EAST PEORIA — They sit next to each other in the high-back comfy chairs on the East Peoria City Council platform, but in many ways they are far apart. Commissioners Tim Jeffers and John Kahl are vying to replace Dave Mingus as mayor of the city, and by running are giving voters a clear choice between two distinctly different styles of leadership and decision-making skill.
Plain-spoken and unwavering, Kahl, who served in the United States Marine Corps, never met a tax proposal he liked and has no problem being the lone vote of dissension on a council vote.
"As an elected official, my voting record for being the voice of reason with the citizen's tax dollar," was an accomplishment he listed in prepared remarks for the Journal Star. Also, "(being) the person who says what needs to be said and the person who oversees the city's operations with our citizens always being my top priority."
Jeffers, by contrast, often thinks out loud while weighing options and looking for solutions and consensus on an issue. For months he supported, without apology, a half-cent sales tax increase to escape a budget deficit before a third vote on the council, not Kahl's, switched sides and made it law.
"I believe we must decrease the power of individual decision making and restore collective decision making where possible," Jeffers wrote. "My campaign theme is 'teamwork,' and I believe that is how the council and the city should operate. The real key is the caliber of people in these offices. That is why elections matter."
Jeffers, 61, retired in 2016 from Caterpillar Inc., where he worked the last 24 years in Defense and Federal Products in Service Engineering. He graduated from East Peoria Community High School, received an associates degree in applied science in 1978, and attended Moody Bible Institute for one year. He was elected to the city council in 2007, serving the city for three terms.
Kahl, 53, is a territory manager for Sysco Guest Supply and served more than six years in the Marines, where he obtained the rank of sergeant. He is a combat veteran of the Gulf War. He is completing his first term on the city council.
In the last council session, a proposal was made to change the city's government from its current commission form to something different. The two men had different opinions on the change.
"I believe the citizens have a desire to explore this issue deeply," Jeffers wrote. "We should not be blind to the pitfall of the commission form, and neither should our citizens. Until there is change, the commissioner form can function reasonably well if the council uses their energy to work together, rather than separately. Most (government) systems have issues. Be careful what you ask for."
Kahl said a change is not necessary. He took a swipe at his opponent in defense of the commission form of government.
"I stand by my belief that any change in the form of government needs to be driven by the citizens, as it is their right to do so. The effort of late 2018 was driven by current council members," he wrote. "The driving factor behind these proposals was (Jeffers') mismanagement of the department which he oversees and his lack of ability to work with other council members to correct the issues that exist. My feeling isn't that we need to overhaul our form of government, we just need to get the right people in place to make it function well again."
Jeffers was equally critical of his opponent on the same topic.
"My opponent pushed for, and added, an unbudgeted deputy fire chief position to his department while we were cutting services in public works (the department Jeffers oversees). While that position is important, there was no compelling reason for it at the expense of infrastructure at this time," Jeffers wrote. "In my view, it was poor judgement. My opponent has advocated growth in the fire department while insisting we cut back public works services. This shows a problem with the commission form of government with these independent decisions."
The election is April 2.
Scott Hilyard can be reached at 686-3244 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @scotthilyard on Twitter.