El Portal village elections threatened by ethnic politics
By Derek Joy
There is a curious flurry of rumors permeating this somewhat secluded village of approximately 3,000 residents.
Incorporated in 1937 as a pristine, lily white village with a bit of an exclusive upper middle class make-up, the Village of El Portal is now predominantly Black in population.
Ironically, the rumors bear racist overtones and threaten to turn the Nov. 6th Mayoral Election into a political battle of ethnic politics.
“No. She did not say that to me,” said Libby Bowens, 92, an El Portal resident since 1956, who is considered the political matriarch of the village. “I told her if she didn’t have any experience she should run for the Council first.”
Bowens responded to the question of whether or not Teresa Sanchez, a political new-comer, explained the reason for her mayoral candidacy is to get rid of Blacks on the Council.
Sanchez, 34, along with former Mayor Joyce A. Davis, 69, is challenging incumbent Mayor, Daisy M. Black, 64.
“I receive of lot of telephone calls about politics in the Village,” said Bowens. “One of them did say it’s time to get rid of Blacks on the Council.”
However, Bowens’ son, Forrest, quickly noted, “That’s hear-say. That’s being said by a third party. I did not hear Teresa Sanchez say that.”
The political turmoil began by a shrewd twist of fate.
Councilman Harold E. Mathis, Jr., opted not to seek re-election without making any written notification during the qualifying period. Adam Old qualified and won the seat un-opposed.
Vice Mayor Claudia V. Cubillos, a Hispanic, Councilwoman Linda Marcus, an Anglo and Councilman Omarr C. Nickerson, a Black, also won re-election unopposed.
Old, an Anglo, ends the Black majority on the Village Council when the new Council members are sworn in following the election. The only unanswered questions are who will be seated as mayor?
“I did not say that,” said Sanchez, a medical equipment sales representative, when asked about the statement of getting rid of Blacks. “That’s ridiculous and pretty insulting. I am running because I want to do something different. One of the biggest things is to get more people involved. People being involved with different experiences would be a huge asset to the progress of the Village.”
Davis, who served two years as vice mayor and two years as mayor before being ousted by Black in 2010, indicated she had not heard anyone say Sanchez made the racist remarks she is accused of having made.
“I didn’t know he (Mathis) wasn’t going to run for re-election,” said Davis, when asked why she chose to run for mayor rather than Mathis’ seat. “The last conversation we had he didn’t say he wasn’t going to run. I honestly didn’t know.
“It’s not about Black or white. It’s about what’s best for the Village. Residents were calling me saying they weren’t satisfied with the leadership. They asked me to run for mayor. As far as running against Mayor Black, why did she run against me in 2010?” asked Davis.
Black took exception to Davis’ claim to not knowing Mathis wouldn’t seek re-election.
“He was working out of town and had accepted the job. Everybody knew he wouldn’t run again,” Black said. “Some people just want somebody in office who will let them do anything they want without being challenged.”
Mathis had accepted a position in Charlotte, N. C., but said things didn’t work out so he moved back to the Village.
Meanwhile, Black can tout many accomplishments during her years on the Council, including being the first Black female and first Black Mayor. There are other more tangible items such as the park in Sherwood Forest, improved roads and the renaming of streets with the names of birds to improve the image of the Village as a bird sanctuary.
“I’ve known Ms. Black since she moved into the Village over 20 years ago,” said Bowens. “She went through some pretty hard times, even with her own people.”