DECATUR — Chuck Kuhle, David Horn and Pat McDaniel emerged as the three winners among the six candidates for seats on the Decatur City Council, according to unofficial results from the Macon County Clerk's Office.
The new council members are expected to take office May 1.
With all precincts reporting, Kuhle received 6,335 votes, Horn 5,650 and McDaniel 5,588.
Chris Riley was next with 5,016, followed by Marty Watkins (4,296) and Andrew Apel (1,868).
McDaniel is the lone incumbent, having served on the council since 2011. The remaining two seats were held by councilmen Jerry Dawson and Chris Funk, who chose not to run.
Key concerns among the candidates included neighborhood revitalization, infrastructure and economic opportunities for the city. In recent weeks, City Manager Tim Gleason's job performance arose as an issue, with Apel calling for the council to investigate Gleason and vote on his termination. Other candidates were less critical, either offering support, declining to comment or saying they needed to get to know Gleason better.
Kuhle, 57, served on the Macon County Board for three terms between 1990 and 2000. He serves as director of tennis for the Decatur Park District during the summer and is tournament director of the USTA/Ursula Beck Pro Tennis Classic, which he founded in 1999.
Kuhle called on his tennis experience during the campaign, handing out tennis balls with his name on it during the St. Patrick's Day Parade in March.
Among his priorities, Kuhle wants to establish a program in the city to provide college tuition for local students. An example he has cited is Kalamazoo, Mich., where anonymous donors have pledged to pay the tuition at state colleges or universities for students who graduated from the district’s high schools.
"Now that I'm elected, it could give me some weight to go in and talk with somebody about it," Kuhle said.
With last week's announcement that Caterpillar Inc. plans to bring about 500 jobs to Decatur, Kuhle said that type of program could motivate those workers to live in the city. The addition of bike lanes, he said, could also make Decatur more vibrant.
"I want to make that happen," Kuhle said. "I feel we're behind other cities on that."
Horn, 45, narrowly missed out on winning a council spot in 2015, losing by 424 votes. Horn has been a biology professor at Millikin University since 2005 and is one of the founders of the university's Institute for Science Entrepreneurship. He has served on the Macon County Regional Planning Commission and Macon County Conservation District board of trustees.
"In the last election, I earned over 5,000 votes, and those supporters continued to see my commitment to the city," Horn said. "I look forward to working collaboratively with citizens and organizations and enact a positive transformation for the city. I'm here to listen and represent the citizens of Decatur whether they voted for me or not."
McDaniel, 68, is the retired executive director of the Macon County History Museum. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2015. McDaniel worked as a reporter and photographer for the Decatur Tribune from 2003 to 2011 and has decades of sales experience, including 18 years with the greeting card division of Sangamon Inc. He served in the Army from 1968 to 1971.
"In this day and age, being an incumbent is tough, but all you can do is run on your record," McDaniel said. "Obviously people thought that I did OK, so I won't change course. I'll continue to watch closely how we spent taxpayers' money and keep getting out in the community and finding out what's going on. I ask questions and I hear a lot of good suggestions, and even some gripes that can be good ideas. I'm out there listening."
Riley, 50, finished 572 votes behind McDaniel for the third seat. He said it was frustrating to come that close but lose.
"I'm disappointed," said Riley, who has served on the Decatur Park District Board of Commissioners for 16 years. "But it's OK; we'll move forward. I have two years left on the park board, and I'll serve them out and be part of all those ribbon-cuttings for the city of Decatur. I congratulate the winners."
Watkins, 54, a former Macon County auxiliary deputy and former Macon County correctional officer, also had an unsuccessful run at a Macon County Board seat in November. But Watkins said he'll continue to seek office.
"I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't hurt. My heart is with the community and it hurts to lose," Watkins said. "But there's always tomorrow. We won't go in a hole and hide. I'll keep fighting for the community and work to make myself more visible in the community. I wish good luck to those who did win."
Apel, 48, though finishing well behind the rest of the field, said he felt he raised some important issues that he hopes will now be addressed.
"I’m happy to have hit the numbers I hit without spending a single dime of others' money. I refused every check I was offered," Apel said. "I was encouraged to see a number of candidates pick up on a few of my ideas during the debates, and hopefully they follow through on those."
Apel said he'd consider running again in the future if he doesn't see change, but for now will focus on a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to help citizens of Decatur who can't afford to pay their fines for administrative code violations.