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It's Official: Rita Ali Makes Peoria History As First Woman, African American To Become Mayor

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Tim Shelley / Peoria Public Radio
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Rita Ali is officially Peoria's Mayor-elect, weeks after Election night came and passed.

The Peoria County Election Commission certified the results of the tight contest on Wednesday. Ali finished just 43 votes ahead of opponent Jim Montelongo.

Ali is the first woman and first African American to become Peoria's mayor in the city's history. Ali and other newly elected or re-elected officials will be sworn in on May 4.

“I think after 170 years and 54 mayors, becoming the first woman and the first person of color, African American, I think it speaks well of Peoria’s choice, Peoria’s direction, being open to diversity and embracing diversity,” she said to WCBU during an interview Tuesday evening. “Diversity plays very well in terms of progress for cities.”

An appointment will be made to fill the at-large council seat Ali is vacating.

Ali says she will retire as Illinois Central College's vice president of workforce, diversity, and career development to become a full-time mayor. She said one of her early priorities will be to strengthen relationships on a city council that will soon have three new members.

“One thing that I want to do early on is begin to make sure that everybody has a strong orientation to the council, especially if they’re coming on as a new council member,” Ali said. “Being the leader of the council, I want to have strong relationships with each of the council members, and that will only benefit our city in terms of working together with the common goals and common mission to move Peoria forward.”

Montelongo says he will request a discovery recount. He has five days to file that request. Montelongo said he's also awaiting video from the election commission. The candidate alleges the commission mishandled its post-election absentee ballot process, a charge that Election Commission Executive Director Tom Bride denies.

Ali said she has no problem with her opponent requesting the discovery recount, noting she did the same in 2017 when she lost the District 5 city council race by one vote to Denis Cyr.

“They don’t recount all the votes, but you can select a certain number of precincts (25% percent) to have the votes recounted,” she said. “They go through that process and typically the account does not change.”

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