Photo by Diane Cox
Cheryl Maguire sits in the mayor’s seat in the first meeting after the passing of Mayor Fred Ufert. Maguire holds the position as mayor pro-tem until the council decides who will fulfill the term as mayor until the 2017 election.
WOOD RIVER — In the wake of Wood River Mayor Fred Ufert’s passing, the City Council returned to regular business on Monday with Mayor Pro-Tem Cheryl Maguire taking the seat Ufert once filled.
“It was very difficult to walk into the council room tonight and see his name plate was removed and mine in its place,” Maguire said.
As the council meeting came to order, Maguire addressed the public and made a statement before asking for a moment of silence in memory and respect of Ufert.
“Bear with us tonight,” she said. “This is difficult for all of us. It was a privilege for me to serve with Fred Ufert for 14 of his 16 years. He was a council member, a mayor and was dedicated to this community. He served with his whole heart.”
Gale Ufert sat with the public in the first meeting of business without her husband at the helm.
“I felt it was right to be here,” Ufert said. “I wanted to be there to show my support for the council members and show I respect the position they’re in as well.”
The council held a closed session to discuss the next step that must be taken to fill Ufert’s seat and decided to hold a special session at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9.
“Under Illinois law, whoever is appointed to fill the mayor’s term for the remaining two years has the option of keeping their council seat,” Wood River city attorney Rene’ Bassett said. “Which means we do not have to replace that council seat. We do, however, have a mandatory duty to replace the mayor. On Thursday night, the council will hold a special session to replace the mayor and then at a later time the council will determine what they will do with the potentially vacant seat.”
During regular business, Bob Drake, owner of the property that once housed Joe’s Pizza on Ferguson Avenue, addressed the council to ask for consideration of expanding the number of liquor licenses within the city.
“The property is almost impossible to rent without a liquor license,” Drake said. “We would like to put in a nice restaurant and banquet center in that location, but no one wants to rent the banquet hall for a wedding reception unless they are able to have beer, wine or champagne. The building is built and set up for a restaurant and without that license, no one wants to touch it. I have always respected the decisions that our council has made, and I’ll respect the decision they choose to make in my situation — we just really need their help.”
The council tabled the ordinance amending the number of liquor licenses until a later date so it can be discussed. Maguire explained to Drake that an immediate decision would not be made, but that they will consider his request and get back to him in the near future.
Council members Sharon Kadell and Frank Akers won another term in Tuesday’s election.
Council meetings are held at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month and are open to the public.