How long have you been a council member?
For 11 years. I’m now nearing the end of my third term.
What inspired your desire to seek office?
Mayor Carver gave me my first opportunity to serve in city government by appointing me to the Police Community Relations Board. I’m very proud to have been the president of the board when we created the Police and Fire Memorial that now sits outside City Hall and the Civic Center.
What’s been the most challenging issue you’ve faced as a Peoria City Council member?
The most challenging position I’ve ever had to take as a City Council member was the vote on the new mall. We needed that kind of progress in our community, but yet—and still—we didn’t have the economic ability to be able to support the demands that were requested. It impacted me very deeply because I wanted the growth and sales tax revenue. As everyone realizes now, it wouldn’t have been economically feasible at that time for the city.
What’s your “pet issue”?
Crime and growth of the city are probably my two most important issues. When you talk about pet issues, feelings are very strong about having adequate funding or a revenue stream to support those issues we as council members actively support. Regardless of how supportive I am and how strongly I feel about an issue, my main concern as a fiscal conservative is to make sure the funds are there to support my pet issues.
What issues are you looking forward to tackling soon as a council member?
I appreciate having the opportunity to work on the Mayor’s Task Force on Crime. We’re now currently evaluating options that’ll impact crime throughout the city and the neighborhoods. We’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t take any additional revenue, but is very effective. Our first initiative is cameras throughout all of the high-crime areas in the city, with others to follow.
Is there a common misperception about you or council members in general that you’d like to clear up?
I think a lot of people in the community may not realize that the majority of people on the council have very demanding full-time jobs along with service on various boards, and often aren’t as accessible as they’d like to be. We consider every issue a citizen has as being important, and we do our best to address it. A council member can average anywhere from 15 to 20 calls per day.
What are the keys to a successful future for Peoria? How can the city council help?
Being an inclusive council, it’s important that we’re inclusive with the citizens of Peoria. When we plan and lay out initiatives in the city, it’s important to include citizens and businesses that’ll possibly be impacted by those decisions. I’m one who constantly thinks we need the voice of the citizen as we move forward on major decisions that impact our community. My feeling is that the key to a successful Peoria is working together as a council, having a plan, and including the citizens in those decisions.
What advice do you have for members of the public who want to be part of city decisions?
I think it starts with serving on various city commissions that are of importance to those citizens so they can have some input on the type of decisions made. Secondly, citizens should attempt to have a working and ongoing relationship with council members so we can provide input on the importance of the decisions we make to staff.
What does your political future hold?
I truly enjoy public service, and I think after 11 years you start to understand how things work and what it takes to get things done. I hope to continue to serve this community in any way I possibly can. I hope that position is a City Council member-at-large.
How do you balance your time between your council work and your career?
Right now, it’s almost like juggling balls in the air. Your job is important, but so are the decisions and support you need to provide to citizens. So you try to work with staff, and we now have a new program entitled PeoriaCares, which has enabled council members to expand the support and assistance we provide to citizens.
What has surprised you most in being an elected official?
I can’t believe the number of people who listen to and watch the City Council meetings on radio and television. So there’s evidently an interest in what the mayor and City Council members are doing and the decisions they’re making to impact the city.
Do you think televised meetings help or hinder council proceedings? Should more people attend council meetings?
Personally, I think television does hinder getting some of the work we need to get done accomplished. Because—depending on the issue and the number of citizens on one side or the other—often times, members of the council may feel compelled to play to the audience and therefore, we may not get a decision made that’s in the interest of the community. I don’t think we have a concern with people attending the meetings, because when there’s an important issue, citizens turn out for the meetings. IBI