Updated Feb. 28, 2012 11:45 a.m.
For the two decades leading to 2011, the one thing local political observers could count on was a very predictable North Riverside Village Board. Ruled by an unassailable VIP Party majority, the party’s candidates were handpicked, elected and re-elected for as long as they wanted to be there.
In 2011, that certainty ended with two independent candidates trumping two longtime incumbents. In 2012, there’s more change.
Joan Sargent, a trustee since 2001, announced her resignation at the village board’s meeting on Feb. 20.
Mayor Kenneth Krochmal appointed local political veteran Vera Wilt as her replacement, effective immediately.
“We’re going to miss Joan a lot,” said Krochmal.
Sargent and her husband are looking to downsize and have had their North Riverside home on the market since early November. Sargent told the Landmark that she didn’t want to make important decisions about the village’s financial future and then move out of town.
“Right now is the best time for a new person to get in on the finance and budget meetings,” said Sargent. “That was strictly the reason for me leaving now.”
Sargent was appointed to the board after Guy Belmonte, then a trustee, was named interim village administrator in early 2001. She was first elected in April 2001 and was elected to her third term as trustee in 2009. Her term would have been up for re-election in 2013.
Wilt said she’s leaning toward running for election to the board in 2013.
“Chances are pretty good I would,” Wilt said. “I expect [being a trustee is] something I would do for the longer term.”
Wilt comes to the board with several years of experience as an elected official for Riverside Township. She was appointed township clerk in 2004 after the death of her husband Gary Wilt, who was township supervisor. Pat Pavlich, who was the clerk at the time, was named Gary Wilt’s replacement as supervisor, while Vera was appointed to replace Pavlich.
Vera Wilt was part of the Republican Party’s township slate in 2005, which ran unopposed. She did not run for re-election in 2009. In addition, Wilt was on the North Riverside Civil Service Commission (which serves as the village’s police and fire commission) for 18 years, ending in 2009.
Part of her decision not to run for re-election at the township level, Wilt told the Landmark last week, was that she was toying with the possibility of running for mayor of North Riverside in 2009.
“I submitted my name as candidate for mayor to [the VIP Party], but I wasn’t slated for mayor or trustee,” said Wilt, who also sat out the 2011 trustee election.
Instead, the VIP Party chose to nominate Krochmal for mayor. When Sargent let it be known she wanted to bow out, Wilt wasn’t sure she’d be considered given her decision to seek the VIP’s nomination for mayor against Krochmal.
“I wasn’t sure Ken would be comfortable with me,” said Wilt, who said she had the support in 2009 of other VIP members, including trustees, and local independents.
But Krochmal said he has no issues with Wilt and was happy to appoint her to fill the vacancy.
“You have to get past that,” Krochmal said. “She brings a lot of energy, knowledge and contacts.”
Wilt said she’s an independent thinker who approaches issues deliberately and carefully.
Her career has been spent in the insurance industry. She presently works as an agent for New York Life Insurance Company and spent 20 years with CSA Fraternal Life – 12 of those years as president. She was also an attorney.
“My approach to government or management has been to get the facts,” said Wilt. “I tend to be very measured and diligent and then make judgments for the best of the group I’m working for.”