This spring, for the first time in 16 years, the citizens of Peoria, Illinois, will select a new mayor to lead their city into the future. First elected in 2005, Jim Ardis will step down having served four consecutive terms—more than any other mayor in Peoria history. Only the legendary Edward Nelson Woodruff served longer, though his 24 years of service were spread across the 42 years between 1903 and 1945.
Whoever wins the election will face a series of steep challenges. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a long-simmering budget crisis has forced very difficult decisions and continues to impact every aspect of city administration, with little sign of relief in sight. Fortunately, Peoria is full of strong, intelligent and caring leaders who are unafraid to take on these challenges.
A quintet of hopefuls have stepped up to the plate, each offering a distinctive approach, leadership style and life experience. But common to all of them is an awareness of the problems we face, an abiding love for their city, and a fervent desire to make it a better place to live, work and play. Peoria Magazine sat down with each of the candidates to learn what inspired their run and what their vision is for the future. The top two vote-getters in the February 23 primary election will face off in the general election on April 6, 2021.
Meet the Candidates...
Inside Peoria City Hall
Whoever wins the April 2021 mayoral election will join 46 others who have served as mayor since Peoria became a city in 1845. Businessman William Hale was Peoria’s first mayor, followed by 32 men who served one- or two-year terms—including several who had multiple terms. Since Mayor Edward N. Woodruff served the first four-year term from 1941 to 1945, only 13 men have headed up Peoria’s city government.
Peoria’s new mayor will make their office on the second floor at 419 Fulton Street—inside the “Best City Hall” in the country. (Peoria City Hall earned this title in 2017—besting more than 200 other city halls in a nationwide competition.) The building was constructed in the Flemish Renaissance style from 1897 to 1899—at a cost of just over $200,000. At the time, it was the biggest project in the city’s history. The exterior’s renowned—and extremely rare—red sandstone was quarried by workhouse inmates near Lake Superior in 1890.
Inside, its four floors are arranged around an open atrium rotunda, lit by a stained-glass skylight and connected by open galleries surrounded with ornamental wrought iron railings. Classic marble floors, leaded beveled glass, red oak trim, and numerous historic murals and works of art round out a list of its most prominent features. PM