JOLIET – Lifelong resident Leonard Thompson plans to challenge incumbent Terry Morris for the District 5 seat on the Joliet City Council.
“I’ve been living in District 5 all of my life and it’s still all the same [problems],” said Thompson, 50, of 224 Rowell Ave. “It’s all stagnant. It’s time for a change.”
Thompson joins a growing list of candidates announcing they intend to run in the April 2015 city election. Others include Councilman Robert O’Dekirk and Andrew Mihelich, who are challenging Mayor Tom Giarrante, and businessman Patrick Mudron, who is campaigning for O’Dekirk’s District 2 seat.
Thompson cited the need for business development, as well as health centers, transportation services and assistance for senior citizens, as the district’s primary needs. Thompson said he supports Joliet Mayor Tom Giarrante “110 percent” for his efforts to bring business into the city.
As a District 5 native, Thompson said he is better equipped to represent the district on the city council.
“Terry Morris didn’t grow up here,” Thompson said. “He’s a good guy, but a good guy won’t cut it when a lot of people need help on the East Side and all over.”
Morris responded that it wasn’t necessary to be a native of the district to understand its needs. Morris faced four opponents when he won the seat in April 2011.
“We’ll see what happens as we get closer to the election,” he said.
District 5 includes neighborhoods mostly south of Jefferson Street on both sides of the Des Plaines River. About 29,000 residents live in the district.
Thompson has campaigned for other offices in the past. He ran against incumbent Larry Walsh for the Will County Executive seat in the 2012 Democratic primary. He also ran against several candidates in the 2008 Democratic primary for Will County District 8.
While he failed to win either election, Thompson said he gained valuable experience from both races.
“A lot I learned was about going out into the community and writing down the things that people want,” Thompson said.
Thompson said is supportive of a plan by Concerned Citizens of Joliet to re-district Joliet into eight districts instead of the current five.
“When you look at the city council now, it has two African-Americans and no Hispanics,” Thompson said. “Joliet is a melting pot of nationalities.”
He noted the same frustrations in the district are shared by blacks, whites and Hispanics.
Thompson, who has a degree in criminal justice, is a former social coordinator for the Housing Authority of Joliet and a former correctional counselor for the Illinois Youth Center-Joliet.
Thompson said he was inspired to run for office by his father, Leonard Thompson Sr., who was one of the first African-Americans on the Joliet Fire Department, and by his uncle Billy Boy Thompson, an amateur heavyweight boxer who was a state and Golden Gloves champion during the 1960s and ’70s.