BRADLEY – After the Bradley mayor’s posts were up and two strong-willed candidates vied for the position in a three-way race, the two frontrunners clashed on key issues at the candidate forum on Tuesday.

Bradley Mayor Pro Tem Mike Watson and former 16-year-old village trustee Lori Gadbois made a difference in acquiring the vacant former Carson men’s store at Northfield Square Mall and the village’s participation in the county’s tourism organization, the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

A third candidate, the Democratic Party candidate, Gene Jordan, a candidate for village trustee in 2013 and 2015, also attended the Mayors’ Forum on Tuesday, sponsored by the Kankakee County Branch of the NAACP and in the Bradley-Bourbonnais Community Auditorium High school was held. It is the first in a series of five forums organized by the organization leading up to the April elections.

The voting ends on April 6th and the next mayor is elected.

Following the candidate’s opening comments, the first question focused on the village’s acquisition of the vacant Carson men’s business in October 2019 for $ 1.1 million.

Jordan was the first to answer the question, saying he supported the village’s move to help stabilize the mall, but added that the purchase could certainly turn into a bad move.

Gadbois, the Bradley Citizens United Party candidate who is also the Kankakee County Recorder of Deeds, criticized the purchase of the village for its impact on the St. George School District. Since the property is owned by the state, property taxes are no longer paid, and this move has harmed St. George Elementary School, which received the tax money.

She said she supported the village’s interest in supporting the mall as it was a key element in the village’s ultimate success.

“But I never thought the village would own any of it. I thought we were part of something there, ”she said, referring to bringing potential investors or redevelopment options into the community.

Watson, the leader of the village’s Progressive Citizens Party, said while the village invested there he was confident the village would recapture his investment.

Regarding the future of the mall, Watson said the location will remain vital to the village. He said the mall could be more entertainment focused and serve as a tourist attraction.

As part of that plan, the site could bring more people to Bradley, bring more people to the hotels in the village, and thus reduce the tax burden for homeowners and business owners.

Gadbois shared part of the mall’s history, stating that the development was a longstanding dream of former longtime resident Ken Hayes. The complex opened in August 1990.

“He had a great vision. We all liked that, ”she said.

Gadbois said the lines had opened between the village and the owners of the property.

Gadbois praised Watson for raising the village’s sales tax rate by 1 percentage point, which voters approved in March 2020 with 1,723-814 votes. The measure pumps considerable income into the village. She asked Watson why he hadn’t brought it up before becoming mayor following the resignation of then-Mayor Bruce Adams.

Watson said he tried it as a trustee but he couldn’t where the village authorities were then piling up against him. He said he was in favor of the March 2018 tax hike, but the board and administration didn’t understand the concept.

Gadbois quickly interjected that Watson did not make such a presentation, but attributed the increased revenue stream to him.

“It’s a great thing. I did you credit, ”she said.


Watson and Gadbois differ significantly in the participation of the village in the CVB.

Watson wants the village to be excluded from the organization, and the village is in a protracted legal battle to get it, taking away village hotel tax funds.

He has consistently stated that the CVB does not advertise Bradley well enough, especially since village hotels are the main source of funding for the organization.

Gadbois countered that the CVB should promote all of Kankakee County and that all of Kankakee County should work in the same direction. She said regardless of where tourism is generated, Bradley ultimately wins because of its sheer number of hotel rooms.

“We win every time,” she said. “Why do we have to be curmudgeons? Bradley is not an island. We’re in the middle of the county. “