Women make gains on Batavia City Council as new members sworn in

Four now serving as aldermen on 14-member body

BATAVIA – There are now more women serving on the Batavia City Council than at any time in history.

With the additions of Leah Leman and Sarah Vogelsinger during swearing-in ceremonies May 3, four women hold aldermanic seats in Batavia.

Vogelsinger was elected 7th Ward alderman in a contested race, while Leman ran unopposed for a council seat in the 2nd Ward in the April 6 election.

A few years ago, there were three women serving on the 14-member council, but that number had dropped to just one recently. Fifth Ward Alderman Abby Beck had been the lone woman on the council.

Last year, Beck was joined by Jennifer Baerren, who was appointed to fill a vacancy in the 1st Ward and was elected to a four-year term in last month’s election. Baerren ran unopposed.

Leman and Vogelsinger were among four new aldermen to take the oath of office May 3.

Christopher Solfa ran unopposed to complete an unexpired two-year term in the 1st Ward, while George Ajazi was unopposed in his bid for a full four-year term in the 3rd Ward.

In addition to Baerren, three other incumbent aldermen took the oath for new terms on the council.

Sixth Ward Alderman Nick Cerone fended off a challenge from Shaunak Dave, earning a third term on the council. Fourth Ward Alderman Tony Malay and 5th Ward Alderman Mark Uher were reelected without an opponent on the ballot.

Taking the oath of office for an unprecedented 11th term was Mayor Jeff Schielke, who has been serving as the city’s top elected official since 1981.

Kate Garrett was sworn in as the new Batavia City Clerk. Like Schielke, she ran unopposed. Earlier in the day, Garrett resigned her seat on the Batavia Library Board.

Administering the oath of office to the elected city officials was Kane County State’s Attorney Jamie Mosser in a slight twist on Schielke’s practice of inviting a 16th Circuit judge to perform the ceremony.

More history was made during the council meeting with the retirement of Batavia Treasurer Gerald Miller.

First elected in 1973, Miller has served as the city’s treasurer for 48 years. Schielke said Miller’s 12 four-year terms as treasurer makes him the longest-serving elected official in Batavia history.

Miller did not run for reelection, and no one filed to run in last month’s election.

To fill the treasurer vacancy, Schielke appointed Batavia utility billing supervisor Jennifer Fox. The council confirmed the mayor’s appointment of Fox to a four-year term.

The council also confirmed Schielke’s reappointment of Andrew Greenhagen and Carolyn Burnham to the Batavia Environmental Commission.

Aldermen further confirmed the mayor’s selection of Robin Barraza and Mary Lombardo to the Batavia Historic Preservation Commission. Barraza had sought the 7th Ward seat won by Vogelsinger in the April election.

The changes on the council were due in large part to the decisions of several incumbent officials not to seek reelection.

Stepping down from the council was 1st Ward Alderman Michael O’Brien, 2nd Ward Alderman Marty Callahan, 3rd Ward Alderman Elliot Meitzler and 7th Ward Alderman Drew McFadden. City Clerk Ellen Posledni also did not run for reelection.

Clearly with an eye on the future, Schielke lauded council members for their ability to disagree on particular issues and then come together on others without holding grudges.

“You’re listening to what the people are saying out there,” Schielke said.

In keeping with tradition, each of the four departing aldermen made a brief farewell speech.

“Working with all of you has been my upmost privilege and honor,” Callahan said, noting that council members showed respect for each other even when disagreeing during policy debates.

“It’s easy for me to leave because I know I’m in good hands with all of you here,” Callahan said.

Like the others stepping down, Meitzler thanked his family for support and understanding.

“There’s a great deal of sacrifice when you’re not with your families,” Meitzler said in a message clearly aimed at the new aldermen.

Meitzler also picked up on the theme of mutual cooperation.

“We all live in the same community together,” Meitzler said. “We worked together and cooperated to make the city we call home a better place.”

O’Brien said that serving on the council was personally rewarding.

“I benefited so much more than I ever gave back to the city,” O’Brien said.

McFadden echoed that theme and encouraged the new aldermen.

“This has been one of the truly great experiences of my life,” McFadden said. “I’m confident you’ll carry on further in a great direction.”