Voters on Tuesday elected new leaders in three DeKalb County communities – DeKalb, Sycamore and Kirkland.
Wednesday morning, Jerry Smith still was combing through more than 100 messages about his being elected DeKalb’s mayor.
Unofficial results show Smith received about half of the total votes over his challengers, Misty Haji-Sheikh, Mayor John Rey and Michael Embrey.
“I was not only surprised, but I was almost stunned by the results of the mayoral race, and there were probably a number of contributing factors as to why there was such a large margin of victory,” Smith said. “I realize those results tell me that as mayor, I have a tremendous responsibility to the city, to the council and to take those results and turn them into bold, innovative steps to make DeKalb a better place to live, work and raise a family.”
Smith said he hopes to work with his three opponents to pool ideas on improving the city, as each one wants to do what is best for DeKalb.
“I have confidence that my fellow candidates will be very willing to work with me,” Smith said.
In his first 100 days, some of Smith’s plans are to collaborate closely with Northern Illinois University’s administration to address declining enrollment, evaluate the city’s senior staff and recommend necessary changes, ensure public safety through work with law enforcement agencies and neighborhood groups and focus on construction and economic development.
“The greatest challenge is to identify the folks I need to reach out to immediately and get that done,” Smith said. “I think moving forward with the transition and learning about city hall and the logistics of what I’ll have to do in the first hundred days, I’ve got to set some personal priorities as to what I may need to put on the back burner.”
Curt Lang said one of his first initiatives as the new mayor of Sycamore will be to visit all the businesses in town and let the owners know he wants them to be successful and thrive.
“I think that’ll open doors,” he said. “Once that’s established, hopefully, they will come and say, ‘Here’s an idea; what do you think?’ ”
Lang, who was elected with about 45 percent of the vote to succeed Mayor Ken Mundy, campaigned with the promise of keeping an open ear to the concerns of business leaders.
Another priority before assuming office in May will be to meet with Mundy and City Manager Brian Gregory to work on establishing goals, he said.
“The idea is not to just go along as we are, but have some ideas of what we can do to improve Sycamore,” Lang said. “Then, set up a goal system to measure that and a plan to achieve the goals.”
He said some major projects for the city, such as improving infrastructure, streets and sewers, have been in the works for years and need to be continued.
“I think to be effective you have to be aware of what the council and the city manager plan to do and provide your input to possibly effect those long-term plans,” Lang said. “It’s not the mayor’s place to abandon all things and go in another direction.”
Second Ward Alderman Pete Paulsen, who ran unopposed for another four-year term on the council, said he expects Lang will have a smooth transition into office.
“I think Curt will be a good mayor,” he said. “I don’t see any reason not to have a positive outlook.”
With Lang leaving his spot as 1st Ward alderman to be mayor, the council will have to appoint a new alderman to take his place, Paulsen said.
Paulsen said city staff and council have been on the right path in recent years, and he hopes they can continue toward fixing streets, attracting new businesses and keeping a balanced budget.
Third Ward Alderman Steve Braser, who also ran unopposed for another four-year term on the council, said he has a positive outlook after the election.
“I was happy with all three (mayoral) candidates,” Braser said. “I’ve worked with all three on the council, and every one of them would’ve done a good job.”
He said Sycamore has seen growth even as people throughout Illinois are leaving the state, and he hopes city leadership can keep the momentum going.
“Curt’s been well aware of what’s been going on in the city as a council member and a business man,” Braser said. “I don’t see many changes coming.”
First Ward Alderman Alan Bauer ran unopposed, as well, for another four-year term.
“I think things will go very smoothly,” Bauer said. “Ken Mundy has been a great mayor, and he will be there to help the new mayor.”
A new face on the council will be Virginia Sherrod, who was elected in the two-way race for a four-year term as 4th Ward alderwoman.
Sherrod said she hopes to continue the work of previous council members to maintain Sycamore’s small-town charm, improve infrastructure and keep the tax burden to a minimum.
“I’m going to work hard to continue the great work that’s been laid out before me and the foundation that’s been set,” she said. “Hopefully, I’ll do as well of a job as the people before me did.”
Kirkland’s new Village President Ryan Block credits his perspective as a younger candidate with fresh ideas for leading him to victory.
Block was elected to succeed Les Bellah as village president with about 74 percent of the vote. Block had 297 votes, ahead of Wanda McMurray with 74 and Harry Newberry with 32, according to unofficial vote totals.
Block said he was surprised by the margin by which he won the election, but he was also glad to see people learn about the issues and turn out to vote.
He said his main priorities as mayor will include openness and transparency in village government and efficient spending of taxpayer money.
“The first thing I’ll focus on is building relationships with existing and new trustees, getting to know current leaders and how they contribute to the village,” Block said.