A send-off for Don Gerard

Today marks Champaign Mayor Don Gerard’s last day in office and the end of an era. A Champaign resident since 1968 and a politician with a colorful past dotted by stints in rock bands, Gerard has been devoted to the University and community since he was elected in 2011.

Over the years, he has avidly supported the University by attending numerous campus events, including a particularly notorious appearance at the 2013 Pygmalion Music Festival. Gerard took the stage and dropped the mic, forever solidifying his status in university lore as the “cool mayor.” He even earned himself a spot in Timeflies’ freestyle rap about the University at the recent Spring Jam concert on the Main Quad.

Beyond endearing himself to a college student population with his antics, Gerard has gone beyond simply being a fun figurehead. He has always been available to students. Further, despite The Daily Illini’s status as a student newspaper, he has always made himself available to us as well. He has been consistently approachable and has shown a genuine interest in what students have to say.

Students call Champaign-Urbana home during their college careers, and Gerard gave us our due by embracing University students as an important part of his constituency. For that, we thank him. Now, we start to look ahead.

Newly elected Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen will be replacing Gerard. Also a longtime Champaign resident, she brings into office her experience as a lawyer, an at-large member of the Champaign City Council, the commissioner and chair of the Regional Planning Commission and former chair of the Policy Board for UC2B — Champaign county’s broadband project. We certainly don’t anticipate that she takes up Gerard’s status as “cool mayor,” nor is it necessary she does.

We look forward to the changes she’ll make during her time in office and how her differences from Gerard will perhaps prove to be her strengths. However, we do hope she will take a page from Gerard’s book in continuing his precedent of accessibility to University students. Public figures, especially those like Feinen serving in a huge college town like Champaign-Urbana, should always keep college students in mind.

We are an important population — 41,497 strong. Discounting us only as a temporary population is not only a disservice to us but a disservice to Champaign-Urbana. Most of us live here the majority of the year.

We are a population composed of so many bright and motivated minds who are out and involved in the community and after recognition and involvement from Gerard, we hope the next four years foster a similar relationship with the new mayor.