Meet the candidates

By Caeli Cleary

Deborah Feinen

Deborah Feinen currently serves as an at-large member of the Champaign City Council and a commissioner and chair of the Regional Planning Commission.

Feinen said she wants to better the community and believes her previous leadership roles will enable her to do so.

“I think Champaign can be an even better place than it is today,” Feinen said. “I believe I have qualifications and experience to offer that will help Champaign become a better community.”

Feinen’s main goals will be to focus on decreasing gun violence with the help of the police department, and advocating the city’s broadband development.

“I’d like to see a decrease immediately in the gun violence, and that will be related to working with the police departments,” Feinen said. “I am also a huge advocate for broadband, so I would like to see economic development that is based on our broadband infrastructure and educational opportunities because of our gigabyte speed internet.”

Feinen also advocates working in cooperation with the University, Parkland College, the city of Urbana and the Champaign Park District.

“A healthy community is good for everybody.” Feinen said. “I’m mindful of the students, and I recognize that you are a part of our community.”

Karen Foster

Karen Foster is an at-large member of the Champaign City Council. She has a bachelor degree in education and a master’s degree in guidance counseling and served as an educator from preschool to college.

Foster said she wants to run for mayor because she wants to create a better Champaign.

“I’m running for mayor so I can continue the work that I started in the last 8 years on city council,” Foster said. “I want to do that as the new mayor.”

Foster aims to help decrease the violence on campus and around the city, and said she has first hand experience from riding along with the Champaign Police.

“In the past, I have done police ride-alongs, and I have seen some of the violence that has taken place,” Foster said. “I would continue to do that as mayor and make sure I have first hand knowledge about what’s happening on campus.”

Foster’s main goal is to continue the current stormwater project and also to work with the city council on any other project that comes up, she said.

“I want to be the kind of mayor that the council members feel free to call upon, as well as any city staff and the citizens,” Foster said. “I would like to be accessible to everyone.”

Mayor Don Gerard

Mayor Don Gerard, the incumbent, has been mayor since 2011 and is seeking a second term. Gerard said that he would love to be re-elected because four years is not enough, and he wants to continue his current projects.

“When I ran the first time, I really wanted to redefine what roles a mayor does in Champaign — it felt really stagnant, and I thought there could be so much more done with it,” Gerard said. “We have a lot of projects and initiatives, and I’m afraid they won’t be finished.”

During Gerard’s first term, the unemployment rate in the city of Champaign went down from 9.8 percent in July 2011 to 5.3 percent in December 2014. The number of violent crimes decreased from 1,592 incidents per year in 2011 to 1,493 incidents in 2013.

Other efforts started during Gerard’s term include One Winter Night, to raise awareness about homelessness, and the successful fight for clean drinking water for the city.

Gerard also said he believes he is one of the most accessible mayors in the United States.

“My predecessor wasn’t too keen on talking to students, and I do dozens of interviews for classes,” Gerard said. “I really try make students feel like they’re a part of the community.”

Joe Petry

Joe Petry is an independent candidate in the mayoral race. He currently holds a leadership position at the Champaign Park District, where he has been involved for over 11 years. Petry is also a professor of economics and finance at the University.

Petry said he is running for mayor because he wants to solving the city’s current issues. “We have a lot of great things going on … but we also have challenges,” Petry said. “I am interested in trying to address those challenges.”

Petry said he believes economic development is the best way to decrease violence that surrounds the city.

“Economic development and jobs are the most important way (to address violence),” Petry said. “People resort to violence when they don’t have a lot of opportunity … so working on bringing the community together to look very seriously at how can we do better at preventing violence is important.”

Economic and job development is also important to students, who would benefit from opportunities Champaign could offer.

“A focus on jobs and bringing more employers to town is a good thing because it means more part-time jobs available for students, it means more internships available for students and it would mean more potential long-term jobs after students graduate,” Petry said.

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