City clerk, council seats up for grabs

By Nate Sandstrom

Illinois municipal elections are Tuesday and Urbana registered voters will have the opportunity to vote for the city clerk – who manages city records – and city council representatives, among other local elected positions. Five of seven city council races are uncontested – however, Democrats and Republicans face off in Wards 4 and 5.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters can find their polling place by visiting www.champaigncountyclerk.com.

City Clerk

John “J.J.” Farney (R)

Phyllis Clark (D)

John “J.J.” Farney, 27, is running for political office for the first time. He has a political science degree from Eastern Illinois University and has worked on other Republican campaigns. He said he is running for city clerk because it is a position that is tailored to his skills.

Farney said he would like to improve the city clerk’s office in three ways – improving accuracy, technology and customer service.

Farney said he would like to have all city documents available on the Internet, which would save paper and be good for the environment, save space in the office and save money on paper.

“Being out in the public and helping people has been my entire career, and I aim to continue that as city clerk,” he said.

Clark, 57, has been Urbana city clerk since 1993. She also has been president of the Municipal Clerks of Illinois and is a graduate of the Academy of Municipal Excellence, a program run by the University of Illinois that brings together city officials from across the state to study effective governing strategies.

Clark said her experience would be an asset to the incoming city council, which will return no more than two incumbents.

Clark said she also has an interest in improving technology, but city budget problems have slowed progress. She noted that many city documents are already available online.

She said customer service was a priority for her because, “The city’s first impression is me, and I have to be on my very best at all times in order to represent the city.”

Ward 4 Alderman

Brandon Bowersox (D)

Anna Marie Wall Scott (R)

Brandon Bowersox, 24, has worked on local planning projects, including the Urbana Downtown Strategic Plan, since graduating from the University in 2001.

“Urbana should do the things other towns do that have (been) proven to work,” he said.

He also said he was focused on the environment and would like to attract business to the areas of the city where there is infrastructure, such as downtown and Philo Road.

Bowersox lives across the street from Orchard Downs, which the University is planning to redevelop. He said he would like to continue cooperation between Urbana and the University. He proposed that green space should be maintained between the development and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Bowersox is secretary of the Champaign County Democratic Party.

Anna Marie Wall Scott, 79, said she is running for city council because she was disappointed by the discourse on the current city council and recent redistricting.

She proposed a commission of “successful entrepreneurs” to recommend how the city can best expand business.

Scott said her political experience is an asset. She was the first woman elected to the Illinois Democratic State Central Committee and vice chair of the state Democratic Party.

Scott said she became a Republican because she was frustrated with some local Democrats, but added she was not a partisan. Most local problems transcend political ideology, she said.

Scott also proposed a more hands-off approach to development in Orchard Downs.

“I don’t think it’s any of Urbana’s business. They have always had a nice community out there for students,” she said.

Ward 5 Alderman

Louis “Bud” Mesker (R)

Dennis Roberts (D)

Louis “Bud” Mesker, 67, said he is running for city council because services and facilities in his neighborhood are being neglected.

He advocated developing business in areas where infrastructure already exists, such as Philo Road.

“The city seems to be putting things in the way when someone comes in and says, ‘Please let me do something here,'” Mesker said.

Developing existing areas would also reduce the strain police and fire departments have faced because they have had to cover a greater area without an increase in staff, he said.

He said while he would like to expand resources for the departments, “the budget has to be able to support whatever’s done.”

Mesker said his work as chief fire officer at the University had given him experience with working with other government organizations.

Dennis Roberts, 58, was appointed to the Urbana City Council in December 2004.

Roberts first made an impact on the City Council by leading an effort to remove a brick wall on the corner of Vine and Elm streets that obstructed the view of drivers and had been the site of a car accident.

Roberts said his focus as a member of City Council would be preserving the neighborhoods in his district – which covers northeast Urbana – as single-family homes. He also said he’d like to make improvements to Victory Park.

To continue to attract businesses to Cunningham Avenue, along Ward 5’s western border, Roberts said he’d like to use incentives such as Tax Increment Finance funds and promote projects to improve the look of the street.