Former mayor, full slate challenge current Countryside administration
By Steve Metsch
Unlike many suburbs, voters in Countryside do have choices to make on Election Day.
Three incumbent aldermen are being challenged. So are the mayor, treasurer and city clerk. The election is next Tuesday, April 4.
Former mayor Bob Conrad, who served from 2007 to 2011, is taking on two-term mayor Sean McDermott. Conrad heads the We The People Of Countryside Party.
Incumbent treasurer Courtney Essig Bolt is being challenged by John Harris.
Incumbent clerk Elizabeth Kmet is being challenged by Barbara Gleespen.
In the 1st Ward, challenger Beatriz Sutkus takes on Ald. Thomas Frohlich.
In the 2nd Ward, challenger Edward Krzeminski – who served one term as mayor between Conrad and McDermott – is seeking office again, this time against Ald. Thomas Mikolyzk.
In the 3rd Ward, two-term Ald. Scott Musillami is being challenged by Maria Nedelcu.
Asked why he wants to serve as mayor again, Conrad, 67, said, “I’m a little concerned with the way things are being run here.”
“Several mom-and-pop business owners knocked on my door and said they were concerned. This is not quite a year or so ago. They didn’t feel the city was concerned about them anymore,” Conrad said.
He cited increased business license fees as proof the administration “has no empathy” for merchants.
McDermott, 62, said his Countryside Leadership party has “brought new businesses into town.”
“Look at the progress that we’ve made. We want to continue to move the city in that direction,” he said of seeking a third term.
“Eight years and we have not levied a penny of property tax and we’re really proud of that. It takes a lot of work to do that,” McDermott said.
Conrad sad the city wasted money by building the “Taj Mahal of city halls” at Joliet Road and Brainard Avenue – site of the former Flame Restaurant – saying it could have built at 55th Street and East Avenue beside the old city hall which he said could have become the police department.
McDermott said “it wouldn’t make sense” to build a new city hall there on the eastern edge of Countryside “so removed from the main population of your community.”
McDermott noted the new city hall is “the first net zero municipal building in the state of Illinois.”
“It gave our police officers a state-of-the-art facility that improves public safety. We take public safety very seriously,” he said.
With that in mind, he noted the city secured $2.5 million from the state to build a pedestrian bridge over Joliet Road at Brainard, linking the bike paths that are being added to Countryside.
Four people have died at the intersection over the years, he said.
“This will give safe crossing, especially for the families who live in the condos south of there who want to walk to Countryside Park,” McDermott said.
Conrad is no fan of the proposed development for the old city hall site that includes a filling station, small grocery and possibly a brew pub.
Neighbors have been vocal in their opposition, citing noise and traffic worries, Conrad said.
“They needed to get rid of the old city hall. The hook is baited. ‘Let’s give it to the first guy who bites on the hook’,” he said.
McDermott disagreed, saying a city that has not levied property taxes for eight years needs sales tax revenue from the development to help cover expenses.
Plus, the developer has made concessions to the residents such as adding a sound-buffering berm – 40 feet wide, 12 feet tall – on the south side of the site near homes, he said.
To learn more about all the We the People candidates, visit www.wtpoc.org. The Countryside Leadership Party has its own Facebook page.
McDermott called his administration “a diverse group on our city council with different backgrounds and views.”
While that may be true, there are no aldermen who are women.
Conrad’s party, if victorious, would bring two women onto the city council.
McDermott said the current aldermen “don’t always agree on every issue, but we don’t let it get personal and we work together to get things done.”
McDermott added that his administration has brought events to the city like last year’s bluegrass festival and a back-to-school event designed to “to improve the community.”
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