What to know about Roscoe Village president candidate Mark Szula
Mark Szula, the incumbent Roscoe Village President, wants to keep doing the job of "moving Roscoe forward."
Szula is running for reelection in Tuesday's Consolidated Election, along with village trustees, city council members, and school board members, among others. He is leading a slate of Roscoe trustee candidates, mostly current trustees. Challenging him for the Village President post is trustee Carol Gustafson and another slate of candidates, none of whom are current trustees.
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Some of the accomplishments that Szula is most proud of include quadrupling the Village's annual investment in residential road repair, investing $1.5 million in engineering to prepare for future development along 1-90, and extending sewer infrastructure to attract businesses to undeveloped properties.
Besides his part-time job as Village President, Szula has been a full-time business representative for The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 for 18 years. There, his job is to defend the interests of his fellow union members, including many traditional "operating engineers" (construction workers, hoisting and portable, heavy-highway, building trade, quarry, landfill, and underground). Szula has belonged to Local 150 for more than 35 years and says, "I spent my career operating heavy equipment." A resident of Chicory Ridge, he is a grandfather and the father of two daughters.
In 2017, Szula ran successfully for Village of Roscoe trustee, telling reporter Jean Seegers, “I have never held a public position before, but I would like the opportunity to make a positive difference in the Roscoe community.” He said that, as a believer in term limits, he planned to serve no more than two terms as trustee.
Two years later, the embattled Village President at the time decided not to pursue reelection. In what at first had seemed a crowded race to succeed him, the other candidates dropped off, and Szula ended up running unopposed as Roscoe’s Village President.
"There was just a lot of negativity and it needs to change," Szula told the Beloit Daily News in 2019, before he took office. "We need a change in culture and doing what's right. It was like a good ole boys system. I don't want to say anything bad about anybody, but people got excluded and there was really no good thought for the future. Now we have to fix it... It's time for a fresh start and some new ideas." Jumping forward to this year, Szula told WREX, "And after I became village president, I removed all that negativity."
Beside improving infrastructure, the Village has been able to attract scarce police officers from other departments, so that the Village's Police Department became fully staffed. As part of changes to their benefits program which Szula supported, officers and other Village employees now pay no medical copays. Under Szula's administration, the Village invested $850,000 in new parking lots at Swanson Park, which is heavily used by youth sports organizations, as well as at Porter Park. Village property tax rates went down for four years in a row.
In an interview with WREX, Szula said that one thing separating him from his opponent is that as a union representative, "over the last 18 years of my day job, I've built so many relationships," which he says will help the Village to "get money." Indeed, Szula seems to have built powerful relationships. Apart from his current campaign committee, Moving Roscoe Forward, Szula has been able to raise more than $817,090 in campaign contributions to Citizens to Elect Mark W Szula and Szula for Illinois - one of the biggest totals of any local candidate outside Chicago.
Some of Szula's largest and most recent donations came from Chicago Land Operators Joint Labor-Management PAC, IBEW Local 364 Political Action Fund, Northwestern Illinois Contractors Association, Plumbers & Pipefitters UA Local 23 PAC, and Gold Rush Amusements. Most of the $15,150 raised for his opponent Carol Gustafson came from people named Gustafson, though other candidates and politicians also contributed.
When Szula ran for the Illinois State Legislature in June 2022, our reporter Alexander Tsimonidis asked him what set him apart from the competition. Szula replied that as a Marine Corps veteran, "I'm a person who's not afraid to roll up their sleeves and go to work." Szula served in combat in Beirut (twice) and Grenada.
He told Tsimonidis what he tells others today, "I represent everyone. As an elected official, you represent the people that voted for you and against you."