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Bloomington mayor considers former council member Karen Schmidt for the Ward 6 vacancy

Karen Schmidt served five terms on the Bloomington City Council, but lost to Jenn Carrillo in her 2019 reelection bid.
Updated: October 10, 2021 at 8:36 PM CDT
Former Bloomington City Council member Jenn Carrillo said it would be undemocratic to select Schmidt for the vacant Ward 6 seat.
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Bloomington Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe has floated the idea of nominating former city council member Karen Schmidt to fill a vacancy on the council after his first choice did not reach the “broadest consensus” he desired, according to an email shared by a current council member who is opposed to the idea.

The first-term mayor has delayed filling the council seat for over a month and now approaches a deadline in one of his first tests to find agreement among council members who have shown clear ideological differences on key issues.

Schmidt served as the council representative for parts of downtown and southwest Bloomington in Ward 6 for 20 years, until she lost her re-election bid to Jenn Carrillo in 2019. Carrillo resigned in August, after they bought a home outside of the ward.

Schmidt was not among the 11 candidates who filed to fill the remaining two years of the term. Schmidt and Mwilambwe served on the city council together for eight years.

City council member Jeff Crabill posted images on social media Sunday of an email from Mwilambwe that indicates the mayor’s first choice, Levi Champion, did not reach “the broadest amount of consensus among council, Ward 6 residents and the community,” as WGLT reported last week.

Bloomington City Councilmember Jeff Crabill shared an email on social media in which Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe proposes the appointment of Karen Schmidt to the vacant Ward 6 seat.
Bloomington City Councilmember Jeff Crabill shared an email on social media in which Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe proposes the appointment of Karen Schmidt to the vacant Ward 6 seat.

Mwilambwe indicated in the email several people suggested to him Schmidt would achieve the “broadest level of consensus.” The mayor added Schmidt said she would be willing to serve the remainder of the term and would not run again in April 2023.

“I have been told she has been lobbied heavy of late since no obvious candidate has emerged,” Mwilambwe said in the email, adding Schmidt would bring “excellent constituent services” and “lot of institutional memory” to the council.

Crabill, a first-term council member who serves much of far southeast Bloomington, slammed the idea of appointing Schmidt, calling the effort “an effort to appease the three conservatives on the council who have made it clear they refuse to vote for any progressive.”

Crabill said the move would undermine the voters of Ward 6 who voted her out. “This flies in the face of democracy,” he said.

Carrillo said selecting someone who lost in the last election to serve in the seat would be "undemocratic."

“It's really sad to see that he is catering to the conservative wing of the council at the expense of the ward I used to represent,” Carrillo said, adding they have reached out to several councilmembers to urge them to reject the selection if Mwilambwe formally presents it. Carrillo did not say which candidate they would have endorsed but Carrillo said the mayor should only choose from the list of applicants.

Mwilambwe, Schmidt and Crabill were not immediately available for comment.

The council has until Oct. 30 to fill the vacancy that has been open since the end of August.

Mwilambwe told WGLT last week he still believed he could find a candidate that achieve broad support on the council. “I think anything is possible. I’m somebody who is always hopeful and positive,” Mwilambwe said.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.