‘It was a lot of work’: Planning for Woodstock’s future, roads priorities for leading candidates

Leading vote-getters say they are confident they will maintain their margins as final votes are counted

From top to bottom, Darrin Flynn, Natalie Ziemba and Melissa McMahon are leading the vote totals for Woodstock's City Council race.

Woodstock’s lone incumbent along with two active community members held the lead Wednesday in the City Council race, as unofficial and incomplete results had the group ahead of the pack by more than 200 votes.

The most competitive race of any McHenry County municipality this year, Woodstock had nine candidates competing for three spots. Much of the focus during this year’s election centered on development and infrastructure, maintaining history while still looking to the future and taxes.

While not final, the totals from Tuesday’s election include early voting, mail-in and Election Day ballots, according to the McHenry County Clerk’s Office website. Late-arriving mail-in ballots and provisional ballots were not included in the totals.

About 17,900 mail-in ballots still were outstanding countywide as of Wednesday and could be counted if postmarked by Election Day and received in time, McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said.

The results will be finalized April 25.

Despite this, Melissa McMahon, Natalie Ziemba and incumbent Darrin Flynn all said they were confident Wednesday the results would hold and each would earn a seat on the Woodstock City Council.

It was a lot of work. I’m very enthused about it.

—  Woodstock City Council candidate Natalie Ziemba on unofficial results from Tuesday's election

McMahon, who sat as the top vote-getter Wednesday by more than 100 votes with 856, said while those supporting her expected this outcome, she did not, calling the experience “very humbling.”

This was made more clear when Woodstock Mayor Mike Turner called to congratulate her Tuesday night, she said.

Turner said he called all three leading candidates, which, according to unofficial results Wednesday morning, included Ziemba with 750 and Flynn with 713.

“I’m ingrained in the community and people know me,” said McMahon, who is marketing manager with the Woodstock Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Real Woodstock, as well as a member of the Woodstock Groundhog Days Committee and the external vice president of Woodstock Pride. “I just want to continue doing good things in Woodstock.”

Ziemba chalked up her performance to her slogan, “Respecting History, Embracing Progress,” as well as a robust website, signs “everywhere” and her efforts to get out and shake hands.

“It was a lot of work,” she said. “I’m very enthused about it.”

For Flynn, he said he based his campaign around building on what was accomplished in his first term, with an emphasis on planning for the future. Throughout the campaign and on Wednesday, Flynn said he wants to focus on creating the city’s new comprehensive plan, as well as other master plans for parks and arts.

Ziemba said one of her priorities was the city’s comprehensive plan too. She also wants to focus on accessibility and communication to keep residents in the loop. Roads are a “huge priority” for her as well, which she referred to as “facing the tiger” because of their rough shape and cost to fix.

McMahon wants to see the city prioritize helping businesses along Route 47 deal with the looming expansion project. Supporting businesses in that transition and making sure residents can still get in and out is a focus, she said.

I still believe the mentality is tax and spend. ... I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, but I’m a little discouraged. But I realize my voice needs to be heard.

—  Woodstock City Council candidate Mark Indyke on the unofficial results from Tuesday's election

Meanwhile, many of the other candidates said Wednesday they don’t see a path to victory at this point.

The next highest vote-getter as of Wednesday morning was Bryson Calvin with 503, followed by Joe Starzynski with 476, Mark Indyke with 375, Crystal Squires with 346, Thomas West with 304 and Wendy Barker with 294.

Candidate Mark Indyke said he felt he had a lot of vocal support, but the votes didn’t come in. Still, he said, the campaign was “worth the effort.”

With the results, he said he’s concerned about the direction of the city. Running on a platform that called for less spending on certain things, such as consulting fees for projects, and more on infrastructure, public works and police, he is “not optimistic” about where the city is headed.

As someone who is a frequent attendee of City Council meetings, Indyke said he will continue to be vocal.

“I still believe the mentality is tax and spend,” he said. “I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing, but I’m a little discouraged. But I realize my voice needs to be heard.”

Candidates Joe Starzynski, a former City Council member, and Bryson Calvin had a different view.

Starzynski said he was not disappointed in the outcome and believes the current leaders all will make good council members.

“They are good people,” Starzynski said. “I know them all.”

Diversity in Woodstock is off the charts. ... I hope we can see other segments of the population involved, as well.

—  Darrin Flynn, Woodstock City Council candidate and incumbent

Calvin said the three would be a “boon for the city.” However, he said the low voter turnout was “unfortunate and a shame.”

While voter turnout is on track to be higher this year than 2021, turnout countywide currently sits under 12%, according to the clerk’s office.

“It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the turnout we hoped for,” Calvin said. “But I’m OK with who won.”

Several candidates, including Ziemba, Flynn, Calvin and Starzynski, all said that if Ziemba and McMahon gain seats, they will replace the only two women on the City Council, Lisa Lohmeyer and Wendy Piersall, who opted to not run again this year. This means the same level of representation that the current board has will be kept.

“Diversity in Woodstock is off the charts,” Flynn said. “I hope we can see other segments of the population involved, as well.”

Have a Question about this article?