Unofficial results from yesterday’s voting, which saw only 13% of registered voters participating, show that in the Decatur City Council race to fill three seats, Councilwoman Lisa Gregory had 3586 votes or 27.83% to lead the field. Former Councilman Pat McDaniel finished second with 3361 votes or 26.08% of the vote with Councilman Dennis Cooper winning the third seat with 3129 votes or 24.28% of the total. Karl Coleman, the only candidate of the four with no council experience finished last with 2809 votes or 21.8% of the vote.
These totals are unofficial because there remains an undetermined number of mail-in votes yet to be counted. As it stands now, Gregory, McDaniel and Cooper won the three seats on city council.
No surprises in the city council race — at least in the unofficial totals — the winners were as predicted in last week’s column.
• The Decatur School Board race, which attracted the most attention in this election cycle, also went along the prediction lines with a few mild surprises. As mentioned in last week’s column, Bill Clevenger was the strongest candidate and he finished in first place with 2929 votes or 23.47% of the total. Will Wetzel was second with 2409 votes or 19.31% with Mark A. Reynolds winning the third and last seat with 2296 votes or 18.4% of the total. Hannah Wolfe was fourth with 2036 votes or 16.32% edging Jacob Jenkins who had 2029 votes or 16.26%. Misty Fronk finished a distant sixth with 779 votes or 6.24% of the total.
I wrote last week that Clevenger, Wetzel, Reynolds and Wolfe were the strongest candidates in the field of six and the three winners would come from those four candidates. Wetzel ran stronger in finishing second than some voters expected, but he had a pretty solid campaign. Although Jacob Jenkins finished fifth in the race, he was only a handful of votes behind Wolfe. Since all of the above totals came from last night’s unofficial tabulation, vote totals will change somewhat after all of the mail-in ballots are counted.
The Macon County Proposition To Eliminate Office Of County Auditor went down to defeat with YES 2979 votesm 35.54% and NO 5402 votes 64.46%. That sent a pretty clear message that voters want to keep the office of County Auditor.
For all of the unofficial results (as I’m writing this) for all of the city and county races go to macon.pollresults.net.
• Our print newspaper press deadline is a few hours before the polls close on Tuesday, so we are unable to print the results in this week’s print edition. (That’s why we have the unofficial results on this web page.) For many years, I stayed up all night making trips to the county building to get vote totals and interview winners for the following day’s edition of the Trib. In fact, when I won election to my first term as mayor of Decatur 20 years ago this week, I was up all night, not only dealing with vote totals in my own election and being interviewed by other members of the media following my victory, but gathering results on all races and getting the information to press so the Trib could be published on time.
A Herald & Review photographer followed me back to the Tribune, which was located on North Park Street back then, and photographed me working at my computer typing election copy to meet the Tribune deadline — and his photo was printed in the next day’s edition of the daily newspaper! It was probably the first time in the city’s history where a photographer/ reporter from the daily newspaper met his deadline by photographing the editor of the weekly newspaper as he was working to meet his deadline! Only minutes after getting the Tribune to press I went to the civic center where I was the guest speaker at the Chamber’s Business Expo as mayor-elect and appeared on WSOY’s Byers & Co. — still without any sleep! As I mentioned in a previous column, I won the election on April 1st — April Fools Day!
• RESULTS — I no longer stay up all night covering election results — and haven’t for several elections. One reason is that election vote tabulation is so much faster than it was when votes were counted by hand — and there is no long wait to find out who won — at least unofficially. Also, the digital explosion of media outlets where election information can be found makes finding out election results extremely easy for the public. Plus, in order to print, address, truck and deliver the huge number of Tribunes to the post office and newsstands, we have to print late Tuesday to get them delivered and mailed on Wednesday. We don’t delay that deadline because the ripple impact on subscribers not getting their Tribunes on time because of holding the press for election results, is not somethng I want — especially since there are so many other ways for the public to get that information.
