Huntley trustees Niko Kanakaris, Harry Leopold not planning to run for reelection

Three people filed on Monday morning for three seats in Huntley

Niko Kanakaris in the dining room of Niko's Red Mill Tavern in Woodstock. Kanakaris opened his first restaurant at age 23, and has invested in several restaurants over the years. He plans  to open a new one in Marengo. The Huntley resident comes from a family of restaurateurs.

Two long-time Huntley Village Board trustees are planning to step away after their term ends next year, paving the way for at least a couple new faces to make it onto the board.

Trustees Harry Leopold and Niko Kanakaris are not planning to run for reelection, with the pair on Monday saying they are proud of what they accomplished, but noting their longevity as well.

Their decision comes as candidates started to file for board positions throughout McHenry County on Monday, including for three seats in Huntley.

As of Monday, three people had filed for the three seats in Huntley, Village Clerk Rita McMahon said. They all filed at 8 a.m.

Those three were John Piwko, Vito Benigno and Ric Zydorowicz, McMahon said.

Benigno said on Monday he loves the direction the village has been heading in since he moved to town eight years ago, and, if elected, hopes to continue working toward the growth the city has seen. Though, he wants to do it thoughtfully without losing that “small town flavor.”

“Growth is inevitable, but it can be positive or negative,” he said. “I want to continue it in a positive direction, which is based on what’s best for the community.”

Benigno said he retired as the Jesse White Foundation’s executive director. He also has served on the Huntley Historical Society, and sits on the Huntley Area Public Library Board.

Piwko and Zydrorwicz could not be reached for comment on Monday. Piwko is a former trustee who lost a seat in 2021 after serving on the board for 14 years. Zydorowicz is the current vice chair for Huntley’s Plan Commission and, according to his LinkedIn page, works as a bank branch manager.

Leopold, who has been on the board for 20 years, said he feels sometimes people stay in jobs or positions past their prime and he “wants to go out on top.”

“It is time,” he said on Monday. “I’m very glad for the people of Huntley allowing me to serve them for these last 20 years.”

Over the course of his tenure, which included five four-year terms, Leopold, 86, was part of a number of key projects throughout Huntley. That included widening both Route 47 and Algonquin Road, a new Huntley Village Hall, and a new hospital, he said.

Village of Huntley Trustee Harry Leopold (left) speaks with Thom Palmer, Executive Director of the Huntley Park District, during a celebration held by the Huntley Area Chamber of Commerce to mark the widening of Route 47 Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at Deicke Park in Huntley.

Having served for 16 years, Kanakaris, a prominent business owner throughout McHenry County, pointed to the Interstate 90 interchange and widening of Route 47 as his favorite accomplishments, calling it “the main artery of our town.”

That artery has been a catalyst for significant growth in Huntley for the past several years, which have brought in a number of new businesses, including Amazon, he said.

“It’s been a long time,” Kanakaris said. “I think we’ve done well. Did a lot of great things for the community. … Glad I had an input in it. It’s time to pass the baton on to whoever wins the election.”

Filing for the Huntley Village Board, along with school boards, park districts, fire protection districts and library boards, opened on Monday and will close next Monday, Dec. 19.

In the past couple weeks, filing for Crystal Lake and Woodstock opened and closed, as they could have required primaries in February if enough candidates had filed.