Audit is First Order of Business for New Waukegan Mayor

by Long Hwa-shu

Sam Cunningham, the first African-American elected mayor of Waukegan, said one of the first orders of business after he is sworn in is to start an audit of the state of affairs of the city.

The audit is not limited to the city’s finances but will include an assessment of the state of the various departments. Cunningham, 49, will be sworn in on Monday, April 17.

“I will speak to the heads of the departments about my vision and find out whether they share my vision,” said the veteran alderman who headed the 1st ward which includes downtown for 18 years.

I felt blessed and grateful (about winning). It gives me an opportunity to lead the city to its greatness.” – Sam Cunningham, mayor-elect of Waukegan 

Asked if those who do not share his vision are going to be asked to resign, he said, “The choice will be theirs.”

Cunningham won Tuesday’s election in a tight race with Lisa May (7th Ward alderman) with a thin margin of 290 votes. The vote count was 4,623 to 4,333.

“I felt blessed and grateful. It gives me an opportunity to lead the city to its greatness,” he said about his winning.

Cunningham said he will maintain a good working relationship with his opponent like it was before the election. May graciously conceded her defeat Tuesday night, he added.

Asked about the tight race and his victory with a thin margin, Cunningham said, “It’s a great thing that the race was tight. It means that voters were engaged and excited about the city.”

“We’ll keep them engaged,” he added.

“Absolutely!” he answered affirmatively when asked if late-minute endorsements by County Board chairman Aaron Lawlor, Sheriff Mark Curran, State Rep. Rita Mayfield, Congressman Brad Schneider and Suzi Schmidt, former county board chairman and state senator were a factor in his winning. Mayfield is the only one of them who lives in Waukegan and who could have voted for Cunningham, however.

Both camps campaigned vigorously with the help of volunteers, making phone calls, knocking on doors and distributing flyers until the last hours on election day.

“We did it the old-school way – going door to door, making phone calls and talking to people at grocery stores. It’s awesome to see how people were involved,” Cunningham said.

To express his gratitude to his volunteers and others who helped him win in the election, the mayor-elect said he is planning a victory party to be held in two weeks at a place yet to be chosen.

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