Despite criticism about his two-year push to privatize the North Riverside Fire Department, Hubert Hermanek Jr. weathered a strongly contested mayoral race to win his second term as the village’s top official.
With all five precincts reporting, Hermanek walked away with a majority of the vote – 51.34 percent to defeat his two challengers, Trustee H. Bob Demopoulos and Marybelle Mandel.
“It’s very humbling,” said Hermanek in a phone interview late Tuesday. “I couldn’t be more happy with the residents and their confidence in me.”
Demopoulos, whose slate of three trustee candidates two years ago narrowly missed pulling off a stunning upset by making the firefighter labor issue his No. 1 priority, finished third in the race for mayor with just 19.5 percent of the vote.
It would not have been out of the realm of possibility for Demopoulos to have beaten Hermanek in 2017. The privatization issue has been a loser in the courts for the incumbent mayor and legal costs related to the fire department labor strife are in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I believe that the residents felt that even if they didn’t approve the solution of privatizing the fire department the rest of the village runs well,” Hermanek said. “We ran on our accomplishments, our record.”
But Mandel, a former Demopoulos political ally who ran alongside him in 2015, entered the race at the last minute. Her presence cost Demopoulos dearly, and Mandel ended up taking 29 percent of the vote.
While Mandel claimed she was in the race to win it, she clearly took votes away from Demopoulos. Her positions on village issues, from the fire department to reducing debt to bidding out contracts, were identical to Demopoulos’ platform planks.
In the end, Hermanek won with a majority of the vote, but Mandel’s presence made his re-election all the easier.
Demopoulos’ running mates on the MVP Party slate fared no better against the VIP slate of incumbent Joseph Mengoni and newcomers Theresa “Terri” Sarro and Fernando Flores.
VIP’s trustee candidates won by a margin of about 2-to-1 over the MVP trustee slate of Kevin Melvin, Pricilia Runquist and Lawrence Manetti.
“I think we anticipated a win, but I was a little nervous about Fernando not getting an endorsement [from the Landmark] and being a newcomer,” said Mengoni. “But the MVP candidates had nothing to bring to the table. I’m pleased with the outcome.”
The biggest margin of victory, however, came in the race for village clerk, where incumbent VIP candidate Kathy Ranieri easily overcame the challenge of MVP’s Virginia Rodriguez, winning by a margin of 68.2 percent to 31.8 percent.