Mayor of the City of Kankakee

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The first Mayor of the City of Kankakee William G. Swannell
The current Mayor of the City of Kankakee Nina Epstein

The chief executive officer of the City of Kankakee is the Mayor. The Mayor serves a four-year-term and holds the following powers enumerated in the Kankakee City Code:

Powers and duties

The Mayor shall sign all commissions, licenses and permits granted by authority of the City Council, except as otherwise provided, and such other acts and deeds as by law or ordinance may require his official signature. The Mayor shall grant licenses for the purposes authorized by the Code, to such persons as he may deem proper, unless the Council shall otherwise designate and provide, and he may revoke the same for cause. The Mayor shall supervise the conduct of all officers of the City, inquire into all reasonable complaints made against them or any of them, and cause their neglect or violation of official duty to be promptly corrected, or reported to the proper tribunal for punishment. The Mayor shall appoint, by and with the advice and consent of the Council, all officers of the City whose appointment is not otherwise provided for by law, or this Code. Whenever a vacancy occurs in any office, which by law or ordinance he is empowered and required to fill, he shall, within thirty days after such vacancy occurs, communicate to the Council the name of his appointee to such office, and pending the concurrence of the Council in such appointment, he may designate some suitable person to discharge the function of such office. [1]

Successor to Mayor in times of disaster.

In the event that at the time or as a consequence of any disaster caused by hostile action, enemy attack, the explosion of bombs or missiles due to sabotage or other disloyal acts or disasters due to fire, flood, earthquakes or other natural causes the incumbent Mayor shall be killed or rendered incapable of performing the duties of such office or position, such office shall, in accordance with the Illinois Civil Defense Act, be filled until such time as a successor can be selected in the manner prescribed by law, in the following manner:

  1. Any such office shall, for the emergency period, be filled by appointment of the senior member, counted by years of service, of the City Council and followed by the next senior member of the City Council and continuing in said order of preference through the fourteen members of the City Council and followed by the City Clerk, City treasurer, the civil defense director, the Chief of Police and the Chief of the Fire Department.
  2. The person appointed in the manner prescribed therein to fill the office of Mayor shall exercise all the duties, powers and functions of that position during the emergency and until such time as a successor can be selected in the manner provided by law. [2]

Position of Mayor pro tem created.

If a temporary absence or disability of the Mayor incapacitates him from the performance of his duties but does not create a vacancy in the office, the City Council shall elect one of its members to act as Mayor pro tem. The Mayor pro tem, during this absence or disability, shall perform the duties and possess all the rights and powers of the Mayor. [3]

History and Facts

Throughout the history of the city, the presidential or mayoral term has run from May 1 to April 30. From 1855 to 1865 the chief executive of the City of Kankakee was called "president". William R. Starr was the first president. From 1865 to 1893, the term of office for mayor was one year. The mayoral term was two years from 1893 to 1937. In 1937 the term was increased to four years, where it remains to the present. There have been 10 presidents of the city and 42 mayors, making 52 chief executives in total. Thomas P. Bonfield served a term as president and as mayor, while William G. Swannell was both the last president and the first mayor of Kankakee. Robert N. Murray served two non-consecutive terms as president. Consequently, nine individuals served as president. Henry Beckman, Truman (sometimes spelled Trueman) Huling and Solon Knight served two non-consecutive terms as mayor. Benjamin W. Alpiner served three non-consecutive terms. 36 individuals have served as mayor. [4] President Samuel Knight was the father of Mayor Solon Knight.[5] Accounting for the non-consecutive terms and those who held both offices, 44 individuals have served as president or mayor of the City of Kankakee. The shortest term served by a Kankakee mayor was three months, 18 days by William T. Gougar, who completed the term of his predecessor P.J. Kelley who resigned on January 13, 1893. The longest serving mayor was Tom J. Ryan, Jr. having served 20 years over five terms from 1965 to 1985. Mayor Albert F. Hattenburg served 16 years over four terms from 1937 to 1953. Mayor Donald E. Green matched Hattenburg's mark when he completed his fourth term on May 4, 2009, having served since 1993. On April 7, 2009, 6th Ward Alderman Nina Epstein was elected the first female mayor of the City of Kankakee. She was sworn into office on May 4, 2009.

Presidents and Mayors


1855 William R. Starr
1855-1856 Thomas P. Bonfield
1856-1857 Alonzo W. Mack
1858-1859 Henry B. Perry
1859-1860 Robert N. Murray
1860-1861 Algy Dean
1861-1863 Robert N. Murray
1863-1864 John P. Gamble
1864-1865 William G. Swannell


1865-1866 William G. Swannell 1899-1901 H.C. Clarke
1866-1867 Rodney Ashley 1901-1907 Henry Beckman
1867-1868 Harrison Loring 1907-1909 Fred Mann
1868-1869 Thomas P. Bonfield 1909-1911 Henry Beckman
1869-1870 James McGrew 1911-1913 Benjamin W. Alpiner
1870-1872 Truman V. Huling 1913-1915 David Lavery
1872-1873 F. Swannell 1915-1917 Benjamin W. Alpiner
1873-1875 R. Lavery 1917-1919 M.F. Baker
1875-1878 J. H. Shaffer 1919-1921 Henry Reuter
1878-1880 Truman V. Huling 1921-1923 August Radeke
1880-1881 Solon Knight 1923-1925 Benjamin W. Alpiner
1881-1884 D.C. Grinnell 1925-1933 L.F. Beckman
1884-1888 Frederick Radeke 1933-1935 Dode Rex
1888-1889 Frank D. Hatch 1935-1937 Roy D. Taylor
1889-1891 Solon Knight 1937-1953 Albert F. Hattenburg
1891-1892 Goerge R. Letrouneau 1953-1961 E.P. Madison
1892-1893 P.J. Kelley 1961-1965 Ray H. Nourie
1893 William T. Gougar 1965-1985 Tom J. Ryan, Jr.
1893-1895 J. Frank Leonard 1985-1993 Russell Johnson
1895-1897 John H. Brayton 1993-2009 Donald E. Green
1897-1899 H.A. Magruder 2009- Nina Epstein


  1. Kankakee City Code (Code 1965, Sec. 4.01)
  2. Kankakee City Code (Ord. No. 74-4, 2-4-74)
  3. Kankakee City Code (Ord. No. 80-47, Sec. 1, 7-22-80)
  4. Provided by the Mayor's Office of the City of Kankakee
  5. Illustrated Historical Atlas of Kankakee County, Illinois, 1883, J.H. Beers & Co.