Council may consider address among qualifications to fill vacant seat

By Audrey Wise

August 19, 2013 Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 10:01 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis and council members are working to fill the vacant seat left by late at-large councilman Gary Sandberg.

Sandberg died unexpectedly on July 19. The council has 60 days from that time to pick a replacement.

Speaking about the process, Mayor Jim Ardis said, "Nobody's going to replace Gary Sandberg and I don't think we're trying to."

As of Monday afternoon Mayor Ardis had spoken with 15 of the 31 applicants.

"There's a good number of people that I think could step in and do this job relatively quickly," he said.

The open seat is an at-large position, meaning the person will represent the entire city. Mayor Ardis said he wants the best candidate, but there could also be room for diversity around the horseshoe. Many are calling for the person that fills the seat to live south of War Memorial Drive.

"I think that's a legitimate thing for council members to keep their eye on," said the Mayor.

Three of the four current at-large council members live in the 5th district, the other lives on Grand View Drive in the 3rd district.

The area south of War Memorial Drive mostly consists of the 1st and 2nd districts.

Those council members say zip code is not as important as being passionate for the right things.

"I believe there are candidates who could live north of War Drive who might be better than someone south of War Drive if they have the focus on where it should be," said 2nd District Councilman Chuck Grayeb.

"Somebody who is interested in giving back to the community, understanding that it's not about them, but about the people that they serve. That's my only criteria," said 1st District Councilwoman Denise Moore.

Mayor Ardis said where a candidate lives is only one factor and that there are many other qualifications to look at.

"I think it's going to be very important that we have somebody that's not afraid to stand up and be a leader," he said.

Councilman Grayeb said, "Be willing to question things if necessary and fly in the face of convention as Gary Sandberg did when it's appropriate."

Council members are expected to discuss filling the position in executive session after next Tuesday's city council meeting.

The person selected will fill the seat for a year and a half until the office is up for election again.