URBANA — Democratic Mayor Laurel Prussing said Tuesday she has her eyes set on a third term, and she might have a challenger heading toward the April election.
City election season kicked off this week as prospective candidates began picking up the petitions they need to circulate before they can officially declare candidacy in November. Prussing picked up her petitions this week.
So has Les Stratton, a Democrat who retired as operations supervisor in 2010 after spending 30 years with the Urbana Public Works Department.
He said he is only considering a campaign and has yet to make an official announcement, but if he runs, it would set up a February primary election and could revive an old campaign issue.
"Some of the hiring situations have been kind of unilateral, and I think we need to go back to professionalism when we had a professional manager in charge of the city," he said.
He was referring to Prussing's 2007 decision to not invite then-Chief Administrative Officer Bruce Walden to return to city employment at the end of that fiscal year. At the time, Walden was the city's top administrative official and worked beside Prussing, the city's top elected official.
Administrators are appointed at the pleasure of Prussing, whose recommendations are confirmed by the city council. Walden was not reappointed in 2007, and the position was never filled. Prussing did, however, appoint a chief of staff, who serves under the mayor.
"I spent more than 30 years at the city," Stratton said. "Mayor Prussing took over, and she changed a few things, including the form of government. We went from a strong mayor with a manager to a situation where we have the mayor in charge of everything."
Prussing thinks "personal vendettas" are behind Stratton's comments.
She thinks the same people supporting Stratton were behind the scenes of Rex Bradfield's and Rob McColley's failed 2009 runs at the office.
Bradfield and McColley both said that, had they won, among their top priorities upon taking office would have been hiring a chief administrative officer.
"That was an issue that was raised in the last campaign, and it didn't go very well for them," Prussing said.
The mayor thinks she has been able to unite the city council and the city is running more smoothly now. She argued that she is spending less money and "getting better results."
"I think there's been a transformation in the attitude around here that there isn't the feuding and the back-biting," she said.
Prospective candidates may continue picking up petitions all the way until a one-week candidate filing period begins in November.
Others who had picked up petitions as of Tuesday afternoon included Diane Marlin, the Democratic incumbent representing Ward 7 on the Urbana City Council, and Paul Faraci, the incumbent representative of District 5 on the Champaign City Council.