By CARL GREEN
Belleville, IL – The Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council says longtime Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert is a “good friend and union brother” and is endorsing him for re-election in the April 6 municipal election.
Eckert, 64, has been mayor since December 2004 and was elected in 2005, 2009, 2013 and 2017. He is being opposed this time by Patty Gregory, 66, a former teacher and founder of the Art on the Square group that hosts the big art show downtown in May.
The Labor Council endorsement was issued last week by its president, Scot Luchtefeld, and president emeritus Bill Thurston.
“Mayor Eckert continues to be a friend of Organized Labor, with the many unions representing the women and men who work for and live in the city,” they said. “Our experience with Mayor Eckert has shown him to be a man of his word, honest and upfront even when he couldn’t help us, and always thinking about what is best for his city.”
They noted his support for the Belleville Labor & Industry Museum and the Council’s annual Labor Day parade, considered the largest parade in southern Illinois.
“He has managed the complexities of leading the city of Belleville through good and bad times, has worked non-stop and always is accessible to anyone with questions or concerns,” Luchtefeld and Thurston added. “He has gained the respect of many who have worked with him.”
Eckert was a Teamsters for 15 years during his tenure with the Pete Gaerdner Funeral Home and Ambulance Service in the 1970s and ’80s. His father was in the police union, and his son is a union carpenter.
“I’ve always been very supportive of the Labor Movement,” he said.
Eckert said he has been able to work successfully with the city’s nine unions and noted that the city became one of the first to embrace the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) system.
“We have a good relationship with all of them,” he said. “My record is one of always being fair, and I appreciate their quality of work. I’m proud of our record.”
SUCCESS IN BUSINESS
Eckert has held a variety of business positions in Belleville. He worked for Pete Gaerdner from 1973 to 1988, then owned and operated Maine Chimney Sweep from 1996 to 2007. He has owned and operated Eckert Florist with his wife Rita for the past 20 years.
He graduated from the Southwestern Illinois Police Academy and worked as a deputy sheriff. In 1997, he was elected 5th Ward alderman. He was appointed mayor in 2004 before winning election in 2005.
In a Belleville News-Democrat candidate profile, Eckert noted that recent city accomplishments include renovating City Hall, the new police headquarters and a new fire station on Illinois 15.