Wilmington’s mayor facing three challengers
BY MARY BASKERVILLE Correspondent March 18, 2013 10:48PM
Updated: April 20, 2013 6:02AM
WILMINGTON — Wilmington Mayor Marty Orr faces three challengers in the April 9 election: Ald. Darla Neises, former Ald. Russell J. Gilmour, and former mayor Roy Strong.
“I think we are on the right path,” Orr said.
Some of the city’s most difficult challenges already have been met, he said, citing the recent increase in water rates.
“But we still face a lot of difficulty in maintaining fiscal responsibility,” he said.
Orr said that, with growth, the city will have more tax revenue from industrial and commercial sources, as well as residential, to help pay for needed services “to become locally self-sufficient.”
Orr supports building a new prefabricated police building, at an estimated cost of under $2 million, designed to meet the city’s needs for the next 25 to 30 years. Orr said a $2 million contribution from RidgePort as part of the annexation agreement would cover the cost.
Wilmington wants a voice in planning for the proposed Illiana Expressway, he said. An interchange at Old Chicago Road would bring more opportunity for commercial growth, he said.
A vital downtown is important, he said, and more needs to be done to “find out what it’s going to take for the owners of the property to become major players to bring business into town.
Orr, 46, is an electrician. He served two terms on the city council before being elected mayor.
Neises, the first female mayoral candidate and a resident since 2006, said her run for mayor was prompted by a desire to make a difference. Community leaders and the city council need to develop an action plan, she said.
“Bring it back to the people and talk to the people,” she said.
Her run for the city council four years ago was her first experience running for office. Neises cited a strong community service background as something that has helped prepare her for the job of mayor. She is vice president of the Wilmington Coalition for a Healthy Community after first working as a Volunteer in Service to America representative.
Challenges facing the city, she said, include the proposed Illiana Expressway, the development of the RidgePort Properties, high-speed rail, water rates and the budget.
As mayor, she would have regular office hours to improve communication with the community, she said.
Neises, 44, owns Jaszy’s Java. She is a committee chair for Cub Scout Pack 428 in Wilmington.
The former mayor said the biggest challenge facing the city is the dwindling reserve fund.
“They have spent all the reserves, $1.2 million,” he said.
As mayor, he said, his goal was to leave the reserves alone, and most important now is “getting back in the black from the red.”
Strong criticized spending $30,000 on the Illiana studies.
Strong said a 66 percent increase in water and sewer bills could have been averted had the city council approved a series of 3 percent increases he suggested.
“The town is in distress and they need help, and I hope that I can save it,” he said.
He is against using prefabricated construction for a new police department building and believes the downtown area must be upgraded.
Strong, 62, a plumbing and pipefitting contractor, lost his re-election bid four years ago. He was an alderman for 16 years before that.
Russell J. Gilmour
Gilmour said of his mayoral aspirations, “I just think I can do a good job. I can contribute some good things.”
A former two-term alderman, Gilmour was born and raised in Wilmington.
The challenge facing the city right now “is to balance the budget by smart spending,” he said. “A lot of things are important — what I would like to do is get rid of the bipartisanship. ... and get working together for the good of Wilmington.”
Gilmour said he is active in the community, serving on the Wilmington School Board, teaching at St. Rose School and serving as the assistant fire chief for almost 20 years.
He said he is against outsourcing the water and sewer plant, and he would like local contractors to have the opportunity to bid on construction of a new police building.
Gilmour wants to see downtown buildings filled, too. He said he played a key role in the project to beautify Claire’s Corner.
Gilmour supports the proposed Illiana Expressway but thinks New River Road should be used to avoid “displacing people and ruining people’s lives,” he said.
Gilmour, 70, is a retired Will County sheriff’s officer.