Effingham’s former police chief was elected mayor on Tuesday, defeating the one-term incumbent and another challenger.
Mike Schutzbach will replace Jeff Bloemker as mayor. Bloemker finished third. Local attorney Scott Ealy placed second.
Schutzbach captured 51.61 percent of the tally, or 1,267 votes; Ealy had 24.36 percent, or 598 votes; Bloemker had 24.03 percent, 590 votes. Schutzbach, 55, served Effingham City Police Department for 30 years, with 13 years as police chief. Schutzbach retired from the police department in January 2017.
In his pre-election interview questions, Schutzbach said he has a few priorities for his first term.
In a brief interview after the polls closed, Schutzbach thanked the voters and said that he’s ready to get started. He will take office at the May 7 meeting.
“Basically, I want to thank the voters for electing me as their mayor,” Schutzbach said. “I’m excited to begin this new chapter and I look forward to serving the community.”
Schutzbach added that he wanted to congratulate the council members who were elected and that he looked forward to working with them.
“I look forward to working with them and working to preserve the priorities of the residents of Effingham and the city’s financial stability,” said Schutzbach.
In his pre-election questions, Schutzbach said keeping property taxes in check was at the top of his list.
“Throughout my campaign for mayor, I have highlighted several priorities that I plan to focus on as mayor, with my No. 1 priority to keep property taxes in check,” said Schutzbach. “I have extensive experience managing a conservative budget, and I will preserve the priorities of residents, while maintaining the city’s financial stability.”
He also said his second priority is to work with new and existing businesses to help them reach their goals.
“I will focus on workforce development to ensure residents can find careers in the community, and business owners can find qualified workers to fill open positions,” said Schutzbach. “I also hope to create an open dialogue between City Hall and Effingham residents to make sure all residents have a voice in regard to city matters.”
Bloemker will finish up business at City Hall in two weeks and turn over the mayoral duties to Schutzbach.
“It’s clear that the people of Effingham want a different product in City Hall,” Bloemker said after the votes had been counted. “I accept that humbly and gracefully. We are proud of what we accomplished. We know that we raised the bar. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve.”
Bloemker added that as a third generation Effingham resident, he’s honored to have been able to contribute to Effingham’s successes.
“Effingham has a great future and to say I have been able to contribute to that has been rewarding,” said Bloemker.
Bloemker touted his years of experience, including that on the city’s Plan Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals, plus four years as mayor. He also said during his term the city has yielded a more effective police department, a new police chief, a new fire chief, a new state-of-the-art police station, and a new city administrator. He said in his first term, the city has seen much growth in retail, restaurant and entertainment sectors.
In a pre-election interview, Bloemker said, “The phenomenal success we have realized together in the past four years is exhilarating. It’s lightening in a bottle and you don’t take that kind of good chemistry for granted.”
Ealy said he was happy for the new mayor-elect.
“I’m very happy for Mike (Schutzbach). He’s a nice fellow. He will make a good mayor,” said Ealy. “The next four years may not be easy financially, because we have a lot of bills coming due. The city will be well served by a straight shooter like Mike Schutzbach. He will make a great mayor.”
Ealy also said he learned a lot during the campaign.
“I wish Mike (Schutzbach) all the best,” said Ealy.
Ealy said he believed his accomplishments with 25 years as a local attorney and with a practice in Effingham would help him be a good city leader. He’s also served as chairman of the Effingham County Mental Health Board; involved with Relay for Life, and as a fifth grade boys basketball coach at Sacred Heart, among many other involvements.
Ealy added that he was motivated to seek election because he felt that many citizens of Effingham offer ideas and experiences, but that their voices are not being heard.
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at email@example.com or 217-347-7151 ext 138