Three of the eight Sunset Hills aldermen are new

Three longtime residents will be sworn in on board

From+left%2C+Ward+2+Alderman+Christine+Lieber%2C+Ward+3+Alderman+Randy+Epperson+and+Ward+4+Alderman+Fred+Daues.+

From left, Ward 2 Alderman Christine Lieber, Ward 3 Alderman Randy Epperson and Ward 4 Alderman Fred Daues.

By Erin Achenbach, Staff Reporter

Sunset Hills welcomes three new aldermen to the eight-member board this week following April elections. The incoming aldermen are new to public service, but they are all longtime residents of Sunset Hills.

Christine Lieber of Ward 2, Randy Epperson of Ward 3 and Fred Daues of Ward 4 were sworn in during a virtual Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, April 27. The trio took over the positions of, respectively, former Aldermen Steve Bersche, Nathan Lipe and Mark Colombo.

Voters had competitive races in all the city’s wards besides Ward 1.

In Ward 2, Lieber defeated Southwest Area Chamber of Commerce board President Marie Davis 58.42 percent to 41.58 percent; in Ward 3, Epperson defeated local business owner Andrew Tolch 56.1 percent to 43.9 percent; while in Ward 4, Daues overcame Bruce Studer 75.14 percent to 24.86 percent.

Ward 1 Alderman Joe Stewart was elected to the board without a challenge. He was appointed last year by Mayor Pat Fribis to replace Alderman Dee Baebler, who moved from the city.

Starting in January, Lieber — an insurance agent who owns her agency — knocked on more than 500 registered voters’ doors at least twice while campaigning and said the victory came as a “huge relief” after a hard-fought campaign.

“Any time the weather was over 40 degrees, I was out meeting residents and finding out what was important,” said Lieber in a post-election interview. “In order to win you have to get out and see people, and I think that was one thing that led to me winning this election — getting out and meeting people and having a business in the ward. … All of those factors played into winning this election.”

Epperson said that the end result was exactly what he thought it would be.

“I just think that the demographics of Sunset Hills … align with my political views and social views,” said Epperson, who is a Republican.

The new aldermen are joining the board during a flurry of development in the city, despite some economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s Burger King is being redeveloped, the new Tidal Wave car wash opened and aldermen approved a 40-year sales tax incentive for a possible future grocery store that appears to be Amazon at the former Toys “R” Us.

“I think it’s a great project for that area and location. I’m excited for a grocery store to come in. It’s been awhile since there’s been one in Sunset Hills,” said Lieber. “(The Toys ‘R’ Us) has been sitting for quite awhile, so this is refreshing to see. It’s something residents and people visiting the city can enjoy.”

Epperson identified fiscal responsibility as one of his priorities as alderman, while moving forward with both business developments and capital projects that may have been postponed or slowed because of COVID.

“I want to make sure that the city is being fiscally responsible and I believe they are. … I think the potential for the city is certainly there,”  said Epperson. “There’s necessary evils to bring business to where you want it to go. … Every situation stands on its own.”

The pandemic did have some effect on the candidates’ campaigning, masks and all.

“I learned through this that everyone is at their own comfort level, and I took that same approach with campaigning. I wore masks to homes and if someone had an issue, we didn’t do anything face-to-face. But several people came out and took the time to have a conversation with me on the driveway,” said Lieber.

Epperson said that while “there certainly was less hand shaking and things like that,” COVID did not limit his campaign much, and he was well received by homeowners when knocking on doors.

Daues was unavailable before The Call went to press, but said in an interview prior to the election that his priorities for the city included increasing residential input on projects, making it easier for the public to access information about city business and ensuring that developers honor their commitments: “I think in today’s world of the web and Facebook … we can put more things out there for the constituents to look at. … Some of that stuff is already out there, but people don’t know it’s out there. It concerns me that our city is not holding (developers) a little more responsible.”

Out of the three wards up for election, Ward 2 saw the highest voter turnout with 392 voters, followed by Ward 4 with 370 and Ward 3 with 369.

“I’m always surprised at the people who don’t take advantage of our freedom to vote. It amazes me that when you get 15 to 20 percent turnout that’s considered good,” said Epperson. “That just blows my mind. I’m prior military and I consider myself very patriotic, and I think it’s wonderful to have the right to vote. … It’s a chance to express your opinion.”