Surprise twist: Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard becomes Thornton Township Supervisor

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The last of nine nominations, Henyard is seconded, voted on, and sworn in minutes before the midnight deadline

by Melanie Jongsma and Josh Bootsma

SOUTH HOLLAND, Ill. (March 4, 2022) – In a stunning conclusion to a process that has been marked by frustration and confusion, Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard is now the Supervisor of Thornton Township after being appointed to the position roughly ten minutes before the legal deadline.

Henyard
Dolton Mayor Tiffany Henyard becomes Thornton Township Supervisor. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

Henyard, who said she did not expect the appointment but greeted the news with a pageant-style scream of delight, will fill the shoes of the late Frank Zuccarelli, who passed away in January after nearly thirty years as the supervisor of Illinois’ largest township.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Henyard after taking the oath. “I didn’t see it coming.”

Local politics

The Thursday night township meeting was scheduled two days ago, when the Thornton Township Board was unable to agree on an appointment. Missing the midnight deadline for appointing someone would have brought the decision to a town hall-style meeting where township electors would have chosen the next Supervisor.

Trustee Christopher Gonzalez said he didn’t want it to come to that. Though he had nominated Thornton Township Assessor Cassandra Elston more than once and would have preferred her to be appointed to the role, at 11:49 p.m. he nominated Henyard, believing a majority of the board would set aside their divisions and accept her before the midnight deadline.

Though the name seemed random to many in the audience, Trustee Joyce Washington said after the meeting that Henyard had applied for the position “some time ago.”

Henyard was elected as Dolton’s mayor in the April 6, 2021, election — a race in which she won 82% of the vote. When she was sworn in that May, she became the Village of Dolton’s first female mayor. In her 10 months on the job, Henyard has been involved in multiple controversies, including disagreement with the Dolton Board of Trustees, the hiring of an inspector who is a sex offender, and protests outside of her home demanding her resignation.

Local interest

From left: Trustee Christopher Gonzalez, Trustee Darlene Gray Everett, Clerk Loretta Wells, Deputy Supervisor Joyce Washington, Attorney James Vasselli, Trustee Jerry Jones, and Township Attorney Sarie Winner at Thursday night’s special meeting. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The special meeting began at 10:55 p.m., and in spite of the late hour, approximately 50 observers gathered in the basement of Thornton Township headquarters. Following the roll call and Pledge of Allegiance, the Board went directly into Closed Session. They returned at 11:14 p.m., and Clerk Loretta Wells called for nominations. What followed was an unprecedented series of nominations and votes:

  1. Gonzalez nominated Cassandra Elston; Trustee Darlene Gray Everett seconded; votes were called:
    • Trustee Jerry Jones – Abstain
    • Trustee Gonzalez – Yes
    • Trustee Gray Everett – Yes
    • Trustee Washington – Abstain
      Because three votes are required to adopt a motion, and abstains do not count as votes, this vote failed.
  2. Washington nominated Jones; Jones seconded; votes were called:
    • Jones – Yes
    • Gonzalez – No
    • Gray Everett – No
    • Washington – Yes
      Attorney James Vasselli, who was assisting Washington, explained that under state law in a tie vote regarding the fulfillment of a vacancy, the Clerk shall vote to break the tie. Clerk Wells was taken aback by the responsibility. After a full minute of reflection, she voted No.
  3. Gonzalez nominated Elston, but the nomination was overlooked in an ensuing discussion about returning to Closed Session. A motion to go into Closed Session was voted down.
  4. Jones nominated Stanley Brown; no one seconded, so the motion failed

At this point another motion was made to go into Closed Session, and a majority voted Yes. Board members returned from Closed Session at 11:44 p.m. and the floor was re-opened for nominations:

  1. Jones nominated Terry Wells; Washington seconded; votes were called:
    • Jones – Yes
    • Gonzalez – Abstain
    • Gray Everett – Abstain
    • Washington – Yes
  2. Jones nominated Napoleon Harris; no one seconded; the motion failed.
  3. Gonzalez re-nominated Elston; Gray Everett seconded; votes were called:
    • Jones – Abstain
    • Gonzales – Yes
    • Gray Everett – Yes
    • Washington – No
      Because three votes are required to adopt a motion, and abstains do not count as votes, this vote failed.
  4. Washington nominated herself; Jones seconded; votes were called:
    • Jones – Yes
    • Gonzalez – No
    • Gray Everett – Abstain
    • Washington – Yes
  5. At 11:48 p.m. Gonzalez nominated Tiffany Henyard, as shown in the video below:

“I wanted it to be me, but it wasn’t me,” said Trustee Jerry Jones after the meeting. “But this is a historic day for Thornton Township. This historically has the potential to be real good. She’s a young lady; hopefully she can bring the township to where it needs to go. It needs to go to another place.”

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