In this election cycle, Harvard is fielding a full slate of candidates for its City Council after having seats left unfilled following the last two elections.
In 2019, there were no candidates on the ballot in Harvard’s 3rd or 4th Wards. In 2021, there was one candidate for two open seats in the 2nd Ward.
There are five people running for the four, four-year seats open on the council this year, with a two-way race in the city’s 1st Ward between incumbent Lisa Haderlein and former Alderman Scott S. Logan.
In the 2nd Ward, John Lavallee is running to retain the seat he was appointed to in 2021.
Newcomer Lorena Lancaster is running to represent the 3rd Ward, with incumbent Rose Luna looking to retain her 4th Ward seat. Like Lavallee, Luna was appointed to the council when that seat went unfilled in 2019.
Many of the candidates said the city’s infrastructure and how to pay for road maintenance was high on their concerns for the coming years.
The Harvard City Council voted in August to place a question on the April 4 ballot, seeking approval of a 1% sales tax to fund infrastructure repairs. Voters turned down the same question in the June 28 primary, with about 64% of residents voting no to 36% yes.
“Our roads are in terrible shape and we need to figure out a way to accelerate the repair and the rebuilding of our road and sidewalks,” Logan said.
Logan previously served on the city council from 2005 to 2013, when he lost his 3rd Ward seat to Raul Meza. Logan has since moved to the 1st Ward.
Working to attract new businesses to the city, including to the shuttered Motorola campus, is also high on his list of priorities, Logan said, but only if that aid comes without costing the existing taxpayers.
Logan also now serves as a Harvard Fire District trustee. If he wins the council race he cannot hold both positions so he would resign from the fire district, Logan said.
Logan is challenging Haderlein, who has served one term on the council.
“Our roads are terrible” and Harvard’s budget does not allow the city to get ahead of needed repairs, she said. “We can’t keep up. We are getting more (roads) added to the worst list than we are repairing each year. It is a losing game,” she said.
As the executive director of the nonprofit Land Conservatory of McHenry County, Haderlein said she would like to see the city establish a tree board and work towards receiving a Tree City designation from the National Arbor Day Foundation.
“We lost so many trees to the emerald ash borer and we don’t have the budget to replace them. We have a budget for 30 [trees] a year and we lost hundreds,” Haderlein said.
Lavallee, who is running unopposed in the 2nd Ward, might know more about Harvard’s road conditions than the average person. He is a civil engineer who works in the design and engineering of asphalt pavement.
Harvard now has a pavement management survey from Infrastructure Management Services that outlines its road conditions, Lavallee said. “That survey said if we keep going down the path we are going we will not ever, ever, ever ... get caught up” on road maintenance.
If voters approve the referendum, the city’s road reconstruction program will not be limited to the state-reimbursed Motor Fuel Tax fund revenues, Lavallee said. “The Motor Fuel Tax money has to be used in a certain way,” based on Illinois Department of Transportation recommendations.
Lancaster is a newcomer to the council who is running unopposed for the 3rd Ward seat, recruited by sitting board members to run, she said. A stay-at-home mother who is also bilingual in Spanish, Lancaster has been an active volunteer in the city.
As a parent, one of her concerns is ensuring Harvard youth have things to do. “They get bored, they need other things to be able to do,” Lancaster said.
She also knows there will be a learning curve as she gets to know the role.
“I don’t know all of the background but I want to know. I will jump in and do the best that I can with a fresh perspective,” Lancaster said.
Luna, the 4th Ward incumbent, is also running unopposed. When she first applied for one of the unfilled seats in 2019, she wanted to ensure Harvard’s Hispanic community felt they had a voice in their city council, Luna said.
Her family moved from Texas to Harvard in 1974, when Luna was 14. Her family was one of the first Hispanic families in town, she said.
“I want to be the voice for them, to get their input, talk to them and find out what they want to see in Harvard,” Luna said. “But also, that they have to get involved and not complain” when they do not.