NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WLS) -- For the first time in eight years, Naperville will have a new mayor.
The hotly contested race includes a longtime public servant, a local businessman with a familiar last name and a woman looking to break barriers.
It's a tight race between councilman Benny White -- who is potentially Naperville's first Black mayor -- and longtime businessman Scott Wehrli, according to the latest polling. Both candidates are emphasizing their focus on reducing crime as the city's first new mayor in eight years.
"We used to having 200 to 250 people on the hiring list. The latest list we have for our police department is down to 17," White said. "We've had several lateral transfers that have come in from Chicago -- something really traditionally haven't done but in the last few years, we've been able to do that."
Wehrli touts his experience as a part-time park district police officer for decades in the western suburb. Experience, he said, White lacks.
"That street experience of knowing what our police officers are going through is a huge distinction between me and the other candidates," Wehrli said. "There was a riot two and a half years ago, and some of these folks talk about that riot like it happens two weeks ago," he said of community members he's spoken with.
White takes umbrage with casting him in that light, and says his experience as the son of a homicide detective, his service in the US Army and Naperville public safety board for the city are more than enough qualifications.
"There's just no truth to it," he said.
Both candidates want to bring in new business to the I-88 corridor to help fund Indian Praire District 204 and the city.
White said he wants to tap into city diversity when planning new business growth.
"Me, being a candidate for mayor, is a testament to how this community has grown," he said. "One of the reasons I'm running is I want us to embrace the great diversity of this community."
Wehrli, in turn, said his experience as a business owner employing hundreds will win out.
"I've got this unique perspective on what other owners and CEOs want, and that separates me from other candidates running for office," Wehrli said. "I can actually have those conversations with those folks."
Tiffany Stephens said her candidacy got off to a late start after challenges to stay on the ballot, but public safety, affordable housing, mental health and economic stability are her platform.
"I want to make sure that we have the tools to have diversity, equity and inclusion for everyone," she said.
And all three had strong reaction to Naperville's ordinance banning assault weapon sales.
"I don't believe that ordinance as it was passed has done much for our community whatsoever to prevent any sort of mass shouting or crime from taking place in Naperville," Wehrli said.
"The reason someone would want to use one of those (assault weapons), they're for combat. They're not to go into our schools and kill our babies," White said
"Something definitely needs to be done, and I'm going to be more involved just to see what I can bring to the table," Stephens said.