AP NEWS

Two parties battle it out in Bradley

March 24, 2019

BRADLEY — The Democrats and Progressive Citizens each have slates in the April 2 village board election.

Six candidates are vying for three four-year seats. Three are from the Progressive Citizens slate, incumbent Mike Watson, Brian Billingsley and Darren Westphal. Three are Democrats, Candice Sylvester and incumbents Nick Allen and Lori Gadbois.

Progressive Citizens candidate Ryan LeBran and Democrat Sharon Thiesen are vying for a two-year seat.

The Daily Journal submitted questionnaires to the eight candidates.

3 FOUR-YEAR SEATS

Nick Allen

PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 34

OCCUPATION: Loan officer at local community bank

EXPERIENCE: Former United Way executive director and county treasurer. Volunteered on more than 30 boards and commissions in the community.

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts in political science and MBA, both from Olivet Nazarene University.

Why are you running for village board?

I’m running to bring my experience in the public and private sector to the village board and because I believe being an accessible elected official is very important. I also offer a unique perspective as a person with young children, all of whom will attend local public schools.

What is the village’s biggest challenge?

While Bradley has many assets, it is suffering from declining revenues similar to other municipalities. If elected, I would like to continue working on balancing the budget and promoting fiscal responsibility as I have during my one year on the board. There are no easy solutions, but we need to avoid cuts to public safety.

What improvements would you make to the village?

We need to do more to encourage homeownership and help existing homeowners in the older parts of Bradley. This will help raise everyone’s property values. I also would like to see the village take steps to encourage and support independent businesses, which tend to provide more livable wages and return economic benefits to the local community.

Brian L. Billingsley

PARTY: Progressive Citizens

AGE: 53

OCCUPATION: Union Pipefitter for the past 30 years

EXPERIENCE: General involvement in the community such as regularly attending village board meetings to keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the community.

EDUCATION: Kindergarten through eighth grade in Bradley school system. Graduated from Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School.

Why are you running for village board?

I am a village resident who feels it is time for a change in the way things are being done. Frustrated with the way the current board is using village citizens to fund their unnecessary spending. I believe the Progressive Party can put a end to unnecessary taxing.

What is the village’s biggest challenge?

Try to control village spending and achieving a balanced budget without increasing the burden on the residents.

What improvements would you make to the village?

I would like to see some improvements with streets and curbs along with drainage issues throughout the village. Upgrades to parks and improve public safety around these areas.

Lori Gadbois

PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 56

OCCUPATION: Kankakee County recorder

EXPERIENCE: Hospitality, marketing, advertising

EDUCATION: Associate degree in business administration

Why are you running for village board?

This is a re-election campaign for me proudly serving the village for the past 16 years. The village has experienced exciting growth both residential and commercial during my tenure such as the Kohl’s and Target shopping areas and our newest store, Meijer’s. But we also have experienced a slowdown, as well as loss of business, but regardless of the economic situation during any of those administrations, we have worked together to keep Bradley a great community to live, shop, go to school and work. I would like to see us put some focus on our Route 50 corridor, especially south Route 50, and I will always continue to support improvements to Broadway. We have businesses making huge investments with exterior projects, building new and offering services. I’m not done yet. I know I have a lot more to offer the village.

What is the village’s biggest challenge?

It is the same for every community — revenue — receiving the state funds appropriated in a timely manner, or like in the past where they withheld the funds for a month or so and never reimbursed. When we prepare the annual village budget, we count on the state’s funding, grants and the municipal portion of sales tax to fiscally plan for the next year. Shortfalls and the state government holding back regular funding distributions can really put the village in a bind. The village will continue to provide the services every citizen deserves. Example: the police department staffing levels are the same as they were in 2008, even with the growth in the village, this department continues to keep Bradley safe, finding new ways to patrol our growing village. This is true for all the departments in the village, fire, public works, building and sewer. With some of the commercial and retail challenges since 2017, the village has operated with an unbalanced budget, our departments and administration are working well alongside the board through committees to weather the shortfalls. The telecom tax was an idea brought before the board, not favorable, but when we put the plan together most of our residents are going to come out ahead because we are in a position where we can rebate the sewer bond on the property tax bills. It was a board decision; this program will provide additional general fund revenues and the impact on us all is small in comparison to any other tax solutions that were proposed. As of last week, during a finance committee meeting it was announced we should end this fiscal year with a balanced budget and there will be a proposed balanced budget for next fiscal year.

What improvements would you make to the village?

We are a community that has grown over the past 127 years. I will continue to work on behalf of the residents first. This is what I have done my entire tenure as trustee. There have been times when we have had to make a decision that some residents feel they did not get their say. Come to our board meetings — talk to us both bad and good. Not everyone agrees on everything, nor should they — there always is work to be done; we have 75 miles of roads in the village that will always need attention and storm sewer projects throughout Bradley are just two that rank high on the list. We have to work together — our major employers in our area are investing a lot in the coming years — Bradley needs to be right there working with them, as well as continuing to build a strong partnership with neighboring communities; the area schools, park district, as well as those groups or organizations out there working to positively promote the county and the many assets which includes Bradley.

