David S. Olsen: Candidate profile
Name: David S. Olsen
City: Village of Downers Grove
Office sought: Mayor
Occupation: Ethics & Compliance Officer
Education: B.S. Finance & B.S. Management, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Downers Grove South High School
Civic involvement: Director, District 58 Education Foundation; Member, Chamber630; Advisory Board Member, West Suburban Community Pantry; Advisory Council Member, Family Shelter Service
Previous elected offices held: Downers Grove Village Council (2013-2016), College of DuPage Trustee (2016-2017), Illinois State Representative (2016-2019)
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? No
* What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
Downers Grove faces its fair share of challenges, but it is in a great position to succeed due to the productive ideas and commitment to service from its residents. It is my intention to tap into this resource, promote productive dialogue, and work collaboratively to improve our village.
One of the top issues we must address is keeping taxes and fees low for residents and businesses. To that end we need to continue to encourage economic development, for example at the sales tax-producing commercial properties at 75th Street & Lemont Road, 63rd Street & Woodward Avenue, and along the Butterfield Road Corridor. Especially with the dysfunction at the state and federal level, we should take the lead locally and directly encourage businesses to move to and reinvest in Downers Grove.
Infrastructure improvements, particularly enhancing stormwater management, must also be a top priority. We must work to find a balance to ensure new development does not negatively impact existing homes or businesses. Combining the knowledge of experts with the voices of all residents -- whether they have lived in Downers Grove for 1 year or 100 years -- will help us find appropriate solutions.
* What makes you the best candidate for the job?
As a former village council member, community college trustee, and most recently state representative, I bring an informed perspective and commitment to service to the role of mayor. I know how to work collaboratively to enact needed reforms for our village and understand the resources available. Yet, I still have a fresh perspective as a young leader in the community. Downers Grove needs a leader who can provide both of these important qualities.
The village also needs a mayor who is accessible. I make every effort to be present in the life of our community. My cellphone number and email address are widely available and I'm happy to meet with residents and other stakeholders to address their concerns. The mayor should be the most reachable and accountable person at village hall, and I strongly believe that my record proves I can provide this kind of hands-on leadership.
Accessibility only matters if it is available to everyone. For that reason, I am happy to work collaboratively across all neighborhood, political party, and socioeconomic lines. If someone is facing a problem in the village or has a good idea, I want to hear about it. My door is always open.
* Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing actions and decisions with your village board or city council.
Whether it's a large project that serves the entire region or small routine casework for one homeowner, I first strive to hear from all voices on a particular issue. Diversity of opinion is what makes Downers Grove such a vibrant community and hearing many different viewpoints helps build productive consensus. It's this type of in-depth collaboration that drives long-lasting solutions -- but that collaboration starts with listening to all perspectives.
After proper consensus building, I would follow through with appropriate action in a transparent and timely manner. This openness allows the decision-making process to become truly accessible to residents, who must always come first.
* How would you describe the condition of your community's budget, and what are the most important specific actions the town should take to assure providing the level of services people want?
Fortunately, Downers Grove has been well-managed financially. The village is in a strong fiscal position with a AAA bond rating due to balanced budgets and smart planning. It is our responsibility to maintain this financial stability.
That's why we need to push for even more economic development. Encouraging businesses to grow and prosper here in our village will promote additional sales tax revenue, which will in turn help keep property taxes in check. It will also provide vital support for our excellent police officers, firefighters, and public works employees who keep residents safe and sound.
As we embark on a plan to address the long-overdue civic center redevelopment without a tax increase, I will work with current village employees and their bargaining units to find additional efficiencies. It's important to pursue this shared institutional knowledge so that we can smoothly enact cost-saving reforms.
* What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
With a new gubernatorial administration in Springfield expressing desire for an infrastructure funding plan and bipartisan support for this concept, Downers Grove should have a consensus builder who has and can continue to advocate on behalf of residents. As mayor, I would bring already-established working relationships with state leaders of both parties to the table, which will be critical in securing appropriate capital funding for the village and the entire region.
Specifically, I would advocate for significant improvements for the busy BNSF Metra rail line. As a frequent rider myself, I've seen firsthand the ongoing service reliability issues, which are a real inconvenience for many of our residents who rely on commuter trains every day for work -- or even occasional riders who want to access the amenities the region has to offer. Downers Grove has always been a rail commuter community and it should have reliable, on-time trains again.