The Lincolnwood 2021 Mayoral Election

Courtesy of Village of Lincolnwood

Courtesy of Village of Lincolnwood

By Emily Chin and Gloria Kosir

Every four years, the Village of Lincolnwood holds an election to appoint a mayor, village clerk, and the six-member Board of Trustees. This year, constituents are able to vote in person or with a mail-in ballot. After being elected in 2017, current mayor Barry Bass has decided not to seek re-election. The two candidates in the running are Jesal Patel and Georjean Hlepas Nickell, both of whom are longtime residents of Lincolnwood.

Patel’s official portrait taken off the Village of Lincolnwood website.

Patel has years of experience with Lincolnwood politics. He’s sat on the Board of Trustees for 14 years and is currently a member of the Lincolnwood Alliance Party. The Alliance, according to Patel, isn’t a political party that one might think of, like Republican or Democrat. Rather, it’s a group of elected officials and candidates who have similar intentions for Lincolnwood.

In 2017, Patel was asked to run for mayor in place of Jerry Turry, the former mayor of Lincolnwood. Turry had sustained a serious biking injury, and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to campaign and hold office. Patel took up the offer, but stepped down when Turry was healthy enough to run. The election was won by Bass, much to Patel’s dismay. It was their differences that pushed Patel to run for mayor this term.

“I’ve developed a real passion for serving Lincolnwood. My fondness for Lincolnwood has grown over my life, and I think I can do a great job. The last four years really have been a decline in the professionalism and direction for the village. I want to see Lincolnwood move forward, and I think I’m best suited, most capable, willing, and able to do the job that Lincolnwood needs for mayor,” Patel said.

Nickell’s official portrait taken off the Village of Lincolnwood website.

Nickell was elected to the Board of Trustees in 2017. This past August, she was asked to join the Lincolnwood Alliance but declined the invite to interview for a position on their ticket. Nickell was also elected to the Lincolnwood School District 74 Board of Education (BoE) three times prior to being elected as a trustee. Her 10 years on the BoE taught her many lessons, but she feels that a mayoral role is a little different.

“It’s a different perspective as to how you approach work. When I served on the Board of Education, I realized that those decisions had to be almost immediate and very fruitful. Kids are only first, second, third, fourth graders once; you don’t get a do-over. It’s a little different with municipal governance. A conservative approach initially, on a drastic change for an ordinance is probably the best way to go. And then you can always revisit,” Nickell said.

The factor that pushed Nickell to run was realizing that her opponent, Patel, was running unopposed. 

“When the current mayor decided he wasn’t going to run again, I felt it reckless to have my opponent run unopposed and not account for what it is he would do. We have been typically on opposite ends of issues. I’m more nuts and bolts, I think that the village needs to be beautified. I think it needs to address the deferred maintenance. I think that by far I’d be much more conservative, I’m not a ‘raise taxes’ person, I’m more of a ‘let’s see what we can cut out of the budget.’ And, you know, the climate was very distasteful.”

Obviously, the elephant in the room, COVID-19, is a priority for both candidates. Patel’s main concern is keeping the people safe. When asked about whether or not he’d enforce mask mandates in outdoor facilities like Proesel Park, he said, “I just want people to be okay with sitting down on the park bench just having a mask on so that if your grandma brings your little brother to the park and wants to sit down on the bench and didn’t want to get a vaccine, she wants to know that she’s got at least a little bit of protection…. I think it was really a matter of trying to set some societal norm for if you’re sitting in one place and you’re close around other people, [to] please put a mask on, but there’s [really no] way other than saying ‘required in the park’ to enforce or codify a rule like that, so you just say, ‘in the park with discretion,’” Patel said.

Nickell is also keeping Covid at the front of her mind. “Well, what we’ve done, and we’re bound to do, is abide by the CDC guidelines and what the state of Illinois has imposed as phases. So we are mirroring and following those prompts,” Nickell said. However, the two candidates have differing views on the matter of establishing a health department branch or something of the like. Patel plans on exhausting the resources that people already have, including citizens abiding by the pandemic’s protocols and restrictions.

“Right away people say we need a health department. Well wait, maybe we don’t need a health department. Let’s find ways to satisfy our needs without adding another layer of bureaucracy, another expense, another set of politics,” Patel said.

Nickell would not be opposed to adding a health department branch to Lincolnwood.“I have noticed a void [in] a committee or commission that advises us on health care issues. And that is one of the things that I would do if I were elected almost immediately,” Nickell said. 

A concurrence of ideas both candidates had relates to the increase in carjackings and burglaries in the area, which both candidates said was out of their control to limit these occurrences.

“We definitely are concerned about the uptick at our borders. There’s no doubt that that is something that we have to deal with. But interestingly, I haven’t seen a huge jump in it being random,” Nickell said. “For a town of 12 and a half-thousand people, I still believe it’s relatively safe. But is that a priority? Yes. I mean, that’s the most important responsibility of the government and even with a school board, that there is a parallel, safety always has to be first. If people aren’t safe, it doesn’t matter what else you do.”

Lincolnwood has numerous empty buildings and plots of land that both candidates have noticed. They were asked what types of businesses would be implemented under their term as mayor. 

Patel’s approach is to use his own personal experience in real estate and apply it to Lincolnwood. According to the Lincolnwood Alliance website, Patel “specializes in residential and retail real estate sales and investment.” He asks the question: what would make Lincolnwood more diverting? He hopes to bring more recreational activities to Lincolnwood, especially due to the fact that many of the entertainment services were lost to nearby suburbs like Evanston, Skokie and Niles. 

“We were supposed to have a movie theater in Lincolnwood,” Patel said, referring to a plot of land on McCormick Blvd where a Walmart Pickup now sits. “I remember all the neighbors throwing this big fit, and about 200,000 square feet of retail. That movie theater and retail ended up going to [Village Crossing].” According to Patel, other businesses like Best Buy were also supposed to be built in Lincolnwood, but were lost to Skokie’s Village Crossing, and all due to neighbors worrying about bringing a “bad element.” Now, one of his biggest concerns is making sure that “everything doesn’t go to Skokie.” 

Nickell, on the other hand, was in hopes of bringing in more businesses that would best fit the community. Nickell talked about past proposals that she believed would be inappropriate additions to Lincolnwood.

There were discussions of a 7/11 being built in Lincolnwood, and Nickell was very opposed to the idea. “That did not meet the threshold of what we desire as this community,” Nickell said. 

Both candidates feel very strongly that voting is important at all levels of government, but especially at the local level. Prior Lincolnwood elections, particularly the 2019 one, included multiple scandals and rumors that suggested both “sides” of not showing sportsmanship-like qualities. As in every election, it is important for voters to perform their own research and vote educatedly.

Early voting starts March 22, 2021, with time-varying 9-5 pm or 10-4 pm at the Skokie Courthouse Room 149 or Oakton Community College. Regular Election Day, April 6, will open at 6 am and end at 7 pm. The voting locations are the Lincolnwood Public Library, Todd Hall, Lincolnwood Community Center, and the Holiday Inn North Shore in Skokie. Another option other than in-person voting is to vote by mail, which you can register for online.