Rantoul voters return Smith to mayor's seat

RANTOUL -- Incumbent Mayor Chuck Smith won't say he is superstitious, but he wanted to watch results of Tuesday's election in the same place he did four years ago when he defeated three-term incumbent Neal Williams.

Smith, family and friends watched internet results over a meal of fried chicken at Rantoul's C&C Kitchen in downtown Rantoul.

By a 69-vote margin, voters returned Smith to office.

Smith pulled in 774 votes to Williams' 705. Gary Wilson, a village board trustee, received 395.

Wilson said he didn’t think “it was too bad of a showing, first time out running against an incumbent and former mayor.

“I called the mayor this morning and congratulated him ... and wished him the best of luck.”

Wilson said he offered to be of assistance to the village in any way he can. He said he will “leave it open” on whether he might consider running again for mayor in four years.

The incumbent said his No. 1 priority in his second term is to secure a grant to redevelop the downtown business district and to create a centralized transportation hub for the village.

"That hub would include buses, cabs and railroad access," Smith said. "It's another way to revitalize our downtown area."

Smith said he also wants the village to provide a greater development of the foreign trade zone to create more local jobs.

He said he and Village Administrator Jeff Fiegenschuh are also working on a rebate program for first-time home buyers.

Smith said the program will tie in with a new Competency-Based High School Graduation Requirements Pilot Program in which Rantoul Township High School will be involved. RTHS is one of 10 high schools selected for the program.

"We will be attracting people to the schools because RTHS is going to be a preferred learning center," Smith said. "We want to incentivize the building (of new homes) here because we've been so flat on (property values) for so many years."

Smith said that ties to the Rantoul Tomorrow Initiative in which the village and local school districts work together to boost the image and performance of the community.

He said Rantoul Tomorrow has done "fantastically well."

"This new community-based learning came out of the Rantoul Tomorrow Initiative," Smith said, "Changing the image of the community was part of the reason we were able to attract the new solar energy panel (project) on the former Chanute Air Force Base. We were able to work with the schools for a strategic visionary program."

Looking back Smith said one of the highlights of his first four years was construction of the Holiday Inn Express in west Rantoul.

"Another (highight) is the governor used the village for a central meeting place for area mayors to discuss the state budget and how it would affect municipalities," Smith said. "I was honored he was there talking with the local mayors."

Smith said he was also honored to be selected to speak at a program commemorating the Tuskegee Airmen's beginning in Champaign -- specifically the former Chanute Air Force Base.

The incumbent said he didn't have a feel for how the election would turn out.

"I was apprehensive," Smith said. "I plain didn't know. I never ran against two other people before. I prayed for it. Now it has come to fruition.

"I can't thank the people of this community enough."

Smith said the campaign served a valuable purpose.

"I did a lot of walking," he said. "But it's nice to see the community. It sure puts the mayor in touch with the community."



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