© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Washington mayoral race is off and running

Washington alderman and mayoral candidate Mike Brownfield
Steve Stein
Mike Brownfield announces he's running for mayor of Washington.

Longtime Washington City Council member Mike Brownfield announced Friday he's running for mayor in the April 2025 city election.

Brownfield made the announcement in front of about 40 friends and family members outside the south entrance to Five Points Washington.

"As an alderperson, you only have the authority to make policy," he said. "It's time for me to step up and do more for the city. I have some fresh ideas."

Brownfield, 55, a Washington native and 1987 Washington Community High School graduate, said community members have been encouraging him to run for mayor for a couple years. It's time for him to do that, he said.

"People have been asking me why I'm announcing my candidacy so early," he said. "Petitions can't be pulled until September, but I wanted to get ahead of that."

Brownfield said he's not running for mayor because he thinks the city is in bad shape.

"Is the city broken? No," he said.

Nor is he running to oppose Mayor Gary Manier, he said.

Manier has been Washington's mayor for 23 years. He's the longest-serving mayor in the city's history. The city has had a mayor since the 1850's.

Manier said he hasn't decided if he will run for re-election.

"The election is a year away," he said. "We have plenty to accomplish as a city before then."

Brownfield ran unopposed for alderperson in Ward 1 in 2013, 2017 and 2021. He will have at least one opponent in the mayoral election.

Council member Lilija Stevens, who also represents Ward 1, hasn't made a formal announcement that she's running for mayor, but she said she intends to run.

Stevens went head-to-head against Manier in the 2021 mayoral election and lost by just 83 votes in a turnout of nearly 27%. Manier had 1,548 votes to Stevens' 1,465.

That was the first non-partisan mayoral election in the city since the early 20th century.

Stevens organized a 2017 petition drive that led to placing a referendum on the ballot in 2018 to change city elections from partisan to non-partisan. Voters approved the change by a 72% to 28% margin and non-partisan city elections started in 2019.

Stevens attended Brownfield's announcement Friday along with council members Bobby Martin III and Mike McIntyre. Manier was not there.

Brownfield was the chair of the city's Zoning Board of Appeals just before he was first elected an alderperson in 2013.

Six months after he was sworn in, Washington was hit hard by an EF-4 tornado. Brownfield was one of more than a thousand Washington residents who lost their homes.

"While my family was dealing with that, I was going through quite a learning experience as a new council member," he said.

What he learned, Brownfield said, is Washington has an outstanding city staff and employees.

"One of my goals as mayor will be to keep Washington on top," he said.

Another of his goals, Brownfield said, is to get the state to finally fix pothole-plagued U.S. Business Route 24, the main road through town.

"We're hearing that project won't happen until 2029-30. That's too far out," he said.

Brownfield also wants to see the "eyesore" viaduct along Business Route 24 be repaired by the TP&W Railway, and he said he'd love to see commercial development on the "blank slate" 223-acre property the city owns along U.S. Route 24 now that the Nofsinger Road intersection with U.S. Route 24 is being improved, and on the Freedom Parkway extension that's under construction.

"We also need to take care of infrastructure that's in dire need of repair on the east side of the city," he said.

Brownfield declined to comment on a recent Facebook post by Carmen Gratace, owner of Global Builders of Oak Brook, which is constructing the Grist Mill restaurant on the downtown square.

The post has been circulating online in Washington this week.

The developers of the Grist Mill have had issues for months with neighbors Marlene Miller and the Washington Historical Society over damage done to their buildings during the demolition and construction process.

In his post, which was edited several times, Gratace said he loves "driving the two neighbors crazy" more than the progress at the site, and he accuses the neighbors of harassing him because "they didn't support the project which has nothing to do with me."

Miller, a sculptor whose studio is adjacent to the restaurant site, and Historical Society representatives have made several public statements in support of the estimated $8-$9 million project that is receiving as much as $1.1 million in TIF funding from the city.

"I'm looking forward to the restaurant being completed and I hope it's a huge success," Brownfield said.

Brownfield has been the director of facility services and safety at the Snyder Village retirement community in Metamora for 13 years.

Steve Stein is an award-winning news and sports writer and editor. Most recently, he covered Tazewell County communities for the Peoria Journal Star for 18 years.