Replacement for Widmer will not be easy to find
Merle Widmer — seen by many as the curmudgeon of the Peoria County Board — is not going to seek re-election.
It is far too early to write Widmer's political epitaph, but with his announcement, the time is ripe for comment on the man's style.
Whether one sees Widmer as a curmudgeon or not, it has to be said he is unique.
Widmer is outspoken.
He is frank.
He has a take-no-prisoners approach to politics.
That means he is often on the outside looking in.
But, he seems comfortable there.
These are too often underappreciated qualities from a politician in these trying times.
Following a recent Optimist Club meeting, Widmer spoke his mind about the state of leadership nationally and locally.
“We’re short of leaders in this country,” Widmer said.
“We’re short of leaders in this community who aren’t driven by their egos.”
That is the kind of honesty Widmer has expressed throughout his political career.
It is not a sudden shift in his tone caused by the freedom of not seeking re-election.
Widmer has always been a plain talker in the vein of Harry Truman.
Widmer’s plain talk has gotten him in hot water several times over the past seven years.
But, Widmer, not being a tepid man, never seemed to mind hot water.
The voters did not seem to mind either. We need more plain talk.
It is going to take some doing on the part of the local Republican or Democratic parties to find a candidate to take Widmer’s place.
It will likely be easy to find willing candidates. It usually is.
The county board is a powerful political body.
It would look good on the resume of many to have that service listed.
To really take Widmer’s place will take more than just a warm and ambitious body.
It will take someone with tenacity, boldness and the willingness to speak out, even when what is being said is very unpopular.
Those qualities are very hard to find today in an age where politics is more about getting re-elected than serving with zeal.
Widmer may not be greatly appreciated, but aspects of his personality should be, and we should look for candidates more like him.