MATTOON — Two candidates with accounting and business management backgrounds, a retired firefighter with union leadership experience, and a former business owner who works on statewide political campaigns are running for mayor in the April 6 election.
The four candidates are Rick Hall and Preston Owen, who are Mattoon City Council members, and Randy Hausle and Alex Walker.
Hall, on the council since 2007, is retired and most recently worked as business manager for the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm. He said most of his professional career was spent with Consolidated Communications in various executive management positions. Prior to that, he was in public accounting.
"My active community involvement is extensive and includes literally thousands of hours of volunteer time," Hall said. Currently, he chairs the Mattoon in Motion coordinating council. Hall, an Army Vietnam veteran, also has leadership roles in Mattoon Rotary Club and served on the Mattoon school board.
Hall said he has built relationships throughout the community, played key roles in fundraising, and managed businesses that have large budgets and staffs. He said he will be able to immediately contribute to the leadership of the city and, as a retiree, has more time to devote to mayoral responsibilities.
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"The future of Mattoon matters to me, I take it seriously and always will," Hall said. "I have the time, successful professional experience, and dedication that our citizens and businesses deserve."
Hausle, who retired from Urbana Fire Department in 2010, said he has 34 years of experience in the fire service, including six years of active duty in the Air Force. He is employed as a highway maintainer for the Illinois Department of Transportation. He has served as union president for a firefighter local and as a union trustee for the Mattoon Highway Maintainers.
"I believe that gives me good insight into how contracts work. I am calm under stress and I try to gather all the facts before I make a decision," Haulse said. He also serves on the Praise Assembly Church board and volunteers at The Haven homeless shelter.
Hausle said one of his motivations for running for mayor is to reinstate the ambulance service for the Mattoon Fire Department.
"I believe the community is better served through the fire department and medical costs and transport costs will be much cheaper," Hausle said. The candidate added that he also wans the city to hire a professional to help attract businesses.
Owen, on the council sine 2013, is the chief financial officer and general counsel for Ervin Equipment. He is a certified public accountant and a licensed attorney.
"I have unique accounting and legal experience that will help me as mayor," Owen said. "I served as the city attorney and city treasurer for nine years and I have served on the City Council for eight years."
In his work since he left full-time employment with the city, Owen said he has been responsible for managing and running businesses that are financially many times the size of the city.
"I want to see the city of Mattoon succeed and I want to utilize my time and talents to make Mattoon a better place to live," the candidate said. Owen, a retired Navy chief petty officer and a Desert Storm veteran, also has been involved with Mattoon Area Family YMCA, Chamber of Commerce, and other community groups.
Walker served as an Air Force police officer and owned a day spa when he lived in Orlando, Florida. The candidate said he has worked on several campaigns, including Darren Duncan for Congress, and recently served as Mark Curran for the U.S. Senate's Southern Illinois campaign coordinator. He also has been engaged with state and local issues, with the goal of holding leaders accountable.
"I've also helped many residents get out of financial trouble. Last year, I organized a fundraiser for a man who was arrested for protecting his kids from a pedophile. With the community's help, we were able to raise over $5,000," Walker said.
If elected, Walker said he will always listen, have an open door policy, and ensure that citizen concerns are addressed in a timely manner. He said he will represent all citizens, not just the rich and powerful.
"I believe Mattoon needs change. Two of my opponents have been part of city government for a total of 28 combined years. They now say they have solutions to the problems that they helped create," Walker said. "The current leadership has failed to stop the bleeding in our deficit."
Walker, who pleaded guilty to a Coles County forgery charge in 2019 as part of plea agreement, has said he is still running despite an Illinois statute that prohibits those convicted of felonies from holding office. The candidate said he plans to petition the governor for the same type of “restoration of rights” that enabled a man with a past conviction, Roger Agpawa, to be seated as mayor of Markham in 2018.