agreed.”
Karr, like Dameron, also is returning to an office he held previously. Karr was appointed Wapella mayor four years ago, but he lost a special election in 2011 to Miller by a single vote.
“When I left, the village had no debt and now we have a lot,” he said. “Spending is out of hand.”
Karr, a maintenance electrician, said he hopes to improve the perception of the Village Board and would like to stop the conflicts that currently exist among board members.
“That’s going to be a work in progress,” he said.
In Dwight, Anderson, currently village trustee, doesn’t have any dreams of a quick-fix either.
Dwight is coping with the loss of 350 jobs resulting from last month’s closure of Dwight Correctional Center, and that may have played a part in the election, Anderson said.
“Bill took some trips to Springfield to fight the closure, but as board members, we didn’t feel like we knew enough about what was going on,” Anderson said. “If you are going to wage a war, you don’t just send in the general. You send in the whole army.”
Now that the prison has closed, Anderson said it is time to move forward.
“We need revenue generators,” said Anderson, who is employed as a construction superintendent for R.W. Dunteman in Addison. “I have developed a good rapport with developers in Joliet and Chicago and there has been some interest in developing some areas in Dwight.”
Extra revenues could also come from a proposed one-cent gasoline and diesel fuel tax, he said.
“We can probably generate between $150,000 and $200,000 worth of revenue and that would allow us to do some road repairs and work on capital development,” he said.