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2 candidates interview for McLean County Board vacancy and another member resigns

Derek Lough at McLean County Board Executive Committee
Emily Bollinger
Derek Lough met with members of the McLean County Board Executive Committee on Monday.

A McLean County Board committee interviewed two candidates for a board vacancy on Monday, and learned they soon will have another seat to fill.

County board chair John McIntyre announced during the board’s Executive Committee meeting that Benjamin Webb plans to resign, effective Friday, because he’s moving out of District 4. The district includes parts of central and west Normal.

Webb, a Democrat who teaches at University High School in Normal, was elected to the board in 2020. McIntyre announced the county will take applications for the District 4 vacancy until noon on March 3.

The board’s Executive Committee will interview applicants at its March 7 meeting with the county board voting on a nomination during its monthly meeting on March 10.

The candidate chosen would serve the remaining eight months of Webb’s term. The county is required to appoint someone from the same party as Webb.

Webb becomes the fifth county board member in recent months to resign, or decide against a re-election bid. His exit comes months before an election that could lead to significant changes to the board. Republican incumbent Josh Barnett and Democratic incumbents Sharon Chung and Shayna Watchinski have said they will not seek re-election. Chung has announced plans to run for the Illinois House.

District 6 candidates

Candidates Beverly Bell and Derek Lough met with members of the Executive Committee on Monday. Bell and Lough are seeking to replace Laurie Wollrab, who had been the longest-serving Democrat on the board. Wollrab stepped down at the end of last year.

District 6 represents much of the Illinois State University campus and Uptown Normal.

Beverly Bell at McLean County Board Executive Committee
Emily Bollinger
Beverly Bell met virtually with members of the McLean County Board Executive Committee on Monday.

Bell, a retiree who served overseas during a 22-year military career, also worked for the Normal Police Department for 25 years and previously served as vice president of the Bloomington-Normal NAACP chapter. She met with the board virtually.

Bell said she would like to serve on the board's Transportation Committee as a way to focus on traffic safety. She told committee members her brother, Larry, a highway worker in Texas, died in a crash while trying to cross an eight-lane highway.

“There was no signage. There was nothing that could have stopped him,” said Bell. “He probably would still be alive today if there had been a barrier up, if there had been some lights flashing.”

Bell also said she would like to play a role in the county’s mental health plans, specifically to help McLean County Jail inmates and staff.

Lough, a doctoral student at ISU, said part of his curriculum involves climate justice that he said could provide solutions for McLean County government.

“The truth is, we’ve got a lot of challenges in front of us when it comes to the environment and how local government and small businesses and people in the community are going to tackle those challenges,” said Lough, adding he also would like to serve on the board’s Finance Committee.

Lough has served on ISU’s Graduate Student Advisory Council, volunteered as policy director for the Young Democrats of Illinois and organized a mutual aid group in McLean County.

Lough called this a “tumultuous time” for the United States and said he can help heal divisions in the community. “I’d say if there was one thing that I could bring to the table better than most, it’s the ability to recognize my mistakes and move past them in a healthy way,” Lough said.

Bell said her time overseas gave her more appreciation for the chance to exchange political views with people with whom you may disagree. “There are going to be differences, but I’m willing to talk them out and I did that a lot of times when I served on the (Bloomington) Planning Commission,” Bell said.

McIntyre will nominate a candidate for the full board to consider at its meeting on Thursday. The chosen candidate will serve the remaining nine months of Wollrab’s term.

Neither candidate committed to running for the full term later this year.

“Let me get my feet wet, let me see how the atmosphere is and I will answer that question to you probably in another month,” Bell told the committee.

“We’ll see how this meeting goes and maybe how the one later this week goes and I’ll weigh my options,” Lough said in response to the question.

The primary election will be June 28. The general election is Nov. 6.

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