There will be only one new face on the Decatur City Council following last week’s election — Rodney Walker, who led the city council field in votes. Lisa Gregory and Bill Faber, the only two council incumbents in the race, won re-election finishing second and third in the field of seven. Walker will replace Dr. Dana Ray who chose not to run for re-election after a decade on the council. Incumbent Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe won her first full four year term (her previous victory was for a 2-year term) by handily beating challengers David Horn and Jacob Jenkins. Details of the races and vote totals are at the end of this article.
Since the election has been over for more than a week I’ve had time to think about the results and here are some observations:
• In all of the local major races, mayor, city council, school board, park district, Richland Community College board, the incumbents running for re-election won which could be interpreted that voters were satisfied with the job they have been doing and wanted them to stay.
• Although the extremely low voter response (nearly 83% of the registered voters didn’t vote) it was something I had expected, and commented on, in the weeks leading up to the election. Despite all of the debates, forums and interviews that flooded the media, so many people I talked with didn’t express much interest in voting.
• Low voter turnout was not unique in last week’s local election. Some other cities, including Chicago, were experiencing historic low voting numbers. Even in most of the smaller communities surrounding Decatur, turnout ranged between 7% and 10% — far below Decatur’s 17.3%.
• The field of seven candidates for the three city council seats was the most diverse I’ve ever seen and the candidates did a great job of expressing their views. Also, in any conversation I had with the candidates there was not any bashing of opponents during the campaign. That was refreshing, but, unfortunately, may have led to less voter interest in the election.
• This community has come a long way since I started writing about mayoral and city council races a half century ago. Back then, the photos of the winners always consisted of four white men scoring victory in the mayor’s race and city council seats. Look at the photos of the mayoral and city council winners this year on the front page. There’s quite a difference in those photos compared to another era and that speaks well for our city.
• I don’t think anyone had any doubt that Rodney Walker was going to win a seat on the council. He has great name recognition due to his athletic accomplishments and his continued involvement in the community. He is also a very likeable guy. He had a lot of support from across the board and finished first among the seven candidates in the race.
• Incumbent Lisa Gregory won re-election to council garnering the second most votes for a city council seat. She doesn’t receive a lot of publicity on council. That’s because she does her homework, makes informed decisions and is able to explain her positions — and doesn’t seek to make the news through her work on the council. As I wrote leading up to the election, she has been a solid council member during her first four years and voters apparently saw her from that perspective.
• City Council candidate Marty Watkins finished fifth out of seven candidates for the three open seats. He also lost his bid for council two years ago, but don’t expect him to go away. He told me during an interview a few months ago that, should he lose this race, he will return for a third try in two years. He worked hard and aggressively spread his name all over the city and he will not quit until he wins a council seat. Watkins should receive some inspiration from present councilmen Bill Faber and Pat McDaniel, who did not immediately win city council seats but kept trying until they did.
• Councilman Bill Faber’s third place re-election victory for the final open seat on the council came as a surprise for many as it didn’t seem his campaign for re-election was as aggressive as his challengers in a strong field. Faber finished 31 votes ahead of Shelith Hansbro, who was a strong challenger. Faber’s re-election demonstrated his strong support by labor organizations and others who appreciate his stand against some council actions he believes are beneficial to the citizens. Voters gave him another 4 years on the council to express his independent views on the city — a vote of confidence for his style.
• Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe’s election to a full four-year term was not surprising. She is an incumbent and between being a councilwoman and mayor, has served on the council for a decade. She has great name recognition from decades of community involvement in high profile positions. She has been part, either as a member of the council, or mayor, of a lot of good things that have happened in our community in recent years. Best wishes to her in continuing in the position for at least the next four years.
• Councilman David Horn lost in his bid to be mayor, but he has another two years on council before he is up for re-election. I’m sure he will remain active in his advocacy for the city and listening to residents. He has a good record of listening to citizen concerns — and then following up on those concerns.
• Overall, voters for mayor and city council, and offices in other elections, chose incumbents, either through name recognition or approval of the direction the city is moving. I guess that’s good for the incumbents who essentially got a “pat on the back” and encouragement to continue to do what they have been during.
• I think the next time I hear someone complain to me about something the mayor, city council, or other local bodies are doing, my first question is going to be to them: “Did you vote in the last election?” However, the old saying of “If you didn’t vote you don’t have any right to complain,” sounds good, but non-voters are going to complain anyway.
Recap From Election Day
• Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe won re-election to a full four-year term Tuesday with 4129 votes, or 48.5% of the vote, over David J. Horn who had 2980 votes, or 35.07%, and Jacob Jenkins with 1388 votes, or 16.34%.
• Here are the results for city council: Shavon R. Francis, 2106 votes or 9.31%, Marty Watkins, 3192 votes or 14.11%, Shelith Hansbro, 3455 votes or 15.27%, Lisa Gregory, 3683 votes or 16.28%, Bill Faber, 3486 votes or 15.41%, John Phillips Jr., 2387 votes or 10.55% and Rodney Walker, 4318 votes or 19.08%.
• In the Decatur School Board race three seats were up for election. Incumbent Dan Oakes was re-elected. Newcomers Regan Lewis and Andrew W. Taylor ran first and second. Here are the results: Dan Oakes, 4641 votes or 25.16%, Andrew W Taylor, 4937 votes or 26.76%, Regan Lewis, 4958 votes or 26.88 % and Leara F. Evans, 3912 votes or 21.21%
• In the race for two six-year terms on the Richland Community College Board of Trustees, incumbents Dale Colee and David Cooprider were winners. In the totals for Macon County voters, Dale Colee had 6772 votes, or 37.26% and David Cooprider had 5768 votes or 31.74%. Juanita Morris had 3788 votes, or 20.84% and Hakeemah Leverson had 1847 votes, or 10.16 %
• In the race for two Decatur Park District Commissioners, Macon County totals were Kristin White with 5871 votes or 53.49% and Christopher Harrison who had 5104 votes, or 46.51%. All the results of the other races involved in Tuesday’s Consolidated Election can be found at https://il-macon.pollresults.net
• Congratulations to Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner for running a very smooth election with results known very soon after the polls closed. Paul Osborne joins WSOY’s Brian Byers Thursday mornings at 7:00 for the Byers & Co’s “City Hall Insider” hour.