Vermilion City Councilmen Jim Forthofer and Fred Ostrander rightly emerged as the top two vote-getters in a four-way primary earlier this year to replace retiring Mayor Eileen Bulan.
The two men were clearly the most qualified candidates to face off in the general election, and voters are now faced with the decision of who should lead the city for the next four years. It's a tough call, but Forthofer is the better choice.
Bulan, who defeated incumbent Mayor Jean Anderson in 2009, told us she isn't siding with either Forthofer or Ostrander in the election.
There is no doubt that Ostrander, who has served on Council in a variety of positions including as Council president and most recently representing the 1st Ward, has more experience in government. He also has served on various city commissions and boards over the years.
The 65-year-old Forthofer, by comparison, has only a single term on Council, where he represents the 3rd Ward. He too has served on a variety of boards and committees.
Both men also have extensive experience in the private sector. Ostrander spent decades in the lighting business and has served as facilities manager for Ritter Public Library for the past three years.
Forthofer, however, has a wealth of experience in the publishing industry. When he retired a few years ago, he was publisher of six trade magazines.
Ostrander, 67, clearly loves Vermilion and spoke in glowing terms of the city even as he recognized some areas that need work. But a mayor needs to be more than a cheerleader, making sometimes painful
choices in the short term to set the city up to succeed in the long run.
We also couldn't escape the suspicion that Ostrander thought he was entitled to prevail over Forthofer solely by virtue of his longtime residency and lengthy service on Council.
Those are factors voters should consider, but they aren't the only things that matter.
Forthofer's executive-level experience overseeing multiple publications each with its own challenges, for instance, will prove invaluable in supervising the departments that report to the mayor.
Ideas also matter.
"If you're a responsible public servant, you have to think down the road," Forthofer told us when discussing what should be done with the old Inland Seas Maritime Museum building.
That sort of long-range thinking also informed Forthofer's views when he discussed other issues the city will face in the coming years, including deciding how to fix city roads, what to do about the city's aging water plant and how to reinvigorate the city's business fortunes.
Forthofer said he intends to make economic development a signature piece of his agenda as mayor. Bringing in new businesses, he argued, would better position the city to tackle the other challenges it faces.
Forthofer's vision, as much as what we believe would be his skill in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the city, is one of the chief reasons we believe he is the better candidate.
Both Forthofer and Ostrander would make good mayors, but Forthofer's combination of experience and ideas gives him the edge in the race.
Vermilion voters should elect Jim Forthofer as their next mayor.