Phil Suess: Candidate profile
Name: Phil Suess
Office Sought: Mayor of Wheaton
Family: Wife Mary & 3 Children
Occupation: Partner Global Investment Consulting Firm
Education: Bachelor of Arts (Economics) Northwestern University
Masters of Business Administration Loyola University of Chicago
Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
Civic Involvement: Commissioner DuPage Water Commission, August 2010 to present, Chairman of the Finance Committee January 2011-present
Former Board Member Wheaton History Center
General Operating Chair -- St. Michael Parish Capital Campaign
Member of the League of Women Voters
Member of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce
Commissioner DuPage Water Commission Chairman of the Finance Committee January 2011- present
Wheaton Grand Theater Committee (to access financial viability)
Previous elected offices held:
Wheaton City Councilman -- North District 4 terms
Incumbent: yes first elected 2005
What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
In my view, Wheaton should prioritize four key issue areas.
1. Maintaining financial strength: I intend to limit tax increases especially when our reserves exceed their target. We need to allocate costs to those who use our services, make investments today that reduce future costs, reduce operational costs to fund capital expenditures, and match future expenditures with revenues that become available from reduced debt service. 2. Maintaining public safety: Public safety cannot be taken for granted. We must continue to invest in our Police and Fire Departments. We recently added two police officers and improved operational efficiency across both the departments by leveraging data and technology and pooling resources across neighboring communities. 3. Improving city services: We will continue to improve City services by utilizing data and technology to prioritize and evaluate services. Emphasis will be placed on accessibility, responsiveness and the benefits our services provide to residents. 4. Continuing infrastructure investments: Infrastructure investments must continue to be made incrementally. Wheaton invests annually in its streets, water, sewer, storm water systems, sidewalks, and trees, as well as in its facilities. I intend to continue to pursue outside resources to share costs and utilize reserves and debt as appropriate to fund our infrastructure investments.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
My extensive business and government experience, my consistent voting record, and my commitment to the best interests of the City of Wheaton and its residents make me the best candidate for Mayor. I have over 40 years of experience in finance and investments and 14 years of experience on the Wheaton City Council. I have brought and continue to bring unique expertise and sound financial judgment to council discussions. Over the course of my four terms, I have effectively worked with two Mayors and 13 different Councilmembers. I consistently advocated and voted for fully funding public safety programs, private property rights, increased investments in our neighborhoods, and limiting tax increases. For the past eight years, I have represented Wheaton and other District 4 communities on the DuPage Water Commission. In this role, I also served as Chair of the Finance Committee as we re-established the financial viability of the Commission. Finally, I have a lot of pride in Wheaton. It has been my home for 30 years and I raised my family here. I am committed to making decisions that will allow Wheaton to grow and remain a wonderful community to live and raise a family. Given my upcoming retirement in March 2019 I look forward to being active and involved in the city.
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.
In my view, leadership is about stepping up, challenging the status quo, and acting in the best interests of the residents of Wheaton. My style and approach to leadership has always been to solicit input from the community and encourage open public discussions. By listening, engaging, and asking questions, I can see an issue from others' points of view and gather the information needed to make thoughtful, informed decisions. Effective leaders earn the trust of the community, exercise sound judgment, and deliver results -- all things I have done during my 14 years on the City Council and hope to continue to do as Mayor of Wheaton.
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?
Wheaton's annual budget is approximately $100 million. Roughly $80 million is dedicated to day to day operations and $20 million is allocated to investments in infrastructure. As of 12/31/18, the City has more than $68 million in reserves. Given these reserves, not all capital expenditures need to be funded out of current expenditures.
While Wheaton is financially strong, we are confronted with the challenges of increasing operational costs, pension costs, and continued infrastructure investment. In this environment of increasing costs, I firmly believe Wheaton must operate based upon the revenues and reserves it has. We need to prioritize our expenses, reduce costs, and avoid raising taxes. Specific actions the City should take to ensure we provide the level of services our residents want include:
-Eliminate services not directly beneficial to residents (e.g. membership/ association fees and health insurance for city council members)
-Prioritize public safety services
-Target reductions in operating expenses by (e.g. 1.0 %) and allocate the savings to infrastructure expenditures
-Establish parameters under which we would raise taxes (e.g. reserves falling below stated targets)
-Match increases in infrastructure spending to increased availability of grant funds or the reallocation of revenue resulting from reduced debt expense
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
My idea is to establish a recurring town hall meeting format on at least an annual basis, whereby residents can ask questions directly to the Mayor and members of the City Council. The town hall will be scheduled to coincide with the beginning of the annual budget process as a means to increase community interest and provide input on community services, concerns and budget priorities.