Editor's Note: Marion Commissioner Anthony Rinella indicated Friday to WSIL that he would also run for mayor. He could not be reached for comment as of deadline.
MARION — City Commissioner Angelo Hightower on Thursday formally announced his intention to run for mayor of Marion in the 2019 election.
The announcement, which was made via Facebook, came after “much prayer and introspection” and at the urging of community members, Hightower said.
"There has been much speculation about my political future. Over the years, I have been urged to run for various offices. Over the past year or so, those calls have been growing louder. Let me just say that I hear those voices loud and clear,” Hightower said online.
Hightower took his seat in 2015 on the Marion City Council after a litigious post-election period during which he took a paid leave of absence after the city filed a declaratory judgment seeking his removal from the police force.
In its lawsuit, the city cited an Illinois law prohibiting city officials from serving in multiple offices within the same government, and several appellate court rulings as basis for the suit.
In June 2015, Williamson County Judge Brad Bleyer upheld the city’s stance in a court ruling.
This ruling ended about a year of contentious relationships between Hightower and the Council, which began in July 2014, when Hightower filed a federal discrimination complaint in which he alleged he was passed over for promotion because he is black.
On Friday, Hightower reflected on that choice to leave his position as an officer for the Marion Police Department for a career in public service.
“I was comfortable leaving a position which paid $65,000 to $70,000 to take a $20,000 job as city commissioner because that's how serious I was about maximizing my ability to serve the public," Hightower said.
Hightower currently works as a police officer for the City of Carterville, as well as a financial representative at Modern Woodman of America.
As to how he would manage his current positions if he were to be elected Marion’s next mayor, Hightower said part of that will depend on the needs of the city.
“Marion has been fortunate to enjoy Mayor Butler as a full-time mayor. But we have a full-time city administrator in the person of Gail West, so regardless of the outcome of this election, I expect this will be something we are looking at,” Hightower said.
The current mayor makes just less than $50,000 per year.
In his announcement, Hightower also had high praise for the Mayor Bob Butler.
“As the sun sets on the career of current Mayor, Robert Butler, it would be proper to reflect upon and appreciate Marion’s progress during his 14 terms in office. In his 54 years as Mayor, Marion has enjoyed tremendous growth. For that, he should be recognized for being at the helm, during that growth,” Hightower said.
“But, as the sun sets, the sun also rises. With that said, it is time to look to the next generation of leaders to continue Marion’s preeminent status as the premiere city in Southern Illinois. I am more than able and willing to step up and accept that responsibility. Give me the opportunity to serve you as mayor, and I promise you that I won’t let you down.”
Hightower said that with his numerous years as a public servant, his “core competency is people,“ and that throughout his professional career he has demonstrated the capacity to serve the public to his “utmost ability.”
Hightower also said that in his administration, everyone will have a voice.
“Cronyism and favoritism will be a thing of the past. I will practice fiscal responsibility and true transparency will be commonplace in all departments. Marion will be a city for everyone,” Hightower said.
Hightower said he intends to work diligently to attract larger businesses, work with marketing professionals to make Marion an attractive destination for national and international businesses, and look to community elders for guidance.
“To the person out there who feels marginalized, I hear you. To the person who seeks improved fiscal responsibility from city leaders, I hear you. To the person who wants more responsive and transparent government, I hear you. And in April of 2019, the whole region will hear you, so help me God,” Hightower said.
Hightower said he is thankful to have the support his long-time partner Courtney, and his two children, Angelo Jr., who is in the U.S. Air Force, and Lorenzo, who was recently was elected to the Marion Junior High School Student Council.
“The support of my friends and community members is of utmost importance, but I really couldn’t do this without the blessing of my family,” Hightower said.