Weisner will appoint Schuler’s 1st Ward replacement
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org September 7, 2013 2:18PM
Alderman Abby Schuler, 1st Ward, is resigning from that post to take a job with the City of Aurora. | Sun-Times Media File
Updated: October 10, 2013 6:20AM
AURORA — Less than a week after Abby Schuler announced she would resign as 1st Ward alderman, the rumors started swirling.
Who would replace her?
Because Schuler is resigning 18 months before the next 1st Ward general election, Mayor Tom Weisner gets to pick her replacement. Had the 1st Ward aldermanic spot been vacated 28 months before the term’s experation date, a special election would have been held to replace Schuler.
Schuler announced her intention to resign Tuesday. Her resignation is effective Sept. 15.
If City Council likes the appointee, Weiser’s pick will represent the 1st Ward at least until the next general election is held in April 2015.
John Savage, president of the Aurora Public Library’s board of directors, said he hasn’t yet decided if he’ll apply to serve as 1st Ward alderman. As then-chairman of the library’s Building Committee in 2012, Savage led the public push for a new $28 million downtown library.
“I haven’t made a decision yet. I’ve thought about it, (and) there’s a lot of different things I need to consider,” said Savage, who lives in the city’s 1st Ward.
Savage said he needs to determine how serving on City Council might affect his business opportunities. In addition to working in investments at Aon Hewitt, Savage is part-owner of Heartland Recycling CCDD. Both the recycling and development arm of Heartland have done, or plan to do, business with the city.
“I don’t want there to be a conflict of interest,” he said.
Savage said he has received some phone calls from others encouraging him to apply for the post. He declined to elaborate who those phone calls were from, but said it was “very flattering.”
Dick Leonard, an East Aurora School Board member living in the 1st Ward, said he might throw his hat in the ring, but doesn’t plan to make a “real serious” run for the post.
“I might just do it for the fun of it,” Leonard said Friday.
Judy Runge said Saturday morning that she is “absolutely not running” for the 1st Ward spot.
Runge, who lives in the 1st Ward, was the only member of the Aurora Housing Authority board to survive Weisner’s dismantling of the board in 2012. As part of that move, Weisner also replaced Al Schuler, Abby Schuler’s father-in-law, on the AHA board.
Runge voluntarily resigned from the AHA board in July for “personal reasons,” according to AHA Executive Director Keith Gregory.
Annette Johnson, president of the East Aurora School Board and 1st Ward resident, said she won’t apply for the post, either.
“Absolutely not. I’m too busy with the school board,” Johnson said.
At times this summer, Johnson and Weisner weren’t playing nicely. In a voice mail released in June, Johnson told Weisner she felt personally targeted by the city and threatened to pull out of the multi-district Pathways to Prosperity project. Weisner, at the time, said Johnson was putting personal and political grudges ahead of the best interest of East students.
The possibility exists that previous 1st Ward hopefuls might run for the spot, too. In 2011, Schuler squared off against write-in candidate Don Duve. Duve could not be reached for comment.
Schuler said a few people have asked about the 1st Ward post since her announcment, but she’s not disclosing names.
“I’m not sure how committed they are,” she said.
Schuler will also encourage some existing 1st Ward leaders to apply, she said.
How to apply
To be considered for an appointment, a resident must be a U.S. citizen, have lived in the city for one year and currently reside in the 1st Ward.
Residents interested in being considered for appointment should send a letter of interest, resume and five letters of recommendation, three of which should be from 1st Ward residents. The packet must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, to the Mayor’s Office, 44 E. Downer Place, Aurora, IL, 60505.
Under Illinois Municipal Code, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner is responsible for submitting an appointee for consideration by the Aurora City Council within 60 days of the vacancy.
Weisner is looking for a candidate who has a proven track record of dedication to the 1st Ward, City Director of Communications Clayton Muhammad said.
“They need to be an advocate for Aurora as a whole and a person who can really be that open ear to be a voice for the ward,” Muhammad said.
An ideal candidate will be able to represent both the 1st Ward’s deeply rooted neighborhoods — including Pigeon Hill and the North East Neighbors — and new residential development, he said.
Into the future
In an ideal situation, Weisner’s pick will represent the ward for a lot longer than 18 months, Schuler said.
“It’s best to have an alderman who serves a couple of terms,” Schuler said. “(The appointee) needs to seriously have some intention of running for another four years to provide consistency and continuity (to the ward).”
While it’s not a given that the appointee will be elected come 2015, it certainly gives the candidate a leg up.
“They will have already been out there as (an) alderman. There’s some recognition behind it, and if they are doing a job that’s good for the people, it could give them a bit of a benefit,” she said.
Schuler was one of five alderman elected in 2003, after the Council was expanded from 10 members to 12. After Schuler’s departure, only one of that 2003 class of new aldermen will remain: Alderman John “Whitey” Peters, 5th Ward. Former Alderman Stephanie Kifowit was elected as a state representative for the 84th House District this year; Bob Shelton and Leroy Keith no longer serve on Council.
Schuler is leaving her aldermanic spot to join the city’s Finance Department as a staff accountant. Her first day at the city is Sept. 16 and her last day at Baum Property Services, where she manages a team of accountants, is Sept. 10.
Schuler’s was offered the city job on Aug. 19, according to Muhammad.
The city’s Human Resources Department considers hiring Schuler an “internal hire.”
Muhammad said the city does not track how often a city job is filled via an internal hire vs. a public job posting. It is a very common practice to post internally prior to an external job post, he said, with the goal of encouraging employee growth.
“It’s on a case-by-case basis and it depends of the (quality) of the internal candidates,” he said. “In this case, no other internal candidates applied for this position.”
Schuler said she was looking for a new opportunity to grow professionally and the city vacancy came along at the right time. Schuler served on the Council’s Finance Committee, where she regularly interacted with city Finance Department personnel.
“It seemed like a fit,” she said. “It takes a lot of mystery out of what the work environment is going to be like.”
The salary for Schuler’s new city position is $53,643, according to Muhammad.
Per state law, Schuler is eligible for an aldermanic pension at 55 with at least eight years of service to City Council, Muhammad said. Schuler, 48, has served on City Council for 10 years.
Weisner, in his third term as Aurora mayor, has appointed two others to City Council: Rick Mervine, current 8th Ward alderman, and Al Lewandowski, former 9th Ward alderman.