Schock looks back on 12 years as mayor in Elgin
After 18 years on the Elgin City Council, first as a councilman and the past 12 as mayor, Ed Schock will relinquish his seat to new Mayor Dave Kaptain today.
In evaluating his time in office, Schock points to the city's success in building up the downtown area, developing the riverfront, expanding the city westward, building The Centre and reducing crime.
His years on the council were preceded by 12 years on commissions, but Schock's failed re-election bid will likely mean an end to his three decades in city government.
Schock calls it a "good ride" and counts himself lucky to have had such experiences.
Schock sat down with the Daily Herald to talk about the highs and lows of his time as mayor as well as his thoughts about Elgin's future -- and his own. What follows is edited for space.
Q. What would you say was your greatest achievement as mayor?
A. In a broad sense, turning the perception/image -- even our own residents' thoughts and feelings -- about Elgin around. There was an awful lot of negativity. I can say this because I'm a lifelong Elginite. Elginites have sort of an inferiority complex. We almost apologize for wanting things to be nice, like we weren't worthy of them. A lot of the things we did, the specific projects, were things that just continued to help get rid of that inferiority complex.
Q. What do you think are some of the major challenges facing the council and your successor?
A. The biggest challenges are financial. The city's finances are deteriorating, and not through any ill-advised actions on the part of the city ... things pretty much beyond our control. They're going to face questions of more reductions or new revenue. My hope is that they don't opt for the quick fix that could have implications down the road. By that I mean dip too far into the reserves or dip into the riverboat money that can hurt our bond rating. They've got to balance the short term and the long term. I don't envy them.
Q. What will you miss most of all?
A. Just the enjoyment of getting things done -- seeing changes occur, seeing things improve, starting a project and having it finish. Whether it's the things we did in the neighborhoods or downtown, wherever, it's just seeing those tangible results from the effort. These 12 years in Elgin were really a stimulating time. We got a lot done, we had money to spend. It was one of Elgin's heydays, I think. Every day it was like a new challenge but a new opportunity.
Q. What are you glad to be done with?
A. Emails. I won't miss emails. A phone call works a lot better if you have an issue that requires back-and-forth info. The opportunity for miscommunication is greater in email than phone.
Q. What went wrong in the election?
A. I think the turnout was the destiny here. I had analyzed previous elections and I saw a pattern. Especially in the pattern two years ago where two incumbent council people got beat. Very low turnout in that election as well. I thought, "Oh, I gotta get people out." My campaign was based on that. I did a lot of mailings, I had a lot of reminders and messages for people -- the idea being get them out to vote. And people just didn't. It's much easier to motivate those who are the anti than the pro. Pro people just kind of get complacent. I don't know if there is anything I could have done to reverse that.
Q. Do you have ideas for what's next?
A. Not really. I'm not in a rush to do anything. I'm in a position where I don't need to work, really. I've got other things I can do in my personal life that will bring me a lot of satisfaction, too. But economic development was really an area in which I devoted a lot of time and felt we got great results. I like that area. If something came along in that area that I could contribute to, I would look at that.