News - McHenry County

Candidates file to run for Crystal Lake Mayor against incumbent Haig Haleblian

Jim Sisto

Two candidates are running against incumbent Crystal Lake Mayor Haig Haleblian in the upcoming April municipal election.

The two candidates running against Haleblian in the mayor’s race are James “Jim” Sisto and Donald Kountz. Because only three people are running for the seat, no primary will be needed to see who can run in April.

Haleblian was appointed as mayor after the death of Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley’s death in May. Haleblian announced in mid-November that he would seek to retain the seat.

The winner elected in April’s special election will serve until the 2023 consolidated election, which is when Shepley’s term would have expired. Candidates running with an established political party or who are running for a nonpartisan municipal office, like Crystal Lake’s, needed to submit nomination papers by Nov. 23, according to the state board of elections.

Kountz declined to be interviewed until he was able to see if there are any objections to his petition to be mayor. No objections had been filed by the deadline this week, according to the city clerk, but attempts to reach Kountz again were not successful.

Sisto, who works at Berry Global, a large packaging company, has always been interested in politics, in part because one of his close friends was the late Crystal Lake Mayor Bob Wagner, who served before Shepley.

Sisto said he wasn’t even thinking about running until Shepley died in May.

If he was going to run, Sisto said, he wanted to do it while he was young and full of energy and has the time, which he said he does now that he’s not coaching his children’s sports teams. He said he also doesn’t have any other political commitments.

Sisto began watching the City Council meetings online when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, and has been to the last eight or 10 meetings in person.

“I like the whole process; it’s very interesting to me,” Sisto said.

Sisto has lived in Crystal Lake for more than 25 years, and he said he wants to help the city continue to develop and thrive, as well as remain focused on downtown rehabilitation efforts. He also wants to bring people to the uptown area and promote the Route 14 corridor.

One of his priorities would be pushing for the development of vacant lots, perhaps into restaurant and retail spaces or nice apartments, as alternatives for empty nesters looking to downsize or young people.

“If more people are going to live there, more people are going to eat there, grab a coffee,” Sisto said, adding that he wants to make Crystal Lake even more of a “great location” where people like to shop, visit or eat. “It’s a very nice place to live.”

“We want to be a viable alternative for people from Woodstock [or] McHenry to come here and make it a night out,” Sisto said.

Because of COVID-19, a lot of businesses are struggling, something Sisto said he expects will get worse as it gets colder and harder for patrons to eat outside at restaurants.

As mayor, Sisto said he would want to help these places survive, grow and recover. Even when COVID-19 is over, this doesn’t mean the economy will come back in an instant, he said.

His goal, if elected mayor, would be to help the city with “survival and stability” in 2021 and look to 2022 for development opportunities.

Sisto and his wife, Kelly, have four children who are all in their 20s.

He noticed a lot of council members are from the north side of the city, and while Sisto said they’re doing a good job, he thinks it would be nice to “give all of Crystal Lake a voice.”

“Crystal Lake is run pretty well,” Sisto said. “If I can add to that, I’d love to be able to help out. ... I just would like to throw my hat in the arena.”

Cassie Buchman

Cassie Buchman

Cassie is a former Northwest Herald who rcovered Crystal Lake, Algonquin, Cary, Fox River Grove, Prairie Grove and Oakwood Hills.