Candice Sylvester

PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 36

OCCUPATION: Eighth-grade teacher

EDUCATION: Associate degree in computer networking and programming; bachelor’s degree in elementary education with endorsements in middle school history and language arts

Why are you running for village board?

It has been amazing to witness the growth and development of the village of Bradley, and I would like nothing more than to be a part of that continued growth by being a voice for the citizens. It would be an honor to represent the community in which I’m raising my children.

What is the village’s biggest challenge?

The village’s biggest challenge is elected officials not having a common goal. I think there is a need for elected officials to work together to solve problems, avoid tax increases and truly place their focus on the needs of the community to ensure continued progress and growth in Bradley.

What improvements would you make to the village?

I feel very strongly about working closely with, and being the voice for, the residents and community leaders of Bradley as a whole. While I truly support sustaining the economic growth of our community, I would like to ensure that the needs, wants, and concerns of our residents do not go unnoticed.

MIKE WATSON

PARTY: Progressive Citizens

AGE: 57

OCCUPATION: President of United Disposal of Bradley, 38 years

EXPERIENCE: Current Bradley trustee, former mayor and founding member of the village of Sammons Point

EDUCATION: Bradley Elementary District 61 and BBCHS District 307

1. Why are you running for the village board?

To help guide and bring a disciplined approach to village finances, to resist raising revenue though taxation unless the citizens give their support through a referendum vote, and to work to find a solution to the financial plight of the Bradley Fire Department.

2. What is the village’s biggest challenge?

A balanced budget that lives within the village’s revenue stream, that keeps expenditures in check and yet does not rely on burning down our retiree insurance fund prematurely just to give the false illusion of a balanced budget.

3. What improvements would you make to the village?

Develop a think tank of citizens, business owners, village employees and elected officials so that as a diverse group we can exchange the necessary ideas to accomplish the fiscal challenges that lie ahead with the least amount of impact on all vested parties. Get the Progressive Citizens slate elected to accomplish the the above objectives.

DARREN WESTPHAL

PARTY: Progressive Citizens

AGE: 46

OCCUPATION: Owner of D.Westphal Jewelers

EXPERIENCE: 31 years of experience

EDUCATION: Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, Kankakee Community College

1. Why are you running for village board?

As a business owner and lifelong resident in the village of Bradley, I feel I can be the voice of the people because I have an understanding of the area and its people. I’m not afraid to roll up my sleeves to get things done.

2. What is the village’s biggest challenge?

Currently, the village’s greatest challenge is fiscal responsibility.

3. What improvements would you make to the village?

Two improvements to the village I’d want to focus on are allowing any new type of taxation to first go through the voters and bringing more business to the downtown eliminating the numerous empty buildings on Broadway.

ONE TWO-YEAR SEAT

RYAN LeBRAN

AGE: 29

PARTY: Progressive Citizens

OCCUPATION: Validation engineer at CSL Behring and Illinois Realtor

EXPERIENCE: Along with multiple generations of his family, born and raised in Bradley. Have participated in multiple community events and drives including cleanups and meal deliveries.

EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in science from University of Phoenix

1. Why are you running for village board?

I have lived in this town my whole life and would like to have a part in Bradley’s progress for the future. I would do this by putting the Bradley citizen’s interest first to ensure that the decisions made are in the best interest of the Bradley residents.

2. What is the village’s biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge that Bradley is facing is financial gain and steadiness.

3. What improvements would you make to the village?

I would focus on plans that will help Bradley turn a financial corner and generate revenue for the village all while ensuring that it is something that the community agrees upon. Along with this, I would also want to focus on finding ways to keep and bring in new businesses into Bradley. There are opportunities in Bradley that I believe can be utilized to generate more business and a better overall living experience.

SHARON THIESEN

PARTY: Democratic

AGE: 55

OCCUPATION: Human Resource Administration

EXPERIENCE: Served on the St. George CCSD 258 Board of Education from 2007 to 2015, during which time she served as first female secretary, vice president, and president of the board education; chairwoman for the Policy and Communications Committees; member of the Strategic Planning Committee, and member of the Negotiations Committee, which negotiated two union contracts; Kankakee Area Special Education Cooperative board member. During tenure on the board, also achieved Master Board Member and Academy Fellow status awarded by the Illinois Association of School Boards.

EDUCATION: Master of science in human resource management

1. Why are you running for village board?

I am running for Bradley trustee because I want to help make a difference in our community and positively impact the quality of life for residents by listening to them and acting in their best interests. Also, I want Bradley citizens to trust that their elected government officials will listen to them, be fiscally responsible, and make wise decisions that support the residents, businesses, public services, and continued economic growth. As a village of Bradley trustee, I would be honored to serve the community and to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to create solutions.

2. What is the village’s biggest challenge?

Like communities and government agencies everywhere, the biggest challenges facing Bradley revolve around strengthening the community, supporting economic growth and public services, and government officials working together collaboratively for solutions to improve government through fiscal responsibility.

3. What improvements would you make to the village?

If elected, my first priority would be to establish positive working relationships with all residents, businesses, and village stakeholders. By working together cooperatively, the village of Bradley trustees can transparently grow the economic base, avoid tax increases, and sustain a family-friendly, vibrant community.