Commission in Alexander County gets first woman

Thursday, November 4, 2004

CAIRO, Ill. -- Voters in Alexander County narrowly elected Republican Angela Greenwell of rural Cairo over incumbent Democrat John "Andy" Clarke of Olive Branch for county commissioner while voters in McClure approved a plan to incorporate the town.

The wee-hours win -- the last votes weren't counted until about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday -- made Greenwell the first woman ever elected to a commission seat in Alexander County.

"The people have taken back control of their lives to a degree," a jubilant Greenwell said from her home Wednesday. "There is a very definite change."

Greenwell defeated Clarke by 130 votes, 2,058 to 1,928. In McClure, the incorporation measure won by a vote of 142-97.

Clarke said voter resentment of the county commission's restrictions on new construction in unincorporated, flood-plain areas was a major factor in his defeat.

It also prompted the successful effort to incorporate the town of McClure, giving legal status to a community where flood-plain regulations since 2000 prevented residents from building new homes and businesses, or even constructing additions to existing structures.

"I'm in a very happy mood today," said McClure resident Rodney Brown, who helped lead the effort to get the town of about 350 people organized as a village.

Brown said the next step is for a circuit judge to appoint a six-member council and a mayor who will serve until a municipal election in April. Brown said he expects to be appointed to be appointed to the board.

The new village will cover nearly two square miles and extend southward to just south of the intersection of highways 3 and 146. It will take in all nine businesses in the area, including an adult video store.

Brown said the village would receive a percentage of state tax money collected in the area, including state sales tax money generated by local businesses. Brown estimated the village could receive about $27,000, which could go to maintain streets and provide other city services.

As to the county commission race, Greenwell, 69, campaigned on a promise to restore honesty in county government. She accused Clarke of back-room politics.

"Too much has happened behind closed-doors in executive session," she said.

Clarke, 48, responded that Greenwell had engaged in negative campaigning.

"She took every issue that I was involved in and took it completely out of context," said Clarke, who operates a real estate/appraisal business.

Greenwell, former president of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, said she won because she drew support from Democrats as well as Republicans who wanted a change in county government.

Three officials of the state elections board and two staff members of the Illinois attorney general's office were stationed at the Cairo courthouse to monitor the counting of votes on election night.

Greenwell said the monitoring effort was designed to help ensure there wasn't voter fraud.

But Clarke and county Clerk Gloria Patton said the election monitoring is nothing new.

Clarke said the state has monitored elections in Alexander County since 1982. "We have always requested it," he said. "We want to know what is going on there."

Clarke, who served two terms as county clerk form 1982 to 1990, is completing a six-year term on the county commission.

A total of 4,252 Alexander County voters, or over 57 percent of the county's registered voters, went to the polls.

Greenwell will take office on Dec. 1.

335-6611, extension 123

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