Centerburg Town Hall sign

MOUNT VERNON — When Centerburg residents go the polls on Nov. 5, they won't find any candidates listed in the mayoral race. Instead, they'll find a blank line where they can fill in the name of a write-in candidate.

But it can't be just anyone's name.

“It has to be somebody who actually filed the paperwork to be a write-in candidate,” said Kim Horn, director of the Knox County Board of Elections. “When a voter goes to the poll, they can ask the poll workers to show them the list of write-ins.”

In this case, the only valid write-in candidate is Gregory A. Sands.

When incumbent Mayor Dave Beck became ineligible for re-election due to an error in filing his circulation statements, Sands felt the time was right to step into civic service. Noting that the political exercises typically associated with running for election are not in his nature, Sands said the simplicity of filing as a write-in candidate was, in hindsight, a great deal better.

“I felt it was a blessing,” he said. “I am comfortable needing to do what needs to be done.

“For the first time in my life I don't own a business or have a job that is detrimental to being in civil service. I always feel there's an obligation for all of us to fulfill community obligations. Community service is important to me.”

A 1969 graduate of Centerburg High School, Sands has always lived geographically close to the village and been involved in the community. A former banker, he has served on many boards over the years. He owned the feed and grain elevator, an endeavor which evolved into a full-scale pet supply store now operated by his son. One area of focus for him is potential future growth.

“Centerburg is a red-carpet entrance from the largest metropolitan area in the state,” he said. “We sit in a position that we need to be more prepared for, whether it's traffic lights or simple growth and people.

“We had a major headache with the sewer system,” he continued. “Now that's functional. Maintenance and care of that will be primary in the years ahead.”

Other projects include widening and improving Ewing Street and a crosswalk to the elementary school. Both projects are slated for 2020.

“There's an endless amount of things like that to do,” he said.

“My learning curve will bring different insights,” said Sands, adding that he wants to know why things are done they way they are, not merely what is being done. “We've been a bedroom community for years. We've chased business away. We have to manage growth in some way.”

Another challenge Sands said the village is facing is connecting with new residents and reconnecting with residents moving back to the community.

“We need to reach out and make sure they want to be part of an ongoing program to be part of the community,” he said.

Part of being semi-retired for the past 20 years includes having a home in Florida. Sands does not foresee missing any council meetings due to spending time down south, adding that the village has a great council and village administrator.

“I will lean on them a lot,” he said.

Sands said that in the past, he has been a frequent visitor at council meetings, partly to offer ideas and partly to hold council accountable. As mayor, he expects accountability, too.

As far as what he wants the voters to know, Sands said, “They need to know I have been in business 40-plus years. I am trustworthy, and I have the constituents' best interest at heart.

“I think you have to go into things with a willingness to listen, but you also have to have the knowledge to go with it.”

In addition to the mayoral race, village residents will find no candidates listed for the clerk-treasurer position. The sole valid write-in candidate for that position is incumbent clerk Teri James.

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