By Patrice Nkrumah, Chicago Crusader
Next week’s municipal elections in the suburbs will have as much drama as hotly contested races in the city usually are. Voters in Markham, Riverdale, South Holland, Broadview and other suburbs with large African American populations will head to the polls April 4 to select new political leadership. Suburban problems, while different than Chicago’s can have the same political drama. What would a Chicago area election be without controversy?
The most controversial race will be in South Suburban Markham, where two candidates are seeking to replace retiring Mayor David Webb, who has been in office since 2001. One candidate, Roger Agpawa, has a felony conviction from 20 years ago, which Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx says bars him from taking office even if elected. However he is not backing down and says he is not leaving the race, although his opponent Kenneth Muldrow says he should.
“It was 20 years ago, where [sic] I made a bad decision. I was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay restitution,” Agpawa said. “My legal advisors say I can run so I’m going to run and win.
Agpawa is currently the fire chief in neighboring Country Club Hills. He has had no trouble with the law since the incident 20 years ago and people who know him say he is a standup guy. The controversy is even more confusing because of what many see as a conflict in election and state law. According to the State Board of Elections, a person convicted of a felony is not eligible to be sworn into office. But the state law does not stop a person from running.
“If a candidate has a disqualifying felony but still wins, the voters will still have options,” said Ken Menzel, general counsel to the Illinois State Board of Elections. “The solution will require the use of public funds however. But the city council of Markham can stop this, so can State’s Attorney Foxx or the citizens of Markham themselves. So even if the candidate wins, this will in no way be a done deal.”
State’s Attorney Foxx has said she will not allow Agpawa to take office if he wins and has sent him a letter informing him as such. Foxx said she would sue to have him removed from office. Muldrow said none of this is good for Markham.
“It will cost us money that we could be using to address other issues in Markham,” said Muldrow, who has been a Markham police officer for over 30 years. “He’s been told he will never be in office, so what is the point of all of this?”
Webb has made no endorsement of any candidate. He decided not to run after questions emerged in September about possible pay to play within the Mayor’s office. News reports surfaced of Webb’s campaign contributors coming away with millions in city contracts. Markham for decades has been a Black suburb of pride and has maintained itself well despite the troubles of neighboring suburbs like Harvey, Dixmoor and Phoenix. Residents however are concerned with some of the entertainment clubs in the city of 12,500 and what type of element it brings into the city.
To the west in the Village of Westchester, Sherby Miller, is running for one of the three Village Trustee positions as a member of the Westchester First Party. Miller is no longer a newcomer to politics. She is currently the Village Clerk in Westchester since being elected in 2012. The former U.S. Navy Veteran is a 20 year resident of Westchester, Illinois, who has a long history of public service.
Miller is determined to improve the delivery of city services for Westchester residents. She said, “the Westchester First Party platform includes plans for economic development and infrastructure improvements” in the village, and is running for Trustee to ensure that those plans come to fruition. Additional community programs on Miller’s platform will provide more Senior services to Westchester residents. According to Miller, “Youth activities and safety programs are key elements of our Westchester First party platform.”
Miller holds a graduate degree in Management, Master’s Certificate in Project Management and is a Certified Biometric Security engineer with over 25 years of Information Technology and Telecommunications managerial experience.
John Wicks launched his campaign for Village Trustee of Bellwood by forming the Bellwood Visionary Party. Although the former Bellwood School District 88 Board President has been away, his service and commitment to community have not waivered. He was encouraged by residents to seek re-election and has been endorsed by The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local #700.
In West Suburban Broadview, there is a battle royal brewing as five candidates are vying to fill the Mayor’s seat that has been vacated by Sherman Jones after a term limits referendum passed last November. Jones will run for a trustee’s seat in the village of 8,000 residents.
Among the five candidates running for mayor in Broadview is Vernon R. Terry. Terry is a pillar in the community and an active member of the Broadview community, who served as an associate minister at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church for many years.
Terry said he is “committed to bridging the community together with one spirit and one purpose for a greater Broadview.” The Roosevelt Business Corridor is a key to the village’s economic growth and he has plans to stimulate business development in the village.
The other candidates are Judy Brown-Marino, Princess Dempsey, Maxine Johnson and Thomas Hood.