Ottawa votes for ‘Aussem’ mayor
After more than 15 years of serving the city of Ottawa, Commissioner Dan Aussem was elected mayor on Tuesday.
The patrons at JJ’s Pub in Ottawa, including the other elected commissioners, exploded into cheers and applause when a projection on the wall with unofficial vote totals was updated with the final number.
Aussem, 62, took the stage to thank voters and supporters, including his wife, Sue.
“Looks like we’ve got another adventure,” he said to his wife in front of the crowd.
Aussem was running against Former Ottawa Visitors Center Executive Director Julie Johnson. Mayor Bob Eschbach is leaving the position after two decades in office.
With all precincts counted, Dan Aussem received 2,134 votes to Julie Johnson’s 1,965.
Aussem was surrounded by those looking to shake his hand and give a congratulatory pat on the back with every step as he swam through the crowd at the bar.
He said to The Times after his speech that he’s spent a good portion of his campaign meeting with constituents and hearing their concerns.
“A lot of people complained about the streets and I know there’s people that have asked about a dog park,” Aussem said. “I’m just happy for all the friends and family that supported me. It was a lot of work; I did everything I’ve learned over the years about running a campaign.”
He also lamented a low voter turnout at 23% for the county.
“I’m a little disappointed voter turnout was so low,” Aussem said. “I don’t know what gets people involved because (working for) the city is an important job.”
He also shared thanks to Johnson and her “clean and thoughtful campaign.”
“I knew her background in marketing would make her a tough competitor,” he said.
Johnson said the same following the election results, which she viewed with Eschbach at The Lone Buffalo. She added that Aussem has worked hard for the city of Ottawa and congratulated him on the victory.
“I think we brought up a lot of issues that made everybody a better candidate,” Johnson said. “These things have a way of shining a spotlight on what the real issues are for the taxpayers and for the citizens of Ottawa and I think that’s what the most important thing is out of this process.”
Aussem first ran for office in 2007 and was re-elected two more times, serving for 12 years. During that time, he served as finance commissioner, and most recently, commissioner of public property. Prior to his time on the City Council, Aussem was appointed to the Plan Commission by Eschbach, where he served for five years.
Aussem is currently the executive director for the Illinois Valley Contractors Association but has stated he still plans to be “engaged and accessible” as mayor, according to The Times questionnaire.
He told The Times on Tuesday that he plans to continue to support the Ottawa Y facility, which will be the first step toward the city’s proposed waterfront development project. He also said running water to Route 71 and Interstate 80 is another goal.
Aussem said in a Times questionnaire he’s supported most projects the City Council has worked toward unless financial concerns arose.
One of those times was the city’s rewatering of the canal project where he voted “no” after costs exceeded the initial expectations. He’s also waiting for more information on the Jackson Street project before expressing his support of what he expects could be a costly project for the city.
Aussem said, for the most part, his vision aligns with what has come before and looks forward to continuing the goals he’s worked for with Eschbach over the past 12 years.
“Even when Julie and I were talking and when the commissioners were talking (at their debate), everybody pretty much has the same goal,” Aussem said. “I think Ottawa is on a good track.”