How long have you been a council member?
Just over one year.
Who or what inspired your desire to seek office?
If you’d asked me three years ago if I was interested in serving on the City Council, I would’ve said emphatically, “No, absolutely no interest.” I was busy running my business, raising my family, and serving on numerous boards of local organizations. During the subsequent years, however, I began to follow the Council’s activities more closely and became concerned about a number of issues. As a resident of Peoria for most of my life, I thought I had a good understanding of what Peorians want from their city government, and the previous council started drifting off in a different direction. I thought about how I could best make a difference. Next thing I knew, I was running for the 3rd District position.
What’s been the most challenging issue you’ve faced as a Peoria City Council member?
Pursuing due diligence related to the possible purchase of the water company has been my most challenging task thus far. During the limited (and closing) window of opportunity the city had, I believed it was essential to engage in a focused examination of the financial records of the company. During our review, we obtained new information and data that wasn’t previously made available. This was invaluable in helping us understand the operational expenses and financial viability of the water system.
What’s your pet “issue”?
I’m a tireless advocate for the older neighborhoods. For too long, city and civic leaders have forgotten or ignored the needs of the older sections in town. Consequently, homegrown businesses have closed or moved, and long-time residents have relocated. I’m very concerned with what I call the “hollowing out” of the core of our city. While much attention and capital is spent downtown, on the riverfront, and in the growth cells, far too little resources are being allocated to the core neighborhoods and business centers that made Peoria what it is today.
What issue are you looking forward to tackling soon as a council member?
I look forward to the upcoming budget discussions. We began to address some long-term structural issues last year. It’s critical the city restrains spiraling health care costs and more efficiently manages its employee benefits packages. We must put the city on the path of financial sensibility and stability while we work to expand economic development and revitalize our neighborhoods.
Is there a common misperception about you or council members in general that you’d like to clear up?
In years past, I think a lot of people tuned in to council meetings for their entertainment value. This new council has strived to work in a very businesslike manner. Council members are well prepared for meetings, which allows for lively and thoughtful debate. We work well together. We understand that while we won’t agree on every issue, we share common goals and respect others’ opinions.
What are the keys to a successful future for Peoria? How can the council help?
A successful Peoria entails creating an environment that fosters economic development and job creation, supports a strong education system, revitalizes our older neighborhoods and business centers, and recognizes the importance of adequate public safety services. The council can help accomplish those goals by setting priorities, funding them accordingly, and listening to the needs and wants of its taxpayers.
What advice do you have for members of the public who want to be part of city decisions?
Become engaged in the process. Volunteer to serve on a commission or committee. Attend or watch council meetings. Be active in your neighborhood association.
How do you balance your time between council work, your career, and family?
It’s been a difficult and challenging task at times. I’ve been able to separate council work from my business practice and I try to protect the time I have at home with my family. I’ve lost most of whatever personal time I did have for hobbies and leisure interests.
What’s surprised you most since becoming an elected official?
I’m surprised by the reluctance of many to accept any efforts to change. The status quo isn’t acceptable to me; therefore, we have to make changes in various areas of our operations and policy making. Some people fear change and are uncomfortable with the uncertainly it often involves. I view it as an opportunity to improve, strengthen, and grow.
Are you in favor of televised council meetings? Why or why not?
I believe televised council meetings help provide greater transparency of how we conduct city business. We must operate in an open and inclusive atmosphere. Most people have busy schedules and other commitments that don’t allow them to come to City Hall. The telecast allows people to watch or listen while working on important matters from the comforts of home. IBI