October 01, 2023
Election


Election

D’Arcy has high hopes as Joliet mayor-elect

People want change, less ‘in-fighting,’ D’Arcy says

Terry D'Arcy, center and his wife Sue are all smiles as election results displayed on a TV show him with a lead, in Joliet, on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

Terry D’Arcy, the day after a landslide election victory in which he beat incumbent Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, said voters are looking for change and a new path away from City Hall controversies.

The new mayor-elect and City Council members will have to do that while navigating through an issue that has been at the core of some of the biggest political fights in city government. Who’s going to be city manager?

“We need to get our attitude different,” D’Arcy said Wednesday, expressing a desire to forge a more positive image for the city.

“Right now, with all the infighting we’ve had, we need to get away from that,” he said. “We have to talk about what’s right about Joliet. It’s a city with a big heart.”

A feel-good goal, which D’Arcy mentioned on the campaign trail and reiterated Wednesday, is to develop a local contest to design a logo for an “I Love Joliet” promotion.

D’Arcy will take office May 2 with immense public support, having won more than 61% of the vote.

His 9,075 votes more than doubled those for O’Dekirk, who was seeking a third term and running on a record that could boast of major infrastructure projects, a growing local economy and strong city finances.

O’Dekirk received 4,396 votes for a little more than 29% of the total.

Tycee Bell had 1,405 votes for about 9% of the vote.

O’Dekirk conceded early Tuesday night while still standing by his record.

Joliet mayor Bob O’Dekirk thanks his supporters after announcing that he called mayor candidate Terry D’Arcy to concede and let him he would help in the transition.

“I’m at peace and very proud of what we’ve done in the last eight years,” O’Dekirk said.

His undoing may have been the many controversies at City Hall over eight years, many of which arose over who should be city manager.

Joliet has a city manager form of government, which, in theory, puts administrative authority for operations in the hands of city manager. How much influence the mayor and council have over the city manager can depend on who has the job and how that person got it.

Joliet City Manager James Capparelli was appointed with the support of O’Dekirk after a power struggle on the council that spilled into other controversies that still simmer.

But Capparelli has been operating on three short contracts, and his current six-month contract expires in June.

D’Arcy has more plans for the city than an “I Love Joliet” promotion. But he said those plans hinge on having the right city manager.

“The first order of business is the current city manager’s contract is up for June 1,” he said.

Once the city manager position is settled, “then we can plan for the future,” D’Arcy said.

D’Arcy said he wants the job opened up for potential candidates.

“I think it would be fair if we invite our current city manager to apply for it, but we also see who else is out there,” he said.

One council member who won reelection Tuesday already is suggesting the process can be a problem depending on how it goes.

“If it is opened up,” council member Larry Hug said, “I would agree to do so only with a national search. It has to be a national search and not a local list of friends of friends.”

Councilman Larry Hug shares a few words of encouragement after Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk thanked his supporters in his concession speech on Tuesday, April 4, 2023.

The City Council stopped a national search process when Capparelli, a private Joliet attorney at the time, was hired in January 2021. Hug voted for Capparelli then.

D’Arcy said he got the message from his door-to-door campaign that people want city government to operate differently than it has.

“I think the common denominator is everyone wants change,” he said. “We all want to move the city forward.”

D’Arcy said public safety, control of truck traffic and more equitable attention given to neighborhoods around the city were among concerns he heard and intends to address.

He also wants a comprehensive plan to prepare for the city’s future.

But it all starts with a decision on a city manager.

“Let us make sure we have a solid city manager we can work with,” D’Arcy said.

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Bob Okon

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News