9 candidates face off in Joliet mayoral race

March 22, 2011 4:53:06 PM PDT
There's a large field of candidates in the April 5 election for mayor in Joliet.

Nine candidates are battling for the job.

Joliet will have new mayoral leadership for the first time in 20 years.

The city had enjoyed revenue from two gambling riverboats, but fewer are gambling, and overall the city has been impacted by the recession.

Now as the city tries to recover, jobs and city finances are hot topics for candidates.

After 20 years, Joliet's Mayor Art Schultz is stepping down, leaving room for a field of nine candidates.

On Tuesday, the candidates discussed issues at a public forum at Al's Steakhouse.

On the minds of most of the candidates: How to deal with the city's projected $27 million deficit next year.

"How did we get to that point and the citizens were never informed about it, and so I think we need transparency," said candidate Lester Brown, who teaches criminal justice and is a pastor with Bishop Good Samaritan Ministry.

"It was riverboat gambling money and they could not stop spending the taxpayers money," said candidate Michael Marconi, a retired firefighter who is suing the city for health benefit changes.

"We need to be fiscally responsible. We need to get our budget in order, and in doing that, I think the city of Joliet can be a wonderful place to live," said candidate Diane Harris, a ComEd Liability representative who is also with the Cathedral Area Preservation Association.

"With my business background and my experience as a business leader, this city now needs a strong business leader with a strong business background that can bring groups together and resolve some of the issues we have," said candidate City Councilman Warren Dorris, who is also a pastor at Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ.

"People want services. We can't jeopardize the public safety by cutting more, so we're going to have to work with them to come up with some concessions," said candidate City Councilman Tom Giarrante, who is a former firefighter union president.

In addition to balancing the city's budget, some candidates are eager to bring more jobs to Joliet.

"We have a 12 percent or higher unemployment rate. People cannot pay their bills, so we have to bring jobs back to Joliet," said candidate Andrew Mihelich, a retired college administrator and the Interim Executive Director Spanish Community Center.

"Once the economy turns around, we need to be ready and meet those developers so they can hit the ground running, get those projects up and running, get people back to work, get those businesses open and increase the sales tax revenue," said candidate Kevin Hegarty, a former city public information officer and former radio reporter.

"I really want to promote the Intermodal Transportation Center with the high speed rail because that's going to create long term jobs and that's what we need here in Joliet," said candidate City Councilwoman Jan Quillman, who is also a nurse.

Dale Vollmer also participated in Tuesday's forum. He did not accept ABC7's request for an interview.

Vollmer is a retired police officer and past president of the police union.

At the forum, Vollmer voiced concern about balancing the city's budget.