Cary Mayor Mark Kownick said he’s excited to work with the new Village Board – and hopes it will govern with less drama than the previous group.
A new face will join the board this spring alongside two re-elected incumbents who previously sparred over a harassment complaint last year.
Sitting trustees Ellen McAlpine and Kim Covelli garnered the most votes for two of three open seats on the board during Tuesday’s election. Newcomer Dale Collier Jr. (1,182 votes) came in third.
Sean Wheeler was close behind Collier with 1,168 votes, according to unofficial tallies. Tim Ritter received 735 votes. Incumbent Jim Cosler (1,076), who had sat on the board since he was elected in 2015 as a write-in candidate, lost his seat.
Cosler and McAlpine were at the center of a controversy that sparked tension between board members last year.
On Jan. 29, 2018, McAlpine filed a written complaint with Kownick and Village Administrator Jake Rife alleging that Cosler’s behavior for more than a year had been “unwanted, derogatory, unprofessional, disrespectful, libelous and defamatory in nature.” Cosler has claimed the investigation was unwarranted.
Kownick said there also was “disagreement between Cosler and some of the things the village does.”
Kownick said on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being most contentious, the board was at a “seven or eight.” He said Cosler’s absence will “make my life easier” and he’s “looking forward” to the new board dynamic.
“I try to be a very collaborative person, and I’ve always reached out,” Kownick said. “Mr. Cosler made it very difficult to work with him because he refused to meet with me. All the other trustees will meet with me and answer my phone calls and return my texts. I think it started from the anger of the Garden Place Apartments. That’s where his anger came from, and I don’t think he was ever able to let that go.”
Indiana-based Pedcor Companies built the 60-unit affordable-housing complex at First and Pearl streets in Cary, which opened units for occupancy in 2017. Village officials first approved the project in 2014; hundreds of residents and some trustees opposed the project.
Cosler, a vocal opponent of the project, was a leader of the Cary Matters Political Action Committee and fought the Pedcor development before being elected to the board.
Kownick said the complex is thriving and there’s no “difference between them and anywhere else” in the village.
McAlpine, Collier and Wheeler joined forces on a “unity” campaign to help end political polarization.
“I’m an eternal optimist,” McAlpine said. “It’s a new beginning.”
Kownick said he hopes the trustees will learn from the past and put the village ahead of internal squabbles.
“In my opinion, what I would like this new board to do is once the Village Board makes a decision, whatever vote it is, if I’m the tie-breaker and the vote’s 4 to 3, we move forward, and everybody jumps on because that was the decision,” he said. “We’re going to move forward; we’re not going to keep bringing it back and rehashing it. We have an opportunity now.”
Kownick said he has a “good working relationship” with Covelli, who ran on a slate with Cosler.
“She gets back to me when I reach out to her. She will meet with me and answer my texts,” he said. “We both want to move the village forward.”
Trustee Christine Betz said she’s “very hopeful that it is going to be very smooth” with the new board.
Betz declined to comment directly on Cosler, but said the board had been “very dysfunctional.”
“We were not moving forward. We were always stopped, and we had to figure things out,” she said. “I think this time around we can definitely move forward. ... I think Dale will bring in good, positive assets to the board.”
On the Cary Connection Facebook page after Tuesday’s election, Cosler congratulated Covelli.
“This Village has gained another four years of service from someone who stands firmly for the people of Cary,” he posted. “Thank you for allowing me to serve you.”
Cosler, Collier, Covelli, Wheeler and trustee Jeff Kraus couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Only 14 votes separated Collier (1,182) and Wheeler (1,168), who were in a neck-and-neck race Tuesday evening. McHenry County Clerk Joe Tirio said there are only nine provisional ballots and 33 returned vote-by-mail ballots in the whole county.
He said there are 78 vote-by-mail ballots that have not been returned.