It’s the first competitive mayor’s race in Flossmoor since 2009.
For weeks, hundreds of signs in support of the two mayoral candidates – Jeanne “Gigi” Gummerson and Paul Braun, the two-term incumbent – have dotted the village.
Flossmoor voters will make their decision on Tuesday. They will also select village trustees and board members for the two school districts, the library and the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District.
Both Gummerson and Braun have years of experience in village government. Both are Homewood-Flossmoor High School graduates. Both have businesses in town. Braun is an attorney. Gummerson owns an estate sale service.
Whoever is elected will need to deal with a projected budget deficit in the fiscal year that starts in May. According to figures from village staff, a deficit nearing $500,000 is very possible in the coming year.
Gummerson is critical of the current administration, calling it “reactive, not proactive.” She says a marketing campaign promoting Flossmoor should have started years ago.
If elected, Gummerson says she wants to immediately “evaluate the current marketing pitch as well as evaluate our economic development. These are two major pieces of our town that must be done with a proper plan.”
If possible, Gummerson would like Flossmoor to be represented at an annual retailers’ convention in Las Vegas in May.
“I do think it is important to get our name out there and meet and greet many of the companies,” she said. “It will need to be done with some positive information.”
Braun says Flossmoor’s economic development efforts are already showing results, pointing to last year’s opening of the Meijer superstore as a sign of things to come. Meijer is expected to bring in about $700,000 in sales tax and property tax revenues in its first year. Also, three new businesses are slated to open at the Meijer complex later in 2017. The village also plans to develop property for commercial use along Vollmer Road east of Meijer.
This year, Braun says, the village is moving ahead with a marketing and branding campaign.
In planning economic development, Flossmoor officials need to think outside the box, Gummerson says.
For instance, she says, Olympia Fields receives revenue from renting out space on its water towers to area hospitals.
“Why don’t we do that?’ she says.
Gummerson says she’d like to get more people involved in helping Flossmoor move forward. She wants to establish new village committees, including one made up of local realtors. People interested in moving to Flossmoor get their first look at the community through realtors, she said. She’d also like to start a marketing committee and an economic development committee.
Braun has been mayor since 2009. Prior to that, he was on the village board for six years. He was also a plan commission member for five years.
He says he has seen changes in Flossmoor during his years in local government.
“It’s a much more inclusive community than it was 20 years ago,” Braun says. “Back then the village was not interested in regional participation. That’s changed. There is also a lot more diversity.
“It’s a totally different community than it was before, and for the better.”
Braun said Flossmoor residents now have a greater opportunity to get involved through programs like the MLK Day of Service, Recyclepalooza and the village’s Citizens Police Academy.
Gummerson was elected village clerk in the 1990s and was later appointed to the village board, where she served 12 years as a trustee. She says she had a hard time “watching the inactivity” of the village at that time and, in 2005, ran unsuccessfully for mayor.
If elected, Gummerson said she’d like the village to host events that bring the community together. She hopes to establish a farm-to-table dining event so that people from different parts of the village can sit next to each other and get to know one another.
“I’d like people from Ballantrae and Flossmoor Hills to be there,” she says. “It’s not just about downtown.”
Gummerson said immediately following her election she would get together with Flossmoor village employees to get their perceptions and to see what they think needs to be done.
Braun listed his goals if he is elected to a third term as mayor: continuing with economic development efforts; addressing concerns about property maintenance; and repairing streets and sidewalks around the village.
Also on his list is collaboration with Flossmoor District 161 and Homewood-Flossmoor School District 233 since the schools receive the biggest share of local property taxes.
In discussion with residents, Braun said he found that their biggest concerns are property values and property taxes. Flossmoor only accounts for about 15 percent of property taxes, he says, with the two school districts taking in a far greater amount. To keep village taxes down, Braun last year pushed for a “zero growth” budget that holds the line on spending.
Gummerson and Braun are both upbeat about Flossmoor’s future.
Braun spent much of the last few weeks passing out campaign literature around Flossmoor. During that time Braun said he talked to numerous residents and that they are overwhelmingly hopeful about the village.
“People like living here,” he said. “They like what’s going on here. This is a community of choice for the people who live here.”
Gummerson said she feels “a tremendous trajectory of positive movement” in Flossmoor.
“I am seeing hope again in this community,” she says. However, she added that she cannot fulfill that hope all by herself.
“It will take the right team,” she said.