Rolling Meadows Alderman Joe Gallo has taken a commanding lead in a four-way race for mayor that has incumbent Len Prejna trailing the field, according to early returns.
With 18 of 18 precincts reporting, Gallo tallied 994 votes to 701 votes for Alderman John D'Astice, 589 for Planning and Zoning Commission Vice Chairman Dave Whitney and 496 for Prejna, according to unofficial results.
It was a contentious race in which the four candidates offered contrasting leadership styles and varying approaches in how they'd help heal a fractured city council.
Debates over the relocation of the city's two fire stations and disposition of the downtown Dominick's property came to a head in recent weeks with the city council's censure of Gallo and release of an internal city investigative report that concluded he verbally harassed Alderman Laura Majikes behind closed doors.
The altercation stemmed from a heated meeting Feb. 12, when Gallo was criticized by fellow council members for filing paperwork for a grant without their approval.
Prejna, a former alderman who beat two others in 2017 to fill the remaining two years on the term of Tom Rooney, this time faced a larger field of foes as he sought a full four-year term of his own.
He said he believes the crowded mayoral race was reflective of "a time of great change" over the last two years on the council.
Though he's long considered Prejna a family friend, Gallo said the city was in need of stronger leadership. He also encouraged other residents to run for aldermanic seats to change the face of the council.
A vocal opponent of fire station relocation plans, the first-term Ward 4 alderman said he ran to change the "antiquated processes and archaic old school lines of thinking" in city government.
Whitney was making his second run against Prejna for mayor, arguing his experience managing teams of employees in business and heading boards and commissions gave him an advantage. He recently retired after a 44-year career in technology management.
Whitney, a regular attendee of council meetings, said there's been a lack of communication among aldermen, and he suggested he'd bring stronger leadership to the table.
D'Astice, the Ward 6 alderman from 1993 to 2005 and again since 2009, said as mayor he would offer his position on matters that could influence the opinions and vision of the council -- a contrast to Prejna, who only more recently started chiming in during council debates. The mayor doesn't get a vote, but can issue vetoes.