Trustee race is key in Mokena
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org April 4, 2013 4:20PM
Updated: May 6, 2013 6:11AM
With Mokena Mayor Joe Werner having withdrawn months ago from Tuesday’s election, leaving the mayoral race uncontested, the focus has been on the races for village trustee.
Werner, who decided not to seek a third term for family and business reasons, has urged voters to support the three incumbent trustees — John Mazzorana, Joe Siwinski and George Metanias.
Opposing them are former Mokena School District 159 Board member Anthony Bruozas, former Frankfort Township Trustee Vince DiFiore and former Mokena Park Board member Mary Beth Windberg.
Heading their Mokena Friends and Neighbors slate is former village Trustee Frank Fleischer, who now is unopposed for mayor.
The challengers charged that there has been a lack of economic development and transparency in the village.
According to the FANS website, Mokena’s economy is “stagnant,” property taxes are too high and the village needs a full-time mayor and an economic development coordinator to spur growth and offer tax relief.
The team of incumbents said in the eight years they have been together on the board, the number of business licenses increased from 575 to 792 and revenue from sales tax went up 65 percent. They said they brought in J.C. Penney, PetSmart, Cooper Supply, the Brookhaven Marketplace grocery store, and many others, and expect a Meijer to break ground this year at U.S. 30 and Wolf Road.
“We kept our promise. We said we would bring in meaningful business and we did,” Siwinski said.
They said they streamlined the development process to make it more user-friendly.
“We have come out of the worst recession since the Great Depression and we have maintained the financial stability of the village,” Mazzorana said. “Our reserves are up in every fund and we have not increased taxes or fees. Our budget is balanced.”
The village has cut spending, improved its bond rating and has 500 acres annexed, zoned and ready for development when the economy turns around, Mazzorana said.
Mokena continues to have the lowest municipal tax rate in Will County, Metanias said.
“All three of us are businessmen who have dealt with the ups and downs of the economy and we have survived,” Metanias said.
The village survived and services did not suffer because village employees “stepped up,” Mazzorana said.
Many took on different roles. When housing permits dropped, community development director Al Zordan also pursued economic development, Siwinski said. The village does not need an economic development director because it has Zordan, he said.
“We will continue the philosophy of doing more with less, of talking about needs, not wants, and we will use the money wisely that residents give us,” Mazzorana said.
“The only thing I care about is what is good for the residents,” Metanias said. “We are positively on the right track and we want to keep Mokena on that track.”
All believe they can work with Fleischer as mayor.
Siwinski, Mazzorana and Fleischer all served as trustees together. In 1999, Siwinski, Fleischer and Werner ran together as trustees.
Fleischer and DiFiore ran against Werner for mayor in 2005.
DiFiore served one year as a township trustee, but gave up that seat to run for Mokena mayor. He said he now realizes he shares the same philosophy as Fleischer.
Economic development “has been abysmal,” DiFiore said. He wants to hire a marketing director and an economic development director, although he is not sure how the village could afford those new positions.
He wants to see greater transparency in local government and eliminate the “red tape” and “hurdles” for new businesses.
“If elected, I will prove that I am a hard worker,” he said.
His opponents are “good, upstanding people,” he said. “But it’s time for a change, that’s all.” Since moving to Mokena in 1987, Windberg has been involved in various community groups.
“I believe my knowledge of the community will be beneficial,” she said.
She wants to improve property values, bring more big business to town, and reinstate the youth commission.
Other than hiring an economic development director, Windberg said she does not plan to make any “drastic changes.”