1st Ward aldermanic candidates take different approaches

Posted: Mar. 19, 2013 11:02 am Updated: Nov. 28, 2014 8:16 pm

Herald-Whig Senior Writer

Love for Quincy's 1st Ward is the main theme for the two candidates vying for the aldermanic seat.

It is one of the few things about which the candidates agree.

Incumbent Alderman Virgil Goehl, a Democrat, is running for re-election to the position he's held for 20 years and seven months. He's lived in the ward for most of his 85 years -- longer than most of his constituents have lived.

"I know most of the people that live there, and I do my best to help each and every one of them," Goehl said.

Ronnie McKenzie, a Republican who has lived in the ward three and a half years, is running a write-in candidacy. McKenzie said his "love for this community" and love for the 1st Ward make him want something better than what he sees on the northwest side of Quincy.

"It looks like it has been left behind in time," McKenzie said.

He would like to tackle the problems of abandoned properties, absentee landlords and crumbling infrastructure. McKenzie favors a city sticker for cars to cover the costs of infrastructure work.

"In Chicago they pay for city stickers. That would be a great avenue to raise money for the city of Quincy. I wouldn't care if it was $5 per owner, that would bring in a lot of revenue for the city," McKenzie said.

Goehl sees infrastructure needs, too, but is not proposing new taxes or fees. He has been focusing ward funds on special projects.

"We're going to try to put a sidewalk along 12th Street to help people from those subdivisions who want to walk to Cedar Creek (Linear Park) and the bike and walking trail they've got," Goehl said.

There will be a meeting on the sidewalk plan at the Eagles Club on March 27.

He also points with pride to the Fifth Street repairs made over the railroad tracks during his watch. Goehl said the bridge had become a safety issue as school buses used the route. Now there's room for walkers and bikers to have "safer access at the crossing," and the city has an improved arterial street that runs north and south.

McKenzie discounts Goehl's accomplishments, saying he's done "a poor job representing the ward." Goehl refused to criticize McKenzie.

The candidates may not know each other well, but they've got a history.

McKenzie filed as a Republican last November. Goehl challenged that filing because McKenzie pleaded guilty in 2008 to two counts of failure to support a child -- a Class 1 felony in Wisconsin.

McKenzie withdrew his candidacy, but then filed as a write-in candidate. He said child support charges would not have been a felony in Illinois, and he believes the Illinois State Board of Elections would have to treat him as a viable candidate.

Adams County Clerk Georgia Volm said there is no procedure her office can take to keep McKenzie from seeking write-in votes. Only a ruling by the Adams County State's Attorney, or another official such as the Attorney General or the State Board of Elections, would disqualify McKenzie.

McKenzie also is running for a seat on the Quincy Board of Education. He said that's a priority because he has five children enrolled in the school district, and he wants to bring a new perspective to the board.

Although McKenzie said he's passionate about serving on the City Council, he said if he's elected to both the council and the School Board, he would attend School Board meetings if they were scheduled at the same time.

"School Board and educational prospects of our children are a little more important to me than the City Council," McKenzie said.

Both men say they're concerned about getting and retaining jobs in Quincy.

Goehl wants to contact Gardner Denver and Harris, both of which have been in the news as they were acquired by other companies.

"We need to see if more can be done to keep them here in Quincy," Goehl said.

McKenzie said he got experience holding job fairs in Chicago when he worked in the 24th Ward committeeman's office.

Goehl points to his own record of constituent service as a selling point in the election.

"I return phone calls, and I do my best to help," Goehl said.

The 1st Ward is being restructured this year. The southern neighborhoods in the current map will be lost to other wards. The new map will take in some neighborhoods farther to the north.

"I'll miss the ones I'm losing, but everything should work out fine," Goehl said.

McKenzie said he's got "more than a good chance" of being elected.