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Incumbent challenged in Sandwich mayoral race

A sign voicing opposition to Mayor Tom Thomas is seen outside a home August near the corner of West Crofoot and Castle streets in Sandwich.
A sign voicing opposition to Mayor Tom Thomas is seen outside a home August near the corner of West Crofoot and Castle streets in Sandwich.

SANDWICH – Tom Thomas has been mayor of Sandwich for the past 24 years. Rick Olson hopes to end his tenure as the two go head to head in the Sandwich mayoral race.

Both candidates agree there is room for improvement in the city, but they differ in what areas need the most work.

Thomas said he feels the economy is a top priority for Sandwich because the city, state and country still are trying to bounce back from the recession.

“I think we’re in very difficult times in Sandwich,” he said. “I’ve always been known as a mayor with a tight budget.”

Olson, who moved to Sandwich in 1994 and served as the Sandwich police chief for 16 years, said budgeting is an important aspect of city government, which is why he would make sure to monitor the city’s finances closely.

He said Sandwich residents always want to know how their tax dollars are spent, and he would work to make sure the city got the best bang for its buck.

“What I saw when I moved here was the potential of this community,” he said.

Both candidates said a major issue facing Sandwich right now is the expansion of Route 34, which runs through the middle of the city.

The state of Illinois has proposed the two-lane highway be extended to four lanes, going from 25 feet of roadway to 60 feet.

“That’s going to be very difficult for our citizens because of the traffic flow,” Thomas said.

The project, which should begin its second phase later this summer, will include infrastructure changes and acquisition of property, Thomas said.

But he cited Plano as an example of a town that went through a similar situation, and it appears the benefits outweighed the costs for them, he said.

Olson said the costs to expand Route 34 concern him, which is why the city needs to be conservative and create adequate measures for financing it.

Communication is key to running a successful city and keeping its citizens happy, said Olson. He stressed that if the city is going to make drastic changes, those who are affected most need to be informed.

“I think it’s so important that we all be pulling in the same direction,” he said.

Thomas agreed that being in touch with community members is an important part of the job.

“[It’s about] just being sharp enough to know your community and what goes on in your commmunity and having the time to get educated on things you don’t know,” he said.

Some Sandwich residents have expressed their disagreement with Thomas as mayor through signs placed throughout the city stating “Wanted: New Mayor in Sandwich.”

Thomas said the signs have been around for about four years now due to some isolated legal matters he had with a few different citizens regarding finances. He is aware he has made a few enemies over the years, he said.

Olson said the signs didn’t prompt him to run, but it is the citizens’ constitutional right to display them.

If elected, Olson said his top priority is to touch base with as many community members, department heads and other elected officials as possible.

“The first thing I’m going to do is listen,” he said. “I think it’s important for anyone who takes a position of leadership to sit down and listen.”

Thomas said he doesn’t have a specific agenda if he is re-elected, but he would continue working to improve the city and hopefully drill a new water well some day and shut down the old water plant because it is no longer cost effective, he said.

Olson stressed the importance of citizens exercising their right to vote April 9.

“I would encourage everyone to get out and voice their opinion by voting,” he said.

Candidate Bios

Richard Olson
Affiliation: Independent
Age: 60
Town: Waterman
Career: Community Liaison, Individual Advocacy Group
Marital Status: Married, Lynn Olson

Tom Thomas (Incumbent)
Affiliation: Independent
Age: 66
Town: Sandwich IL
Career: Mayor, City of Sandwich
Marital Status: Married, Betty

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