Joe McElroy: Candidate profile
Name: Joe McElroy
Office sought: City Council
Family: Married with three children
Occupation: City planning & communications consultant
Education: Master of Arts in Social Sciences, University of Chicago, 1999; Master of Urban Planning, Michigan State University, 1986
Civic involvement: Currently Secretary of Save Old Nichols Inc.; Naperville Responds For Veterans, board of directors; ADOPT animal shelter board of directors; Resiliency Institute board of directors; co-leader with Kay McElroy of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church engaged couples retreat. Past: Plan Commission, 2003-2009, vice chairman; Reading For the Blind, volunteer, 2000-2009; City of Aurora Deputy Director of City Planning, 1982-1986; Planner I, City of East Lansing, 1980-82.
Previous elected offices held: Naperville City Council, 2011-2015
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected?
Facebook: Vote Joe McElroy April 2
* What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
We want to keep service levels high and taxes as low as possible. That is the central challenge of local government. If a city's finances are weak, it's extremely difficult to keep quality of life at high level. Moving from relatively affluent East Lansing during a recession to a city planning job in Aurora embedded that in me. We also need to work on redevelopment of many commercial areas: east Ogden, Route 59, and the business areas around I-88. Formerly home to corporate titans such as Bell Labs/Lucent/Nokia and Amoco/BP, this area is changing.
* What makes you the best candidate for the job?
My extensive background in urban planning and communications. As a planner, most of my work has focused on economic redevelopment, which is increasingly important as City runs out of land to grow. Working first as a newspaper reporter, then as a city planner and public relations consultant, I have attended council meetings in more than 50 different communities. I also have two relevant masters degrees.
* 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.
City Council functions best when acting like a corporate board of directors. In our form of government, the city manager is the CEO; the mayor is chairperson of the board, and the council is the board of directors. This means creating policy, not micromanaging. It is also vital to do what is right for the entire City, despite pressure from special interest groups. That is what I did on City Council before, and that is what I will do again. I can't promise people will agree with every vote I make, but I can promise there are no hidden agendas.
* 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?
We are by far the biggest city in Illinois to have a AAA bond rating, as was the case when I was on the City Council. During the Great Recession, in an effort to not raise property taxes when home values were plummeting, the City drew down reserves and laid off many employees. Moving forward, the best way to keep service levels high and property taxes low is through continued economic redevelopment, an effort to "bake a bigger pie" by increasing the tax base. But this must be done while also protecting residential neighborhoods. Fifth Avenue is the current poster child for this, but keeping the proper balance between economic development and protecting existing neighborhoods is one of the central challenges of city planning. I have spent my career addresses those challenges, first as a journalist, then as a city planner and communications consultant.
* What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
Despite the problems with the Millennium Carillon, community leads need to start planning for the Naperville Bicentennial, which is less than 20 years away.