As the City of Peoria’s community development manager, Leslie McKnight is responsible for the development, coordination and implementation of the city’s housing, social service and community programs. She works with neighborhood associations, community coalitions, and public and private agencies to develop community development policies and strategies and create affordable housing policies and comprehensive plans for the City of Peoria.
McKnight’s 15 years of experience in community development and public policy throughout the Midwest led to the formation of the strategic planning process to create Peoria’s Neighborhood Impact Zone plan. This concept provides a series of coordinated strategies around schools to create safe, vibrant, attractive and affordable neighborhoods within existing urban settings, specifically with a $25 million investment in public and private dollars in the targeted Glen Oak Zone and Harrison Impact Zone areas. Not only has this work raised significant funds, it has curtailed crime, increased home ownership and investment, created positive safe havens, and increased neighborhood involvement.
McKnight serves as project manager of the Department of Justice Weed & Seed Grant, a five-year, $1.25 million grant to Peoria’s Operation Weed & Seed, a community-based, multi-agency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention and neighborhood revitalization. She also developed the City’s Neighborhood Alliance and city-wide litter control awareness campaign “Plant Pride, Not Litter.”
Involved extensively in her community, McKnight serves on the board of Central Illinois Debt Management; is involved in Divas of Destiny, a mentoring ministry for young women at the City of Refuge Worship Center; and was the charter president of the Riverfront Toastmasters. She is a presenter and role model for the Upward Bound program and a 21 Keys trainer and facilitator for Peoria Public Schools District 150.
McKnight’s exceptional leadership in both her profession and the community at large has been recognized by several organizations. Toastmasters International awarded her the Advanced Toastmasters Bronze Award, and she was named Community Leader of the Year—Central Illinois by Advocates for Access. She is also featured in the first edition of the book Role Models: Profiles of Successful African American Professionals in Peoria, Illinois, published by Illinois Central College.
McKnight continues to look for opportunities to expand her knowledge base, and is currently working on her doctoral degree while maintaining her personal and professional duties. A true asset to the community, McKnight continues to make Peoria a better place to live. iBi