Landslide Bob: Sheehan reelected

by Norm Winick

Surprising even himself, Mayor Bob Sheehan was reelected Tuesday with the largest margin of victory of any Galesburg Mayoral candidate within recent memory. Polling 4,327 votes to Karen Lafferty's 1,575 and Bill Hayes' 1,555, Sheehan's 58 percent gives him a true mandate for the next four years.

''I feel real good. I didn't expect to win by that much in a 3-way race. I think of it as a rating of my performance the last four years and I think people are happy with it. It would be questionable as to whether I worked any harder on the campaign than my opponents so I have to say it was an evaluation of my performance as Mayor. the campaign really was low-key until the last two weeks. You've got to believe in what you're doing and go forward. I've taken stands when it's something I really care about, like burning, like the telecommunications referendum.''

Though the race is technically nonpartisan, Sheehan is an avowed Democrat and Hayes a Republican. One of the groups that apparently assured Sheehan's reelection was the supporters of former Mayor Fred Kimble -- also a Republican -- the incumbent Sheehan defeated four years ago. Hayes was clearly unsuccessful in getting the Republicans of the city to unite behind his candidacy. Sheehan says that he knew he had many of Kimble's old supporters behind him: ''I've heard from many former supporters of Fred Kimble as I've been Mayor and they've been saying things like 'keep It Up'.''

Several issues had the potential to derail Sheehan's bid for a second term; they didn't. ''I don't think my veto of open burning hurt me. It's obviously still a very emotional issue but I did cast that controversial veto. I had those concerns that it would be politically damaging but I still have to do what I believe in.''

He also ended up aligned with the forces pushing for the doomed municipally-owned cable system -- despite pleas from his campaign advisors that he remain detached. ''You do what you believe in. I certainly can live with the result. It is a little bit puzzling -- almost reverse results from my race. I thought it would be closer than that but we have to move onward. The intention wasn't for me to get involved but it happened.''

That involvement culminated with a front page photo in the Register-Mail showing Sheehan confronting an opponent of the telecommunications system. ''I had more comments about that photo than anything else in the Register-Mail in a long time. I was worried about the impression it gave but most people who called me were supportive of it.''

Several observers commented that Sheehan's display of emotion, even if they disagreed with his position, worked in his interest.

As to a mandate, Sheehan doesn't see it as the opportunity to press a new agenda: ''I plan on following through on the already-approved general obligation bonds and get the projects completed. We will build the new fire station wherever the City Council wants it. I think building a fourth or fifth fire station is just too expensive. We need to narrow our choices to two sites and then decide.''

Sheehan acknowledges that there have been discussions with Galesburg Hospitals Ambulance service about their Hawthorne Centre facility but they've all been in executive session.''

For the most part, Sheehan says that he's going to stay the course. ''I'm going to keep doing many of the things we've been doing: more sidewalks, more parks & recreation facilities. We do need to work on getting more recreation in all areas of the city.''

Sheehan was caught off guard when Karen Lafferty accused him of dropping the ball in regard to the new soccer facility. ''It requires planning. It's being worked on by Teska & Associates and we should see the plan in the next two months. I understand how some people are impatient. Even if we started today, it won't be ready until next year. After working on this for 20 years, I'm pretty patient. I'm hopeful this will go forward and we'll get it done. My vision of this facility is that it will be primarily for soccer but there will be a path for hiking and running and it could be used for other purposes.''

He thinks economic development efforts have turned a corner with Eric Voyles: ''I'm impressed with Eric Voyles. He is actually doing stuff. I go to the weekly meetings and there's a lot of activity.''

''The Census results weren't fantastic. Basically we're treading water. We still have to make people realize that Galesburg's a great place to live, with good transportation, a safe place, and good education. We need to emphasize the positive. I'd like to see population growth, not major, but to gain 1,000 people in the next ten years would be great. We need to address economic development and upgraded housing. There seems to be a demand for upper-level housing. We'll try to address it.''

Sheehan admits that he expected the City to be running the tourism agency: ''I expected the vote to go the other way. Monte changed his thinking and that's okay. I think there will be more city input; personally, I'd like to see heritage tourism promoted. If we can help the Bears come to town for training, we'd be fools not to help them. I've talked to Dan Calandro, the Knox Athletic Director and my former classmate, he was a lot more positive than negative about our chances.''

On oother issues, Sheehan shed some light on some behind-the-scenes activity at City Hall. ''The City is working with Bill Stieren on moving the downtown scap iron lot. We're going to try to what we can; we haven't dropped the ball. The Council is aware of the situation and we're still trying to see what we can do.''

''We are well aware that [City manager] Gary Goddard's been job searching. He's been upfront with us about it. He's toward the last stage of his career. He's been here five years and he's looked at a few positions out west.''

With the voter satisfaction indicated, Sheehan commented on whether he's rather be a stong Mayor or a weak one under the current Council-manager form of government: '' I'm satisfied with the situation. Sometimes you feel your hands are tied but overall it works pretty well for the city. I don't think there's any significant move to get it changed. Other cities have a Council-manager with a full-time Mayor and that might be something we want to look at. This could really be a full time job. Some weeks it's just a couple of hours; other weeks it's a lot of time. You spend a lot of time reading. The year I took off from work, I was a full-time Mayor. It was fun and I got a lot done. You could make the case that it may be wise to make it full-time.''

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online April 7, 2001

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