• EARLY VOTE — I voted at the Macon County Clerk’s office last Thursday afternoon and, as usual, it was a quick process. There wasn’t any voter standing in line ahead of me The county office building is only a block away from the Tribune office and it is always nice to see the great people who work there — some I’ve known for many years. For most of my voting years I voted on Election Day on my way to the office and most of those years I got there just as the polls were opening and an election judge came out the front door and declared the polling place open. Now, I can make early voting a part of a day’s walk and exercise both by body and patriotic duty. Apparently, more and more people are voting before Election Day.
After I finished voting last week, I talked with Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner about the early voting turnout. He indicated that many voters have not only decided to early vote at his office in the county office building, but many are also utilizing mail-in ballots — an increase apparently stimulated by the pandemic when voters did not want to leave home to vote. Although the pandemic is over (for the most part) many remain satisfied that voting by mail is for them.
• EARLY voting certainly has impacted the way many candidates handle their public relations and advertising budgets. Back in the “old days” candidates would usually run advertising in this newspaper a few weeks before Election Day in order to remind voters of their candidacy before they went to the polls. With early and mail in voting starting over a month before the actual Election Day, candidates now start advertising much earlier to make sure their name is on the minds of early voters casting their ballots weeks before the actual election day. Several candidates who advertised in this newspaper started their ads the week before early voting started and ran in every edition until election day. I usually vote early within a week of election day because I want a fairly full understanding of how the candidates are doing — and what they are consistantly saying.
I received the first piece of campaign literature/advertising from one candidate for local office last Thursday. It was in my mailbox at home — and I saw it AFTER I had voted that afternoon. That campaign material was wasted on all the residents who voted early, like I did. Maybe the candidate thought it would reach enough people who vote on election day and I’m going to be looking to see how that candidate did with that strategy. It could also have been a question of limited campaign funds and the candidate felt that an advertising piece the week before the election was the only option that was affordable.
• NO INTEREST — When I early voted I really didn’t have much on my ballot to choose from. A few races had more seats to fill than candidates running for them. A couple of board races had no candidates listed on the ballot. Overall, the ballot applying to the part of Macon County where I live had very few candidates running for office. Frankly, I think people are so burned out by “politics” and it filtered down to local races that, for the most part, were bipartisan. The desire to run for public office to give back to your community is not as strong as it once was, not only in our area, but across the nation. The public service “environment” is not as appealing as it once was due to the negativity that serving in public office, especially at the local level, seems to attract these days. Thanks to those candidates who were willing to step up and seek to fill unexpired terms in Tuesday’s election. All deserve a pat on the back, regardless of the results at the polls. Considering a negative feeling about public office by many Americans, those willing to put their name on a ballot and stand for election deserve our appreciation.
• I RECEIVED an interesting letter from Gary Strong of Gary Strong Marionettes. He wrote: “Thank you for recently bringing back your article on the life and music of Tiny Hill. Using the information you so kindly provided, we are including highlights of his career and music to begin our 67th season with our marionette production ‘The Music Goes Round and Round’, available for senior audiences. “It includes the music of other recording artists of years gone by, with a planned sequel featuring two other artists with Decatur area ties: June Christy and Boots Randolph. Our storylines may be fictional, but the music and the backstory of the artists are factural. We appreciate your indepth research of Tiny Hill and many other Decatur and Central Illinois celebrities.”
Later in the letter, Gary pointed out something I found really interesting: “The screen now being used in the Lincoln Square Theater was erected there by our early 1990’s team when we brought it from the closed Rogers Theater. At that time, only the lobby of the theater was damaged with fallen ceiling tiles. The auditorium looked to be in fairly good condition.”
Thanks, Gary. I appreciate all of your efforts, and entertainment, over the years.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at 7:00 for the City Hall Insider to discuss the issues confronting Decatur and Central Illinois — a conversation we’ve been having about every Thursday morning for the past 20 years.
Blessed Easter to all!