DECATUR — The Decatur Park District Board of Commissioners kept its president, Chris Riley, and gained a new member in Chris Harrison on Tuesday.
Riley, who has served on the board for 12 years, led with 30.8 percent of the vote. Harrison, a commercial banker at Town and Country Bank, followed with 25.5 percent of the vote. He won the seat vacated by Commissioner Don Luy, who did not seek re-election.
Retired plumber and pipe fitter Tony Clark and former circuit judge John L. Davis received 22.8 percent and 20.9 percent of the vote, respectively.
Only 17 percent of those who were eligible to vote in the park district race did, with a total of 8,804 reported. Harrison and Clark were separated by 367 votes.
The winning candidates had voiced support for each other and appeared together in a television advertisement during the final weeks, while both Davis and Clark criticized some of the board’s actions.
Through a series of news releases and public statements, Davis had raised questions about the board’s bidding processes. Clark said he believed it was a mistake to close Lake Shore Drive and the former Nelson Park Golf Course.
Harrison and Riley watched election results come in at the Macon County Office Building, sharing a warm handshake and congratulations when it became apparent they had won. Commissioners Bob Brilley II and Cindy Deadrick-Wolfer also stopped in to congratulate both men.
Speaking after the votes were counted, Harrison acknowledged that he thought the board had done a good job so far, and he had received support from commissioners.
“That doesn’t mean I’m going to be their new yes man,” he said. “I have a lot of questions about a lot of different things. As a banker, my job is to ask questions and dive deeper, and keep questioning deeper and deeper into things, and I’m going to do that.”
At 33, he will be the youngest park board member, and also the only board member with young children.
Riley, whose 18-year-old son was 6 when he was first elected to the board, said that was part of the reason he had supported Harrison.
“I think we need someone younger that has young kids that can understand what those families are going through, either from finances or activities for kids, things like that,” said Riley, 46, director of state government relations for Archer Daniels Midland Co. “I thought he was the right person at the right time to come on the board with Don not running for re-election.”
Riley and Harrison named the Nelson Park lakefront development as a top priority in the coming years. Both also stressed a need for efficiency in operating the parks, and said they would put an emphasis on partnerships with other local governments, businesses and community organizations.
Harrison said the park district’s relationship with the city had improved in recent years, but needed to be “stronger than it’s ever been.” He also supported working with neighborhood groups, churches and Millikin University.
“We have the DISC that’s a nice partnership now. We need to see: Does that need to expand? Does that need to scale back?” Harrison said. “I don’t know; I’m not saying one or the other, but I think that’s another great partnership — and wherever else we can work with people in the community. That’s what I’m about: Let’s bring the different entities together.”
Clark said he had done his best and would like to congratulate all those who participated in the race. He added that he hoped the winners would listen to residents: “I just hope that the park district looks at the totals and sees that some of the things they’re doing aren’t what people want.”
Davis could not be reached for comment.