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Lewandowski and Popelka battle for 3rd Ward alderman of Palos Heights

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By Jeff Vorva

Brent Lewandowski said he has learned a lot in four years on the Palos Heights City Council.

The Third Ward alderman said he has a respect for his peers and likes the way the group has made decisions, even if there are disagreements.

George Popelka begs to differ. He sees a council that hasn’t always served its residents in recent hot-button issues.

So, the incumbent Lewandowski and the challenger Popelka are squaring off in the Tuesday, April 4, election.

BRENT

Brent Lewandowski

Lewandowski, 45, has served on the City Council for four years and is looking to tack on another four while Popelka, 70, tried to get on the council as a treasurer in 2021 but was beaten by incumbent Jim Daemicke.

The incumbent looks at the council as a smooth-running machine.

“The job itself took some getting used to as I was working with seven other aldermen and it was rough at the beginning, but we’ve worked into kind of a groove and I think we work well together,” he said. “We disagree on some things, certainly, but it’s a respectful disagreement.”

“Twenty years ago, they were in the red and now they are in the black,” Lewandowski said. “But we have a lot of capital improvements to be made. We have structural stuff to take care of.”

Speaking of which…

GEORGE

George Popelka

The council recently voted for a 4% increase of water and 50% uptick in sewer services that will try to offset costs to make repairs in a 50-year-old infrastructure and Popelka did not like that at all.

“Now, while I do not dispute that infrastructure upgrades benefit our community, I question this proposed rate increase considering the statement which was made at [a meeting prior to the vote] meeting that, ‘we have a reserve fund that remains steady.’ Popelka said.

“Certainly, our elected representatives have an obligation to review all funding options both short as well as long term and to disclose those options to the Palos Heights community, so that any rate increase decision can be made in a fully informed and transparent manner.”

Lewandowski supported comments made by fellow alderman Don Bylut, who said that at the current rate, the reserves could be depleted by 2027.

“You learn how costly it is to run an infrastructure in a city,” Lewandowski said. “The water and sewer, the roads…we budget over a half a million dollars a year to do roads and it’s limited to make sure the infrastructure is in place let alone the services we need to provide such as public works and the police.

“People take it for granted that the snow is going to be removed and that you are going to be safe.”

Lewandowski is an interim executive director overseeing a $14 billion fund. He had spent 20 years with the Cook Country Sheriff’s Department and worked with the Cook County Pension Fund.

Popelka is a business manager/certified merger and acquisition advisor. He said he a volunteer and supporter of the Illinois Epilepsy Association, Easter Seals, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, the Chicago Hearing Society, as well as the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation.

“I am both a 20-year plus resident of Palos Heights as well as a savvy business professional with over 25 years of experience in finance,” he said. “I have a strong understanding of the major components associated with both business growth and development.”

This is the only contested race on the council.

Jeffrey Key (1st Ward), Robert Basso (2nd Ward) and Michael McGrogan (4th) are running unopposed and will serve another four years.

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