(From left) Jim Hickerson and Kristie Luebbert are running for mayor in Hartford.
Hartford Mayor James Spann spent six years as village trustee before beginning his two terms as mayor. Now he is ready to pass the torch, and mayoral candidates Kristie Luebbert and Jim Hickerson are vying for his seat in the April 4 election.
“It has been interesting, and I have enjoyed it,” Spann said. “But it’s time I got out and enjoyed life a little bit.”
Spann, a lifelong Hartford resident, worked as a village police officer for six years before he was transferred to the street department. Eventually, he became director of public works and retired from the village in 1996.
During his stint as mayor, he said the village has opened a splash park, upgraded waterline systems by changing 2-inch lines to 6-inch ones on some streets, installed more fire hydrants on street corners, and added a parking lane at the north end of town.
“We had a couple near accidents, but we haven’t had any problems since then,” Spann said. “Now the tanker trucks can get out of the driving lanes.”
The village is also working with the federal government to clean up 337 acres off Illinois 3, Spann said. The property was once home to the Chemetco copper-smelting plant, which closed more than 15 years ago after receiving a $3.8 million federal fine for illegally dumping metal-filled wastewater.
“We have incorporated this property into Hartford,” Spann said. “It is the only way we can expand. Businesses will be able to move in, once the land is cleaned up.”
The village is also addressing storm water drainage issues near Illinois 3, the mayor said. Hartford is situated at the mouth of the Missouri River, and Spann sees drainage as one of the village’s major challenges.
“The levee and Route 3 have created this problem,” he said. “The drain pipe on the east side of the highway drains the water, and it worked fine until we started getting these humongous rains, especially when the river is up and the valve is closed on the levee. In the past, we have tried to pump it. It is really not our ditch. It belongs to the Illinois Department of Transportation. We are trying to get some help, funding to put in a pump station down there.”
The mayor visited Washington, D.C., as a member of the Mississippi River Mayor Association in search of such funding earlier this month. He said he came away from the trip feeling optimistic.
“I enjoyed visiting the White House,” he said. “It was worthwhile trip, and officials asked us to put our requests for funding in writing. We also talked to congressman Mike Bost about the federal government taking over the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower and making it a federal park.”
Meet the candidate: Kristie Luebbert
A lifelong Hartford resident, mayoral candidate Kristie Luebbert has served on the Hartford Board of Trustees for eight years. She serves as the Finance Committee chairperson.
Luebbert pledges to make Hartford a town everyone is proud to call home.
“I believe we need to not only think about our present situation, but also look to the future and how we can better improve the village,” she said. “Improvements need to be made to infrastructure with new roads, separated sewers and park improvements. I will also work hard to bring new businesses to town to improve our tax base.”
For the past six years, Luebbert has volunteered as the coordinator of the Hartford Day Camp, which provides children in pre-kindergarten to fifth grade a week of entertaining, educational activities.
“The day camp is also a great opportunity for the older youth of our area to gain critical community service hours for high school,” she said.
A member of the Phillips 66 Community Advisory Panel, Luebbert helps to keep an open line of communication between fence-line neighbors and Phillips 66. She is also a proponent of a community garden, which will be installed on the grounds of Hartford Elementary School.
“This garden will allow the school’s garden club and the residents of Hartford to work together to grow food that will allow for fresh produce and also teach the children about sustainability,” she said.
Luebbert lives with her husband, Theodore, and their two children, who are students in the Wood River-Hartford School District. She has been a board member of the Hartford Elementary Parents Club for three years and serves as secretary. Those with questions about her candidacy can contact her at email@example.com.
Meet the candidate: James Hickerson
Mayoral candidate James “Jim” Hickerson worked for the Hartford Public Works Department for 20 years, the last 8 of which he served as working foreman before retiring.
Hickerson pledges to watch village spending, be accessible, clean up and repair properties, and post meeting agendas and minutes on an active village website.
“The village has overspent revenues the last four years by $2.5 million,” he said. “For example, over the last three years, the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower is in the red $176,310. I would monitor every bill that comes in and monitor every penny that is spent. I would do everything I can to get the village back in the black.”
While Hickerson promotes fiscal responsibility, he said he can turn around Hartford’s finances without cutting any current employees.
“I would stop all projects for one year,” he said. “I would not start any projects and do everything possible to get the tower to break even. Hartford is paying close to $50,000 for a contract to run the tower. That doesn’t count power and maintenance. I just want it to break even. If we have to utilize current employees, then they get to keep working and the village saves money.”
Hickerson said he is most suited to be Hartford’s next mayor because of his experience developing budgets and willingness to work with others.
“I would make my email address and phone number available, and I would always be open to talking with people about ideas,” he said. “We have to work together on these finances. If we don’t get the finances straightened out, then we’re going down the drain. We have got to do what we can to get people back into town.”
A Hartford resident, Hickerson has been married to his wife, Connie, for 33 years. They have four children and four grandchildren. Those with questions about his candidacy can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A town hall will take place from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, March 19, at the Hartford Community Building. The event is open to the public and will be moderated by broadcast journalist Stephen Jankowski. AdVantage News will report on the event in next week’s print edition.