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Springfield City Council Votes Down Mayor’s Pick For Ward 3 Seat

City of Springfield

The Springfield City Council rejected the mayor’s nominee to fill the Ward 3 vacancy on the council, despite support from faith and community leaders.

Some council members were concerned Roy Williams, Jr., the mayor’s choice, declined to say if he’d run for election in two years. Williams said he wanted to focus on the job for the first year before deciding on whether to run for a full term in 2023.

“I want to spend this time dealing with the violence and cleaning up Ward 3,” he said Tuesday night. Williams is president of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good and head of the Ernie Bankhead neighborhood association. 

Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer said he was frustrated the mayor didn’t ask him the question before nominating him. 

“This isn't political,” Hanauer said. “This was about what we've done in the past.”

Council members pointed to two examples in the last decade. One was the Ward 6 seat vacated by Cory Jobe in 2016. Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso applied to fill the vacancy for five months. She said she was told at the time she couldn’t because she planned to run in the special election for the final two years of the term, which she won.

“The quote at the time was it is not our job to pick winners and losers. And I agree with that,” she said.

Langfelder pushed back on this logic.

“You want the best person. You don't want a person just to fill a spot just to keep a seat warm,” he said. “You want a person that's going to do the work.”

Hanauer, DiCenso, Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath, Ward 5 Ald. Andrew Proctor, Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley, Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan voted against Williams’ nomination.

Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory, Ward 4 Ald. John Fulgenzi and Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin supported it.

Gregory called the vote “wrong”.

“If we as a council think that it’s a good idea to let this seat stay open for another two weeks, when we have a qualified man standing before us willing to do the duty, that is not easy, then we are doing a disservice to our citizens,” he said.

Several spoke in favor of Williams. Teresa Haley, president of the Springfield and state chapters of the NAACP called Williams humble and said his appointment would be great for the east side, especially as the area deals with recent gun violence.

“Put your politics aside and think about the people. Because the people on the east side want Roy Williams, Jr., to be our Ward 3 alderman,” Haley said.

The Rev. Silas Johnson, pastor of Calvary Mission Baptist Church, talked about how Williams went to the scene of a recent shooting in the ward after being called by residents. Johnson said he’d be an alderman who told the truth.

The mayor will have the chance to nominate another candidate in two weeks to fill the seat vacated by State Sen. Doris Turner, who was recently appointed to the legislature. Since she resigned with less than 28 months until the next city election, the appointed alderman will serve the rest of the term instead of holding a special election.

According to a news release from the mayor’s office, eleven others showed interest in the job, including William (Billy) Earl, Bill Eddington II, Diane Howard, Fredrick Jackson, Judith Johnson, Vera Small, Candice Trees and Nadine Wright.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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