Straight Talk | The race for Peoria mayor



The contest for Peoria mayor has taken more turns than a Central American road race. We’ve known for weeks who’s in, while rumors circulated about others interested, but undecided. Most local political, civic, and business leaders were unimpressed with the early list of announced candidates. The plot thickened when Mayor Jim Ardis said he was not going to seek re-election.

Friends urged Judge Steve Kouri to run for mayor. Steve was interested and spent a long time weighing the advantages and disadvantages. He was excited about the possibility of working with his son at City Hall, but recognized not everyone would be as excited. After thoughtful reflection, Steve said he was going to focus on his son’s campaign for council.

Things changed dramatically when Chuck Weaver, current state senator and a former city councilman, started circulating petitions for mayor. Some supporters for Kouri switched interest to Sid Ruckriegel, who was elected an at-large councilman in 2015 and recently re-elected. As we went to press, Ruckriegel was seriously considering a mayoral campaign, but still undecided.

It looks like it’s going to be a spirited contest for mayor of Peoria. Look for a heavy turnout in the February primary.

Steve Kouri to run for city council

Steve Kouri has filed city council petitions to represent friends and neighbors in the 4th district, but he isn’t the Honorable Judge Steve Kouri. He’s the son of the judge, and his candidacy is unique and special. The 32-year-old has cerebral palsy and spends his days in a wheelchair, but that hasn’t and doesn’t stop him from contributing to the betterment of our community. As one example, he was named the Illinois High School Association Steering Committee Volunteer of the Year out of more than 2,000 volunteers.

Steve graduated from Richwoods High School and the University of Illinois. He received his law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law. After graduation, Steve worked as an Assistant State’s Attorney for Jerry Brady. A member of the Peoria Liquor Commission, Steve was recently elected chairman by fellow commissioners. He also served on the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Though confined to a wheelchair, Steve went door-to-door seeking names for his petitions.

“The response to my candidacy has been amazingly supportive,” he said.

In a news release, the younger Kouri outlined his campaign goals.

“I want to keep our city safe. Public safety should be our top priority. We also need to reduce taxes and regulations to help stimulate the local economy. Selective incentives need to be developed to attract new businesses and industries to Peoria and the area.”

Kouri added, “We must create a diverse community with more opportunities for minorities, including people with disabilities.”

“Say it in German”

Peoria actress Ann Hagemann was a recent guest on our morning show, “Breakfast with Roger and Friends” on FM 90.7, and described a major film she’s working on as creator and producer. Titled, “Say It In German,” the production is about a German family living in central Illinois during World War II. Three children are coping with their father’s diagnosis of tuberculosis, anti-German sentiment, and the poverty of war-time farming.

Hagemann told us the children in the story find comfort in music, their German heritage and baseball, including their support for the Chicago Cubs. I can relate to all of that since my mother’s parents were from Hamburg, Germany, a city I visited while stationed in Germany. Her father, a deaf mute, lived with us until his death. Of course, I’ve been a Cub fan for decades and love music. I look forward to seeing the movie.

Hagemann said the cast has been selected and includes some experienced and talented Hollywood actors and actresses and a few local performers as well. They’ve already filmed some pilot promotion scenes on a farm in the Dunlap area for the purpose of recruiting investors for the project. To learn more, go to

Saluting Morton Community Bank

Those of us who are old enough, remember when many of our banks were locally owned, or at least seemed to be. Recall the Commercial National Bank and Dave Connor and the Stone family at First National Bank. There was First Federal Savings and Loan Association in the 100 block of North Jefferson. One of the names there was Ray Neumann and I think Robert Lehnausen. Security Savings at the corner of Hamilton and North Adams. I believe attorney Paul Cation was a trustee at the facility. There was Workingmens Savings and Loan Association and more recently South Side Bank headed by the Bill Ward family.

What do they have in common? They all closed or were purchased. Bottom line is, they’re gone. The leadership for local ownership for large banking today is Morton Community Banks, led by Gordon, Jean Ann Honegger and Andrew Honegger. The Honeggers started the bank in Morton in 1960 and today have 46 locations with the acquisition of several local branches of Associated Bank. Truly, a wonderful local business success story.

Happy Thanksgiving and Christmas!

It certainly is a different holiday season due to the coronavirus pandemic. While we may be struggling over family decisions, to be together or not be together, there’s no struggle about the meaning. For Thanksgiving the message remains the same. We’re to count our blessings and give thanks for what we had and what we have. I say that because two years ago I lost my wife on Thanksgiving. While I’m still grieving, I thank God for the nearly 60 years we had together and grateful for the support of family and friends. Nancy was God’s gift to me. And Christmas brings celebration of God’s gift to the world with the birth of the baby Jesus.

Quote of the month

“Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!” — Roger

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