North Riverside voters sent a strong message April 2 that they’re looking for change, electing two independent candidates to three trustee seats on the village board, the first time they’ve done so in a decade.

Marybelle Mandel, who stunned observers with a second place showing running for mayor in 2017, was the leading vote-getter in the race for trustee this time around. Unofficially, with all five precincts reporting, she finished with 978 votes, about 90 votes ahead of two-term incumbent and fellow independent H. Bob Demopoulos (886 votes).

After her 2017 showing, Mandel remained a visible presence in North Riverside, attending virtually every board meeting and positioning herself as the people’s representative.

“I stayed in touch with the residents,” said Mandel following her victory. “It’s not just about elections. Residents wanted me to continue to be a voice for them. I stood up for the residents.”

The two independents topped a field of six candidates, which included three from the VIP Party, which has dominated North Riverside politics for a generation. Winning the remaining seat on the village board was VIP incumbent Deborah Czajka, who won election to her second full term on the board with 827 votes.

“This is a tough loss for us,” said Czajka. “I’m very grateful for the win, but I think it’s time to move on and work as a team. Will it work? I don’t know, but I know I’m willing to work at it.”

Finishing out of the running were Czajka’s VIP running mates, Matthew Decosola, who finished fourth with 805 votes and newcomer Martin DeLeonardis, who amassed 771 votes.

Independent Luigi “Gino” Labellarte finished sixth with 647 votes.

The last time VIP did not hold at least five trustee seats on the village board was in 2011-13, when Demopoulos and independent Rocco DeSantis served together on the village board.

Demopoulos could not be reached for comment.

 “We will work together for the best interests of residents,” said Mandel. “If we don’t agree, we’ll come up with compromise solutions.

“I thought the residents spoke up. They wanted an independent choice. I’m very happy and truly thankful to the residents.”

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