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Mayor Renner Returns With Even Longer To-Do List

Tari Renner gestures
Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner speaks during a Bloomington City Council meeting.

When Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner returns from his medical leave of absence Sunday, he’ll face an even longer to-do list than the one he temporarily set aside four weeks ago.

Renner, who was re-elected to a second term in April, will need to find an interim city manager before David Hales leaves for his new job in Joliet starting in November. The mayor will also need to weigh in publicly on the Downtown Bloomington Task Force’s upcoming recommendations, including the possibility that the group will propose a major joint library-transit center project on the Market Street garage site.

Renner will then have to lead the search for Bloomington’s next permanent city manager—a first for him as mayor. (Hales was a holdover from previous administrations.) All that will take place as the Coliseum criminal case unfolds, as well as an Illinois State Police investigation of the mayor’s office.

“We’ll look forward to having him back here,” Mayor Pro Tem Karen Schmidt said Monday as she announced Renner’s return, starting Sunday, Oct. 1. That means he’ll be back for the regularly scheduled Oct. 9 Bloomington City Council meeting—his first since announcing his leave of absence Aug. 28.

The medical reason for Renner’s leave remains unclear. He has declined to talk in specifics about his decision, other than to say it was made in “consultation with my physician and my family.”

In an interview Wednesday with WMBD television, Renner hinted that stress related to his mayoral duties may have been partially to blame.

“It’s really no one thing,” Renner told WMBD's Eugene Daniel. He said he was a “Type A personality” and that “being mayor of Bloomington is not a part-time job.”

“I was certainly starting to feel it, and I needed to take a step back,” Renner said.

Renner’s Aug. 28 announcement came as he faced an Illinois State Police investigation into his recent trip to Japan with the Bloomington-Normal Sister Cities Committee. It’s unclear what specifically police are investigating, and Renner has denied wrongdoing and says he hopes for a quick resolution.

State Police told GLT last week that investigation is still ongoing.

Renner had also come under fire repeatedly for his online behavior responding to his critics. In early August, Renner posted several typo-laden and erratic comments on GLT’s Facebook page in response to several critics who chimed in about his Japan trip and related city spending.

And his leave announcement came just two weeks after his idea to hire a full-time mayoral aide to help reduce his own workload was met with a cool reception by aldermen. The proposal has since died.

“Unfortunately, I don't think the council quite understood how much that position would have helped me,” Renner said at the time.

During his mayoral leave, Renner says he stay engaged with city business but mostly focused on his work at Illinois Wesleyan University, where he’s a political science professor. Renner stayed active elsewhere during his leave, appearing at a fundraiser for Democratic McLean County Clerk candidate Nikita Richards, among other events.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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