Two years ago, Marybelle Mandel humiliated the VIP Party topping a six-person field for three village trustee seats, while her running mate H. Bob Demopoulos came in second.
The village’s ruling party crumbled in the wake of that defeat and the one that replaced it, North Riverside United, was no sure thing to rebound in two years with a slate of former VIP regulars among its ranks.
But just an hour after polls closed on April 6, Joseph Mengoni declared victory as North Riverside’s next mayor in apparently comfortable fashion in front of a throng of well-wishers at Tipster’s Village Pub.
All of his running mates, including Clerk Kathy Ranieri, incumbent trustees Fernando Flores and Terri Sarro and former trustee Jason Bianco, swept into office with him.
“I think we prevailed tonight because the residents believed in us, they liked the message we were sending about the future and they know they can count on us to lead the village in the right direction for the next four years,” said Sarro.
The Cook County Clerk’s Office was painfully slow to post suburban election results, but by about 9:50 p.m., those results started rolling in and they confirmed the extent of the blowout.
Unofficially, with all five precincts reporting Mengoni had collected 825 votes to Mandel’s 500. Incumbent Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. tallied 430.
Ranieri had 1,175 votes to Carmen Circelli’s 538 in the village clerk’s race, while in the race for three trustee seats, Sarro led the way with 1,123 votes, with Flores and Bianco second and third with 930 and 830 votes, respectively.
The next closest trustee candidate in the seven-person field was Kevin Melvin of Mandel’s People Before Politics Party, with 530 votes.
The results posted so far don’t represent the final tally. There may be a good number of mail-in votes to be counted, but the candidates appeared confident in the finality of the victory.
“This is shocking,” said Hermanek at his election night gathering at Bar-Tini Lounge on Desplaines Avenue just a half block from his office in the Village Commons. “Two years ago, VIP was dead and buried, and it’s the same people.”
Mengoni said the disintegration of VIP was the culmination of a series of events, and that North Riverside United was not simply a VIP rebrand.
“Over the years, they needed to move into the future,” Mengoni said. “Everything changes and that’s what we needed to do. Everyone was stuck in their old ways.
“I think it was an eye opener two years ago. We needed to do more work, we needed to really get out there.”
North Riverside United campaigned door-to-door, visiting every residence in the village as a team, kept their direct mail pieces focused on the future and used social media to engage directly with voters through direct messages and making appointments to talk to them in person.
“We campaigned all together, presenting a united front to show we were all working for the people,” Sarro said.
Mandel’s People Before Politics Party also campaigned door to door, but in contrast with North Riverside United, their campaign mailers and literature were uniformly negative, with one late campaign piece devoted to painting the North Riverside Park Mall as a danger to the community where crime was “out of control.”
“She ran a very negative campaign,” Sarro said of Mandel. “She didn’t talk about anything in the future. She just bashed everything that’s good about the village, and I don’t think that message was well received.”
Hermanek, who collected nearly 900 votes when he ran against Mandel and Demopoulos in the three-way mayoral race in 2017, was stunned by his small vote total.
Hermanek accepted the defeat, saying he was proud of his record during his two terms as mayor.
“I did everything I could for the village,” Hermanek said. “The village is much better positioned than it was eight years ago financially, ethically. I made a lot of accomplishments and I’m proud of them.”
This story has been changed to update the vote totals.