Write-in candidate's win doesn't change thinking on Lakewood board

LAKEWOOD – Paul Serwatka's write-in candidacy focused on his opposition to a special taxing district approved by the Village Board early this year and a proposed sports complex that could be located in that district.

The campaign earned him 507 votes, or about 36.14 percent of the 1,232 votes, cast in Tuesday's Lakewood Village Board trustee race, according to the unofficial results released by the McHenry County Clerk's Office.

The three incumbents running for re-election trailed him with trustees Kenneth Santowski and J Carl Davis garnering enough votes – 326 and 320 votes, respectively – to keep their seats.

"The biggest thing that I hope that they would realize is that the people have spoken and they have made a pretty clear message – that they're not happy with the status quo and the way things are going," Serwatka said.

But the upset by a write-in candidate doesn't have any of the trustees the Northwest Herald spoke with changing their minds on these major issues.

"No, the election doesn't change my thinking," Davis said Friday afternoon. "What all existing and new trustees want for the village is the same. We want a healthy, vibrant village."

Santowski agreed that he doesn't need to change the way he's been voting.

"I'm very happy and confident in the way I've been voting, and I'm going to continue to vote that way," he said. "I'm going to continue to look at every angle of every decision I make and do what I think is best for the entire village of Lakewood. That's all I can do."

What Village President Erin Smith has taken away from the election is that the village needs to do a better job communicating with its residents, she said.

The sports complex developers had been allowed to present their preliminary plans to residents before a redevelopment agreement had been drafted, Smith said. The goal had been to give residents a chance to think about the proposal, but there haven't been any updates since then, which has allowed misinformation to fill the void.

"I am concerned that so many people supported a campaign that was based entirely on opposition of the sports complex when nobody, including Paul, has had a chance to review the agreement because it's still in draft form," she said.

What Serwatka has seen, he said, hasn't been good.

Trustee Gene Furey disagreed, saying that he thought a sports complex – full of fields and green space – would be a good use for that property. Whether it has a solid business plan will be up to the bond purchasers to judge.

As for the tax-increment financing district, it's already been approved and multiple trustees and Smith said they don't plan on bringing it back up.

If the board thinks the TIF is the best thing for the village, they need to prove it, and if they can't, they need to not force it upon people who don't want it, Serwatka said.

Serwatka added that if his role as a constant reminder of the TIF's unpopularity doesn't work, there are other things that could be pursued. He declined to comment on those methods further, saying that it's too early to head that direction.

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