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Downers Grove

Candidates who ran in local races reflect on election

Bob Barnett
Bob Barnett

DOWNERS GROVE – After several months of campaigning, Downers Grove mayoral and commissioner candidates took a moment to reflect on their recent victories, the election as a whole and the work that awaits them.

As residents of Downers Grove committed to public service, they journeyed through the race and spoke out on hot-button issues such as stormwater management, alternative tax revenue and economic development.

Win or lose, they walked away with a memorable experience.

For newly elected Mayor Bob Barnett, he credited his campaigning strategy and his team of volunteers and supporters, all of which kept his core value intact: service above self.

Throughout the campaign, Barnett made it a point to meet voters in person, often inviting them out for coffee and conversations.

“I think it’s easy in a campaign to lose sight of the individuals that make up your community,” said Barnett, who among many things is an avid volunteer, a former church congregation president and decadelong village commissioner.

“We have a really diverse community of people that are genuinely interested, and it’s our job to find ways to communicate with them in ways that are comfortable with them,” he said.

Barnett was one of three hopefuls who sought to succeed Mayor Martin Tully. On election night, Barnett garnered 48.3 percent of the votes (4,225 ballots cast), leaving challengers David Olsen, a former state representative, and Marge Earl, a fellow village commissioner, behind.

As champion for the millennial voice, Olsen, the youngest in age among the trio, picked up nearly 42 percent of the votes (3,673). Like Barnett, Olsen said that what he enjoyed most about the race was opening the lines of communication with residents, whether that meant going door to door or answering their personal calls. Looking forward, he plans to continue partnering with local organizations and volunteering in Downers Grove.

“There’s always a need for people to serve in the community and to help,” Olsen said, adding that holding elected office is not the only way to be involved and create change.

As for incumbent Commissioner Nicole Walus and newly elected Village Council members Rich Kulovany and Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt, they talked of mutual respect for each other and are excited to begin working together.

“Leslie, Nicole and I got along famously during the campaign,” Kulovany said. “We chose to not have any animosity or say negative [things] about each other.”

Sadowski-Fugitt finished at the top of the five-way race, capturing 25.4 percent of the votes (4,821) and holding a slim lead (.06 percent) over Walus.

“I honestly didn’t expect to be a high vote-getter,” said Sadowski-Fugitt, who flexed her experience in stormwater management, emphasis on natural resources and work with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

An education manager at a zoo in Chicago, one of Sadowksi-Fugitt’s strengths is breaking down tough, complicated issues and to help others understand.

“I’m in it to make sure that all people in the community are taken care of,” she said with a focus on the future of Downers Grove and generations of families to come.

Jeff Jacobson and Jacob Kist rounded out the commissioner candidates. Jacobson, an attorney, expressed plans to return to his passion and is considering running for DuPage County judge.

Throughout the election, Suburban Life made several attempts to speak with Kist and learn more about his candidacy, but he was unable to be reached for comment and interviews on many occasions. According to the results, Kist, who did not run an active campaign, collected almost 10 percent of the votes (1,849).

“I was encouraged by the 1,800-plus votes that I received, but disappointed in not being able to spend more time campaigning to influence those numbers,” Kist said in an email to Suburban Life.

He explained further that work and family obligations interfered with his pursuit of a political office, and although he tried to formally withdraw from the race, he “did not follow through with the paperwork.”

Overall, this has proved to be a lesson for Kist.

“I should have anticipated,” he said of his responsibilities. “Knowing what I know now, I probably would have done a few of those things differently.”

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