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Luft steps down as Mayor of Pekin to devote his time to family, future

Pekin Mayor Mark Luft chairs a December electoral board hearing on challenges to Becky Cloyd's mayoral nominating petitions. Luft has decided to resign as Pekin's mayor, as of Monday afternoon.
Joe Deacon
Pekin Mayor Mark Luft chairs a December electoral board hearing on challenges to Becky Cloyd's mayoral nominating petitions. Luft has decided to resign as Pekin's mayor, as of Monday afternoon.

Mark Luft has decided to step down as Pekin’s mayor a couple months ahead of his term’s scheduled end.

Luft said his resignation would be effective Monday afternoon and he would not be at the scheduled 5:30 p.m. City Council meeting.

“What prompted that decision is the last eight years, my family has been very supportive and very patient with me; we've put a lot of work into the last eight years, and that work has been recognized,” said Luft. “I've been blessed with a few offers that will allow me to continue what I do in a larger capacity.”

Luft declined to give details about what those opportunities may be, but said the timeline would not allow him to finish out his term and added the move was “very good for my family.”

“It's time that I show my appreciation back. I have grandkids now, and I would like to see them. My family would like to see me a little more often, and the opportunities I have in front of me put all that together for a better balance,” said Luft.

While he had already chosen not to seek a third term as mayor, Luft said the recent political divisiveness among city leaders was not a factor in his decision to step aside now.

“I’ve never backed down from anything, so it really doesn't have anything to do with that. I've always been willing to step in and stand up for the community and do what it takes to move them forward,” he said. “But as we all know, there comes a time in everybody's life where they see that their work is done there. So we'll see what comes next with the city. I'm always here to help guide and advise, whether that's utilized or not. But hope that they continue in a positive direction.”

Becky Cloyd, one of Luft’s main political rivals, is the city’s mayor pro tempore and one of three mayoral candidates on the April ballot, along with fellow council member Dave Nutter and former Tazewell County treasurer Mary Burress.

Luft has endorsed Burress to be his successor, but he said he believes Cloyd should fill the leadership role for the remainder of the current term with the election only a couple months away.

“I think that it would probably be proper, with this short period of time, to have the pro tem continue the (mayoral) duties and allow the community in April to decide who they want to guide the community next,” he said.

In October, Cloyd and Nutter went against Luft in a split council decision to terminate the employment of former City Manager Mark Rothert. Two months later, Luft chaired the Pekin Electoral Board when it voted to uphold challenges to Cloyd’s mayoral nominating petitions and remove her from the ballot. Cloyd successfully appealed that ruling.

While mayor, Luft also served a term as the 91st District State Representative. His bid to remain in the General Assembly ended when he lost a Republican primary to Travis Weaver for the 93rd District seat.

Luft tendered his official resignation in a letter that was read at the start of Monday’s council meeting. Near the end of the 3½-hour open session, city attorney Katherine Swise outlined the options for the mayoral vacancy through the remainder of Luft’s term.

She explained that under the city code, the mayor pro tem has the authority to preside over meetings and sign ordinances in the mayor’s absence. But an acting mayor would assume all of the mayoral duties, such as sitting on the liquor commission and making appointments.

Swise said that under Illinois statute, the remaining council members can appoint an acting mayor within 60 days.

“It’s ultimately up to this council to determine whether to appoint an acting mayor or just wait for the election, which would be shortly after the 60 days,” she said.

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.