Four candidates are hoping to lead the Village of Roscoe in 2023
At Village of Roscoe board meetings, president Mark Szula presides over the proceedings, doesn't give speeches, and votes only to break a tie - which is what Illinois village presidents are supposed to do. He knows what direction he wants the Village to go. At many meetings, Trustee Carol Gustafson asks most of the questions and is not shy about her opinions. Gustafson is a retired high school government teacher. Szula is a business representative for The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.
In general, the Roscoe Board of Trustees is evenly divided. Even the way Szula has seated them reflects it. On controversial issues, the three trustees on Szula's right usually vote one way, the three on his left vote the other way, and in the case of a tie, Szula usually breaks it by voting with those on his left.
In next April's election, Gustafson will be seeking to take Szula's position, after serving several terms as trustee. And three Roscoe residents - Michael Sima, Michael Wright, William Babcock - have joined her slate, seeking to win the three trustee positions that will be on the April 2023 ballot. The four candidates are creating a website at vote4abetterroscoe.com and announced their slate at a news conference at Jessica's Restaurant on Tuesday, Aug. 30.
Gustafson acknowledged that the location was symbolic: in October 2020 [PDF], her opponent cast the deciding vote that led to Jessica's Restaurant being ticketed in November for violating Gov. J.B. Pritziker's COVID-19 executive order banning indoor dining, as reported in the Rockford Register-Star.
In June, Szula ran in the Republican primary for Illinois District 90, which includes Rockton and Roscoe, but was defeated 74% to 26% by John Cabello.
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The three trustee seats that will be up for grabs are currently held by Carol Gustafson, Mike Dunn, and Anthony Keene. On split votes, Dunn usually voted with Gustafson, while Keene voted with Szula. When Gustafson's slate was being formed, Dunn was recovering from a near-fatal heart attack (a Harlem-Roscoe paramedic happened to also be at the Whiffletree when it happened) and it was uncertain if Dunn would run for re-election. But his health has improved. While stopping by the Village Hall on Tuesday, Dunn told Rockton-Roscoe News, "A couple of people have talked to me about running for Village president. Running for trustee is the stronger possibility." He later confirmed that he would be running for another term as trustee. In the end, though, he joined Mark Szula's ticket and has been voting with him since Gustafson's ticket became active.
We have reached out to Szula and Keene for comment, both of whom we have written about before. We plan to publish profiles of each candidate in Roscoe and Rockton - but closer to the April 2023 election.
Trustee Sue Petty, who usually votes with Gustafson, attended the news conference and told Rockton-Roscoe News that she was excited about the slate of candidates. Her term does not expire next year, so along with Stacy Mallicoat and Justin Plock, she won't be up for re-election until 2025. Mallicoat and Plock, who vote with Szula, believe the Village of Roscoe has an anti-growth history of "stonewalling" on businesses, citing Walmart and Amazon as examples, and losing potential tax revenue.
The new trustee candidates admit they have zero government experience but all three are veterans of Roscoe's heated zoning controversies. At previous board meetings, Michael Sima spoke out against the establishment of a wedding venue in his Promontory Ridge/Hidden Creek neighborhood. Michael Wright and William Babcock spoke out against the building of multi-family townhomes in their Hawkspointe neighborhood.