ROCHELLE — Rochelle will have a new mayor next month after challenger John Bearrows defeated four-term incumbent Chet Olson in Tuesday’s consolidated election with 51.94 percent of the vote.
Bearrows tallied 870 votes, while Olson ended with 721 and another challenger in the race, Cassondra Lasoya, placed a distant third with 112 votes.
Bearrows, who currently sits on the city council, campaigned on a platform of helping Rochelle grow with a focus on business and residential development.
“When the polls closed, I was very relaxed,” the long-time Rochelle resident said. “Then the results started coming in, and I got very nervous. It was a whirlwind night.”
When he first started his campaign, Bearrows, a professional auctioneer since 1975, said he told his committee he wanted to be mayor and he was getting in the race to win.
“I think he’ll be a good mayor in the future,” Olson said Tuesday night.
Bearrows said Olson encouraged him to run for city council in 2017 and congratulated him and said he was passing the baton to him.
Bearrows said he considered running for mayor in 2015, but changed his mind because Olson chose to run for re-election and he didn’t want to go up against his good friend at that time.
“Chet did a good job during his time as mayor, but I just thought it was time for a change,” Bearrows said. “There are some projects I’ve been working on and some I want to start.”
Bearrows, who is “anxious to get started and hit the ground running,” said he plans to add hours to the mayor’s office and make it his new full-time career focus.
Both men praised the people around them for their support. Bearrows said he couldn’t have won without his committee and family – “they really pushed hard for this.”
Olson thanked the many people he has worked with over the last 16 years, including his family, friends, dedicated city employees and local citizens.
“You can’t do this without these folks,” he said. “A lot of dedicated employees and people – that’s what makes Rochelle what it is.”
Olson was first elected mayor in 2003 when he replaced Bob Gingerich, who retired.
Bearrows will assume his new duties on May 2. He is expected to make a recommendation to the full city council on his replacement, who will serve out the remaining two years of his term.
In the race for city council, incumbents Tom McDermott (1,126 votes) and Bil Hayes (867 votes) both won re-election, while challenger John Gruben also won a spot with 692 votes.
Challenger AnnMarie Green finished a close fourth with 826 votes, while Don Burke (569 votes), Ryan Carson (449 votes) and Jeffrey Phillips (150 votes) also fell short in their respective bids.
“I would like to thank everyone that got out and voted. I am humbled by the support I received and will do my best to earn the trust that you have placed in me,” McDermott said on his Facebook page. “Again, thank you to the candidates that put it all on the line and ran for office and to you, the voters, that let your voices be heard.”
“I would like to thank my family for their support. A special thank you goes to my daughter, Jana, and her husband, Joe Cagle, as well as to my brother, Bob Gruben, for their un-ending support,” John Gruben said. “I would also like to thank the members of American Legion Post 403 who supported me, as well as, those members of Kiwanis, Golden K for their support. Most of all I would like to thank the citizens of this community who showed their support by voting for me during this election. It is my deepest desire to serve this community with an enduring desire to do what is right for all of the members of this community.”
McDermott, Hayes and Gruben will be sworn in at a council meeting in May. Bearrows’ vacated council position will also need to be filled after the new council is seated.