VILLA PARK — Deborah Bullwinkel easily won her first term as Villa Park village president during Tuesday's election against John Heidelmeier with 76 percent of the vote.
"The people have spoken; this is unreal," she said. "I can't thank this community enough for coming out and having their voice heard."
Bullwinkel received 2,689 votes to Heidelmeier's 844, according to information from the DuPage County Election Commission.
She will assume leadership next month from Village President Tom Cullerton, whose term is ending. In November, Cullerton was elected to the State Senate and chose not to run for re-election.
Bullwinkel said she was overwhelmed by the support of the community and impressed by the volume of people who came out to vote in this election.
"This is a new day in Villa Park," she said after the returns came in. "There is no way we could do this without the residents. The residents did it first, and now it's our turn. This is quite an honor."
The last several months of campaigning have been contentious between Bullwinkel, who has served one term as village trustee, and Heidelmeier, the village's retired police chief.
Bullwinkel has lived in the village with her husband for 17 years and is self employed as a communications consultant.
During a candidates forum hosted by the Villa Park Junior Women's League in March, said she had been encouraged to run for village president by the former president, coupled with a desire to advance the village.
She was a member of the Board of Trustees that voted to remove Heidelmeier from his position as police chief, and the climate between the two candidates throughout the campaign has been tense.
Heidelmeier was not available for comment after the election.
Heidelmeier announced his decision to run for the top village seat a little more than a year after he was ousted from his position as police chief and forced into retirement by the Village Board and administration in January 2012. He had been with the department for 23 years.
Less than two weeks ago, Heidelmeier made headlines after a partially nude photo of him posted on an Internet sex website was circulated throughout the village.
While he admitted the photo was of him and apologized to his family, Heidelmeier remained steadfast in the race, arguing that voters would choose the leader they thought would best serve the village.
Vote totals are unofficial until certified.