Election shocker: Mokena mayor drops out of race
Mokena Mayor Joe Werner announced Tuesday he will not seek a third term as mayor and will withdraw from the race Wednesday.
Challenger Frank Fleischer will be the only mayoral candidate on the ballot for the April 9 election.
Werner said he must focus on his family, his plumbing business and his full-time job as water department superintendent and plumbing inspector for the city of Blue Island.
“It has recently become quite apparent to me that I can no longer commit the amount of time that I believe is necessary to responsibly fulfill the obligations as mayor for four more years,” he said.
“It is the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make but one that is logical and practical for my family,” he said. “I would love to have ended my career in a different way.”
Werner said there are no known or impending health or family issues, and that his decision to step down is based solely on personal priorities.
“I’m not running from anything. I don’t want to risk another day of where I need to be,” he said, stressing that his family, his business (Werner-Nugent Plumbing) and his job must come first.
“I’m being proactive about my family and my future,” he said.
In the election four years ago, Werner ran unopposed for his second term. But three years ago, he said he had to scale back his plumbing business to survive, and he stopped paying himself. He took on a full-time position in Blue Island, but maintains two-thirds ownership in the plumbing business.
“I didn’t know how it would all work by adding a full-time job. I wanted to make it work. But in recent weeks, I became aware that it is much tougher to do,” Werner said.
In arriving at his decision, Werner said he did not look at the politics “at all.” He did not want to continue in the race and then later resign later if he won. That, he said, would have been “lying” to the voters.
Voters will still decide the future direction of the village with the election of three trustees, he said. Werner supports all the incumbents: trustees John Mazzorana, Joe Siwinski and George Metanias, and Village Clerk Pat Patt.
Mazzorana and Siwinski previously served on the board with Fleischer, who was a trustee for 16 years. Fleischer is running with his own slate of trustee and clerk candidates.
They tried to get Werner, Mazzorana, Siwinski and Metanias thrown off the ballot earlier this month, when they filed nominating petition objections, but they were overruled.
Werner said he made the decision not to seek re-election just before the objections were filed, but felt he had to prove the signatures on his petitions were valid. Otherwise, he said, it would have been “an insult to the people who signed them.”
In a brief prepared statement, Fleischer said, “On behalf of the Mokena Friends and Neighbors and our many supporters, we would like to thank Mayor Joe Werner for his many years of service to the residents of Mokena. We look forward to a smooth transition.”
Thursday is the last day for candidates to withdraw from the April 9 ballot. Feb. 7 is the last day to file as a write-in candidate.