Q. Please provide your background information: Where are you originally from? Are you married? Do you have children? What is your work and/or education history?
A. I was born and raised in Morris. My wife, Jill, and I have been married for over 32 years. We have three children, Jana and her husband Chris Snyder, Justin, and Jared. I worked for D&S Foods from 1980 until May 1, 2001.
For 10 years I managed the Meat Department. I was educated in Morris schools and graduated from Morris Community High School. I was a 4th Ward alderman for six years, from 1995 through 2001. In 2001, I was elected as Mayor and have served in that capacity for the last 12 years.
Q. Prior to being elected mayor, you were a butcher. How does your previous career help you to run the city of Morris?
A. In my job at D&S, I was in charge of all meat and supply orders, calculating of profit margins, scheduling of personnel and the day to day operations of the department. I also interacted everyday with the customers to be sure their orders were what they expected.
I believe that working with ordering and budgeting in the Meat Department as well as everyday interactions with the public, helped prepare me for the position I have today.
Q. In your time as mayor, what are some of the accomplishments you are most proud of?
A. Some of the accomplishments I am most proud of are the boundary line agreements to the east. This was a great accomplishment for the city. It locked in the entire west half of the new Brisbin Road interchange for the city of Morris.
Now, in the future, both the north and south sides of Interstate 80 will be developed in the city of Morris for jobs and tax base. In negotiating this agreement, the city of Morris reclaimed more than 500 acres from Channahon.
Next would be the construction of the new East Side Sewage Treatment Plant. This plant puts the city in the position of being the only community to be able to serve the Brisbin Road area with sewer, and water has also been extended to that area.
This plant also allowed for some major developments to occur on the north side of I-80 along Illinois 47. The city has seen the development of the 807,000-square-foot Prologis building, Menard’s, Chili’s, the Heritage Strip Mall and the new Holiday Inn Express. We will also see the ground breaking of a new Pilot Travel Plaza in the very near future.
Then there is the Downtown Streetscape Project that the city completed over a number of years. This has kept our downtown vibrant and active, even in these tough economic times.
Last but not least, is the infrastructure improvements made that are not seen.
These include the $4 million expansion of the original sewage treatment plant, the construction of a $1 million sludge filter press and a $750,000 new well for our drinking water. All of these improvements were accomplished while still maintaining a 65 cent multiplier on the city’s property tax rate.
Q. If you are re-elected, what are some new goals you plan to accomplish in your next term?
A. I will continue to work to bring in new development to both create jobs and increase our tax base with such projects as the marina and hotel development along the river front, and the marketing of the properties around the Brisbin Road interchange.
The city purchased some old paper mill property and has an agreement with Habitat for Humanity for a five-lot housing development on a portion of the property. With one house recently completed, we will be looking forward to the start of another in the near future.
The city also recently approved the purchase of a remaining three acre parcel of the mill property. We will be looking to clean up that property and work with the City Council and the nearby residents to determine what will be the best project for the area. The city also will continue to replace old water mains, valves and fire hidrants for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens.
We are in the process of expanding our drinking water plant to continue to provide clean, safe water to our residents. In addition, the city will also continue to work on our existing parks, as well as continue to develop parks in our newer housing developments. For instance, the Deer Ridge Park will begin to take shape this summer. With a partnership between the city, the Lion’s Club and the Deer Ridge Homeowners Association, we will see a nice area developed for the children in that neighborhood.
All in all, I will look to continue to grow our community in jobs, tax base, improving infrastructure and supporting the development of recreational opportunities and community events for the benefit of our citizens.
Q. One of the more debated topics among the community is the new Municipal Services Facility. Why do you feel this project was important for the city? Some in the community have voiced the city spent too much money on the building, do you feel this is true?
A. The Municipal Services Building is viewed by some as not being necessary. I believe that we as a city did need to do something. The City Administration and Police had operated out of the old Building and Loan building for 28 years. The Administration and Police had outgrown this old building. Also, with the advancements in technology over the past three decades, the old building was just not built to be able provide the necessary infrastructure to support these needs. The new building has been constructed to not only support the new technologies, but also to be able to provide the Administration and Police with the room to grow, without adding on, for decades to come.
With regards to the cost, the building itself, without property costs, utility movement costs or professional fees was estimated at $12 million. The final building cost was under the $8.7 million bid. If we the city were to build the same building today, nothing different, using the increases in material and construction costs based on the Engineering News Report, the cost would be more than $1 million above what the city paid.
The city planned, saved and stayed under budget in the construction of the new facility. Without raising taxes or any debt, the city of Morris is prepared for the future growth sure to be experienced.
Q. A year ago you made the tie-breaking vote against a host agreement to expand Environtech Landfill and in the past you have campaigned for and supported finding an alternative to landfills for the city’s waste. With one landfill at capacity and another coming close, do you have any plans for how to handle the city’s garbage?
A. I said 12 years ago that I would not support landfills or expansions, and when given the opportunity, I voted the way I said I would. With regards to environmentally friendly alternatives to handling the City’s solid waste, I still am a proponent to finding a solution to disposing of our waste and have continued to actively pursue a solution. I believe that we are getting close to a technology to be able to do just that. In the mean time, we will have to do as all of our neighboring communities do and contract with a hauler to dispose of it.
Q. For a number of years the city has had a bandshell in storage that has yet to be constructed or utilize. If re-elected, what is your plan for it and when can this be expected to be completed?
A. There were a lot of suggestions on where the band shell should be constructed. After a lot of discussions on these different sights, I had an acoustic engineer look at all of the different locations and make a professional determination. It was his advice that the band shell be constructed in lower Goold Park. This facility will offer a lot of opportunities for the wide variety of groups in the community to perform in a public venue.
Now that a sight has been determined, the plan was to begin the construction last fall, but that just did not work out. The band shell is now planned to begin construction this spring.
Q. Why are you the best candidate to be Morris’ mayor?
A. I believe that I am the best candidate for the position of Mayor because of my experience in business and the operations of city government. I had six years on the Finance Committee as an alderman, as well as six years on the Parks and Annexation Committee. The knowledge acquired from the years serving on these committees as well as the years as Mayor, have equipped me to understand the many different funds in the city’s budget. How the revenues are generated, how they can legally be expended and how to prioritize with the City Council for the best path for the continued growth and prosperity of the city of Morris. We have continually strived to improve the community to make it a desirable destination to develop commercial/retail and industry to benefit not just the city, but all taxing bodies and especially the citizens.
Q. Please list what organizations you belong to.
A. I belong to the Knights of Columbus, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Sons of the American Legion and the VFW Men’s Auxiliary.