For as long as anyone can remember the Riverside Township Regular Republican Organization has slated the candidates who have served every four years on the township’s board of trustees.
The elections unfailingly have been uncontested, even though a Riverside Township Democratic political organization has nominally existed throughout the decades. For at least the last two decades, the local Democratic Party has chosen to cede township government to the township GOP.
But, political labels being what they are – and with Riverside Township leaning decidedly Democratic in the past 15 years – the days of the Riverside Township GOP running a slate appear to be over.
“This is the way it’s going to go in the future,” said Tim Heilenbach, an incumbent township trustee who is running for re-election with a slate of candidates running under the banner Riverside Township Unity Party.
Heilenbach, a resident of Brookfield, is the new party’s chairman. Riverside Township includes nearly all of Riverside, the Hollywood section of Brookfield and North Riverside east of 9th Avenue.
“I think this is going to give us a better quality of candidate going forward, because it takes the R and D out of it,” Heilenbach said. “We’re there to do our best for all of our township constituents.”
The change has not, for now, made the race for a seat on the township board more competitive. The coming April race for township supervisor, assessor, clerk and four trustee seats is uncontested.
All but one of those running on the Riverside Township Unity Party slate is now a member of the township board, though the deck is being shuffled slightly.
Trustee Michael Dropka is running for township clerk while Clerk Liane Blauw is running for trustee. Both are North Riverside residents.
Assessor Fran Sitkiewicz, of Riverside, is running for re-election to that post, while Riverside resident Mary Rob Clarke joins Heilenbach in seeking re-election as a trustee.
Running for re-election as township supervisor is North Riverside resident Vera Wilt, who like the rest of the incumbents seeking re-election in 2021 ran as part of a Riverside Township GOP slate in 2017.
“Let’s face it, being a Republican locally and nationally doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing,” said Wilt.
That change is important, because also running for a seat as trustee is Riverside resident Thomas Morrissey, an attorney who in 2019 created a political committee to back his candidacy for Cook County Circuit Court judge, as a Democrat.
“Tom is joining our group, but I think we’re all of similar mind,” Wilt said.
The only incumbent not running for spot on the township board is Trustee Tom Lupfer, a Riverside resident who won election to his only term on the board in 2017.