Mayor Donald DeWitte’s announcement this week that he will not seek a third term begs the question: In the coming months, who will line up to put their names on the ballot with hopes of becoming the new mayor of St. Charles?
National attention is focused on the General Election in November, but it’s been a long campaign season, and many are eager for its end. Still, the April 2013 municipal election is virtually around the corner, even though it is about eight months away, and DeWitte’s absence already is creating its own dynamic, one that could have a profound impact on the races for other municipal posts.
The advantages of running for mayor now are clear: Whoever runs will be on fairly equal footing with their opponents in at least one respect: None will have a track record as the incumbent. That can be a significant advantage, even when the incumbent has accomplished little to done nothing more thank keep a low profile over the prior four years.
Minus that, each candidate will have to pitch him/herself to voters relying on such factors as name recognition, professional skills, background — and conceivably the track record of a sitting alderman, for example.
So the question, “Who would be St. Charles mayor?” has the capability of shaking up other municipal races, as well. The April 2013 election will determine not only the next mayor, but also who will sit in five of the city’s 10 aldermanic seats and who will become city clerk and city treasurer for the next four years. Should any incumbents in any of those races decide not to seek re-election — or decide to run instead for mayor, for example, the dynamics of the election season could shift significantly.
That also has broader implications in terms of the future City Council, which saw two new members elected in the spring of 2011. Any change in membership shifts the council’s chemistry as its members try to strike a balance between the fervor and zeal of the newly elected members with the wisdom and experience of their more established counterparts. For example, 4th Ward Alderman Jim Martin has served on the council more than 33 years, 4th Ward Alderwoman Jo Krieger has served more than 19 years, and 1st Ward Alderman Dan Stellato has served more than 17 years. That represents a combined 69 years of experience.
Mixing the old and new members can be a volatile period and takes time and discipline to settle into a more cohesive, ideally collaborative group.
For now, questions about aldermanic interest in the mayor’s post appear largely unanswered. Patch emailed City Council members questions about their intent Friday afternoon, after the mayor’s announcement. Only four of the city’s 10 alderman had responded by Friday night. None indicated a willingness to run for mayor.
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