Twelve candidates look to fill three open City Council seats in April’s election.
The council is composed of six members and the mayor. Terms are staggered, so three members are up for re-election every four years. There is no maximum number of terms allowed for a council member.
With Chris Wissmann and Corene McDaniel not seeking re-election this year, Lee Fronabarger is the sole council member trying to retain his seat in the race.
Wissmann, who has been a council member since 2003, said he believes his time is up.
“After a certain amount of time serving in public office, you reach a point where it’s not working anymore,” he said.
His favorite part of being a council member, he said, was having a vote and city influence.
“Being able to help make those decisions and seeing the impact of those decisions is just the best thing,” he said.
Wissmann said he’s excited to see how well some of the candidates fare in the election, especially because some of them are brand new to the race.
“Maybe someone will really surprise and delight me, and I hope they do,” he said.
McDaniel, who has served on the council for 12 years, said she decided not to run again because she doesn’t agree with the direction the group is headed. She said she has enjoyed her time as a member but is beginning to believe some council decisions have not been in Carbondale’s best interest.
“Maybe it’s time for a change, and I thought that it would be better for me to go out on a high and feel good about it,” McDaniel said. “I think it’s just time for me to move on and do some other things.”
She said one of her favorite memories was when she spearheaded the expansion of the council from five members to seven. McDaniel said a majority of quorum was only two members when there were five, so two members could not get together to discuss issues. With seven council members, a majority of quorum is three, so two members are allowed to get together discuss agenda items.
“That was a turning point, and I just appreciate that the other council members felt the same way,” she said.
McDaniel said she hopes the new council members research items they vote on and listen to Carbondale citizens’ needs.
Instead of being voted into the council like most members, Fronabarger was appointed by its members to fill Mayor Joel Fritzler’s previous seat in May 2011. He will seek re-election this year.
City Manager Kevin Baity said if 13 or more people run for positions, be a primary election must be held to bring the number to six candidates. There were originally 14 in the running, but two candidates dropped so a primary won’t be necessary.
“I was surprised to see the two drop that did,” he said. “Not often do people drop.”
In order to file a petition to run for council, Baity said candidates must have a number of signatures equal to 1 percent of the total votes cast at the prior mayoral election.
The new members will take office at the first council meeting in May, Baity said. The annual city budget will have been completed shortly before, so council members won’t have to deal with budget issues for another eight months after, he said.
New members will have to attend a one-day training conference by the Illinois Municipal League, Baity said, which will teach them basic conduct guidelines for elected officials such as what can be discussed in a closed meeting.
Baity said the council will see a smaller May and June meeting agenda because of the budget creation.
One thing candidates need to know, he said, is that it takes four of the seven members to get agenda items approved, so they will need to convince others to vote their way.
“A lot of times I encourage them: Don’t try to come in and change the world,” Baity said. “More times than not, they might create some divide among themselves and the ones who have been there.”
He said new council members should try to work well with the rest of the group and gain a consensus on as many items as possible so their term can run smoothly.
The 12 April election candidates are Blaine Tisdale, Brent Ritzel, Carolin Harvey, Lee M. Fronabarger, Jessica C. Bradshaw, Navreet S. Kang, William Graham, Jerrold Hennrich, Luke L. Adams Jr., Karim H. Abdullah, Tony D. Holsey and Pepper Holder.