I got two election fliers in the mail the other day. Being that we’re only a few days away from the April 6 election, and the mayoral race in Rock Island is, from most reports, closely contested between incumbent Mike Thoms and challenger Thurgood Brooks, this is not surprising.

Thurgood Brooks

But what has been pleasantly surprising is the positive nature of this campaign.

While the Moline mayoral race slides around in the mud, with a bunch of slanderous and poorly spelled fliers by a dark money group peddling lies about Stephanie Acri’s challenger, Sangeetha Rayapati, the two men vying for Rock Island’s mayoral spot have maintained a refreshingly positive and progressive campaign, both of them highlighting their strengths, and in some instances pointing out their differences, but doing so in a civil manner that’s impressive and heartening. You look at fliers and publicity materials for both Thoms and Brooks, and they’re filled with endorsements and substance, talk about what they’ll do if elected, proactive and positive material on their own strengths, rather than slanderous falsehoods about their opponent. It’s nice to see.

Knowing both men, I’m not surprised. I’ve spent significant time interviewing and talking off-the-record with both Thoms and Brooks, and I’ve found both of them to be great candidates and people who I personally like very much. I will not be divulging my vote (which has been determined after much, much inner debate), nor will I be endorsing a candidate, because I think both of them, if elected, would do a phenomenal job.

Mike Thoms

Brooks brings a vibrancy, energy, and a welcome rush of ideas and enthusiasm to the race. He’s run a terrific campaign, and has demonstrated a wonderful vision for Rock Island and its future. Someday, he’s going to be a great mayor of this city. Will that be Tuesday? We’ll find out. But regardless of the results of this election, his youth and exuberance is very welcome on the local political scene, and I look forward to seeing where he goes. I think if he’s elected, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with, an energetic and positive leader to take the city in a very progressive direction. It’ll be a learning curve for him, and will take him a little while to get everything down, given his youth and lack of experience, but given his family’s background in local politics and Thurgood’s own indomitable personality, I think he would do a great job.

Mike Thoms has likewise done a very admirable job in a thankless and precarious position. When he was elected, the city was an absolute mess, the result of poor leadership prior to his tenure. On top of the financial boondoogles he’s had to wade through, he got hit with the economic knockout punch of covid and its devastating impact upon Rock Island. And yet, Thoms has remained the perfect man for this time in our city’s history. If there’s any one word you can use to describe Mike Thoms, it’s steady. He’s extremely level-headed, logic-driven, and solid. During these times of turmoil, he’s had the perfect demeanor to deal with the chaos. He’s been very transparent with the electorate — he’s appeared numerous times on my podcast, QCUncut, to answer any and all questions posed to him by citizens, and has been very open with the media and through us the citizens of Rock Island. (As has Brooks, it should be duly noted.) And regardless of the challenges faced, Rock Island, under Thoms’ leadership, has made progress, which is quite impressive given the obstacles he’s faced.

If Thoms is elected to another term, I expect much the same in regard to his stable stewardship. He’s had to make tough decisions many times, but has been open to explain them and take responsibility for them, which is what a public servant should do. I would imagine if he’s elected again, he’ll keep doing so, while continuing to lead Rock Island in a positive direction. The one major disagreement I had with Thoms was over the privatization of the city’s water and sewer system, which I feel should be completely off the table — an issue with which Brooks agrees strongly with me, one of many agreements I have with Brooks. However, in looking at Thoms’ record and personality, it’s certainly

Jack Cullen of the Quad Cities Chamber will be the new downtown Rock Island director starting April 1.

fitting of his level-headed character to listen to offers and different information. Thoms insists that’s as far as it’s gone, and if he wins another term, I would hope he’s going to keep his word in regard to that, as I feel the sale of the water and sewer would be a massive disaster for Rock Island. Otherwise, I like a lot of what Mike’s done, especially in his partnership with the Quad Cities Chamber, and their hiring of the very capable and impressive Jack Cullen to lead the downtown renovation. I very much look forward to seeing what Cullen and downtown area alderman Dylan Parker can do together. They’re both talented, smart, and pragmatic. We at QuadCities.com definitely look forward to working with them to help showcase and spotlight the wonderful aspects of Rock Island, particularly in the downtown.

Regardless of what happens Tuesday, the main thing to remember is that we’re very fortunate as Rock Islanders to have a terrific selection between two very strong candidates. My hope is that regardless of who wins, the two of them find a way to work together to help build back the city they obviously both love.

And once more, my kudos to both men for running such a clean, positive, and admirable campaign against each other. The contest has been proof that two candidates of different political perspectives and backgrounds can engage in a contest about ideas and vision, comparing and contrasting with one another without lowering themselves, and in doing so, raise up the city both of them represent so well.

I wish both Mike Thoms and Thurgood Brooks the best of luck in this Tuesday’s election, and I strongly encourage all Rock Islanders to go out and vote for their preferred candidate. This is a case where our city cannot lose regardless of who wins, and honestly, as someone who has lived in Rock Island for 25 years now, that’s a wonderful feeling to have.

Advertisement

Sean Leary is an author, director, artist, musician, producer and entrepreneur who has been writing professionally since debuting at age 11 in the pages of the Comics Buyers Guide. An honors graduate of the University of Southern California masters program, he has written over 50 books including the best-sellers The Arimathean, Every Number is Lucky to Someone and We Are All Characters.