Denette Dunn

Denette Dunn, interim Pine District councilwoman, assumed the seat April 31, several weeks after late Councilman Carlo Leone resigned due to illness. Through a special election, Dunn hopes to keep the seat until 2022.

Just days before ballots were scheduled to be mailed to voting members of Peoria’s Pine District, a key candidate dropped out of the race.

The special election was set to pit interim Pine District Councilwoman Denette Dunn against Randal “RJ” Rains. Dunn assumed the seat temporarily when late Councilman Carlo Leone resigned due to health reasons this spring.

However, Rains will no longer be eligible for the seat, as he recently posted on Facebook that he is dropping out of the race due to health concerns. Ballots, which were scheduled to be mailed starting July 31, will still list Rains in print. 

“Today I am very sad to announce that due to a reoccurring medical condition I am unable to continue my 2019 campaign for Pine District City Councilmember,” Rains posted July 23. “My family and I agreed that the treatment and recovery time will be too great to move forward with the election. We do not feel that I would be able to give the voters of the Pine District the attention they deserve.

In the aftermath of the announcement, Dunn wished her support to Rains. Despite him no longer seeking the seat, Dunn believes Rains will still have an impact on the community and council.

“He was the guy getting out there and talking to people and engaging. I want to thank him for running a clean campaign and want to give my best wishes to him and his family, in whatever the next journey is,” Dunn told Peoria Times.

Dunn clarified that she still will need votes to secure the spot and to help make the election process go smoothly. Over the coming weeks, she will continue to reach out to the community and try to understand its needs until the election is over, and even afterward.

“It’s not just about getting elected. I’ll still be out there knocking on doors and talking to people even after the election, because that’s how you get to know the community and what they want here, whether they voted or not,” she said.

Since Dunn assumed a temporary role in the seat after Leone’s April resignation, her colleagues have become fond of her. A July 9 campaign event in Peoria had in attendance all other councilmembers, who formally endorsed her.

Dunn is also proud of endorsements by the city’s fire and police departments.

“Public health and safety is a really big deal to me; it always has been,” Dunn said. “So, to have both of their support means a lot.”

Though she said the job of a councilmember is technically part time, she will remain dedicated, as she has retired from a career as a businesswoman at Republic Services. In her eyes, it’s a full-time position.

Since being inducted April 31, Dunn said she has spent time driving around the area and taking notes on what areas need potential renovation, specifically noting several empty lots that can be cleaned up.

There are still many things, in the Pine District and the entire city, that need to be accomplished. Dunn wants to help spark that change.

“You want to come home to that community feel, where you see the kids playing in the parks and the football fields, and also a place that becomes even more economically smart and we’re building toward sustainable growth,” she said. “I’m going to do as much as I can.”

Cordero Delgadillo is a valid write-in candidate.

Ballots are due by Tuesday, August 27. Leone’s successor will hold the seat until 2022.