After two years of seemingly nonstop political campaigns and with the inauguration of a new president, we can finally take a break, right? Not quite. On the heels of our national and state elections come the spring elections for school boards, township officials, city council members and mayors. Just like tulips in the spring, political signs are beginning to pop up in many communities around central Illinois for all of the various offices.
I would argue that these elections are the most important in which we can participate for a couple of reasons. First, I believe that those elected officials who are closest to the people are the most accountable and responsive to their constituents. Often we know the individuals who are running personally; we may even have their numbers in our cellphones. Secondly, local government can have an immediate impact on the issues we face—and can resolve these issues in a quicker and more efficient manner.
In Tazewell County, there are a variety of races in all three units of local government. In selecting party candidates, township governments can use either a primary or a caucus. Due to COVID-19, holding a caucus—a mass gathering—can present some challenges. The Morton township GOP held its caucus in a huge machine shed, while the Pekin Democrats explored using an FM transmitter that would allow attendees to stay in their cars and listen to the candidates over the radio. There are currently contested races for the Fondulac road commissioner and Pekin supervisor positions.
Our local school districts serve a tremendously important role in our communities. They help determine the direction of the education our children receive and oversee the spending of our property taxes. School board members take on enormous responsibility without pay and are often on the receiving end of unfair criticism. There are at least 17 districts in Tazewell County that are having elections this coming April. Unfortunately, many districts have fewer individuals running than open seats—with one district having no candidates at all. I would encourage any person interested in our children’s education and how our tax dollars are spent to express your desire to serve on your local school board. It can be incredibly satisfying.
The quality of the communities in which we live often begins with the leadership at the top. Being a mayor or serving on a city council or village board is a serious undertaking because they oversee police, fire, zoning, sewer, water and so much more. In Tazewell County’s four largest communities, there are only a handful of races. East Peoria has no election scheduled, while the Village of Morton has three people running for three seats, including retired Morton Police Chief Craig Hilliard. The City of Pekin has four people running for three seats, and the City of Washington has one city council race and a mayoral contest.
Serving the citizens of Tazewell County is an enormous privilege, and the leaders we elect take their positions seriously. They love to hear what their constituents are thinking, and sincerely appreciate feedback and suggestions on how they can improve where we live. My challenge to you is this: consider running for a local office where you can make a difference. At a bare minimum, study the issues and vote for who you think will best serve your community. PM