Michael Reid Jr.: 2021 candidate for Hampshire village president
Occupation: Technology Support Coordinator for Community Unit School District 300
Civic involvement: First elected trustee in 2013
Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A. My goal has always been to be a consistent presence for our residents, especially since March 2020. I always try to be available and accessible for our residents, whether it be in person, on social media, by phone, or text any time of day or night. I believe that we do not always have to agree to work together, which applies to working with those who may have different views or residents who don't agree with everything I say or do. I have tried to answer every question asked and address any concerns. Difficult conversations and situations define us and help us work together no matter what. I genuinely enjoy being the person that the residents can reach out to, knowing that they will get an answer to their question, and I never take people's trust for granted.
Q. Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. We hired a Village Manager in December of 2019 after the decision had continually been made to not have one for several years. Although I feel that it should have been sooner, I am glad that the village changed its course when it did. Without our current Village Manager, there is no way we would have been as successful as we have been during the pandemic. Our community organizations, local businesses, and other governmental bodies have all worked together to get our community through this. I am grateful that the board pushed for a village manager to be hired as hard as we did, or the village would have been on the sidelines while the other organizations tried to move heaven and earth to support our community.
We went remote almost overnight, both for meetings and for work from home for employees that could do so. We implemented several safety protocols for our staff and came up with backup procedures.
Trustee Kelly procured hand sanitizer for our community when supply was so scarce that other municipalities could not obtain it. We have regular meetings with our other government organizations and local businesses.
I feel that we can do a better job working together; there is so much potential for our community if we all focus on what is essential, our residents.
In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
We are all doing our best to develop the proper guidelines and safeguards to protect our staff and community. I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one; I believe that we all need to listen to the experts and come together as a community to have a calculated implementation of what the communicated guidance was to us. We can communicate our expectations and plans to the community and local businesses to ensure we are all taking the same approach.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Common sense needs to prevail, we last saw a pandemic over 100 years ago, and we still do not know the full impact on our community or our budgets yet as we don't have anything to compare. We have ideas and projections, but ultimately the pandemic is not over yet. We need to be careful in our budgeting and procurement in the next 12-24 months; however, there needs to be a balance as we still need to maintain and continue to make Hampshire a better place for our residents' benefit.
Q. What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A. We have been in a constant state of maintaining what we have for as long as I can remember. We have miles and miles of water main past its useful life. Which we have no plan or program to replace. Ponds and wetlands necessary for stormwater management have been neglected since they were developed and turned over to the village's care, raising the flooding risks. Trucks and other equipment are rusting away because we do not have indoor parking or storage available, which causes maintenance costs to rise. We also have two separate water systems, one for the truck stop and one for the rest of the village, which are not connected, which can be disastrous.
The software that the village uses to conduct its day to day business is severely outdated and not user friendly, which causes an impact on staff productivity, lack of clear and concise reporting, and frustrations for residents. Our Business system needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. In light of the pandemic, this may be one of the projects that can be put on the back burner if needed.
We cannot continue to "kick the can" any longer. We need to figure out a way to address some of these significant issues that most residents can't see but can potentially impact them the most. There needs to be a priority on creating a plan to address the above problems and position Hampshire for responsible growth in the future.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A. I was not in favor of the stance that most of the board was taking when the thought was to legalize the sale of marijuana in Hampshire. After conducting research and having in-depth conversations with community members, with police officers, and at the board level, I aligned my stance with the rest of the board. This industry is extremely regulated, and after we ensured that the safety plans would be approved through the police department. We also thoroughly discussed the zoning areas in which the different types of businesses would be allowed. We have a small budget and to turn down another potential revenue source was a disservice to our residents.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. Most of my concerns center around doing the work that the residents deserve, work that has not been done or made a priority for the last twenty years. We need to stop maintaining and come up with a plan to live up to our commitments as well as move our community forward. If we find new ways to streamline our spending while seeing if there were ways to increase revenues, it would only benefit the community.
Q. What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A. Since 2013 I have been a trustee for the village, I have put my heart and soul into everything I have done for our community. When I first ran, I promised to improve communication and be there for the residents; that is what I have done and what I will continue to do. I provide a levelheaded common-sense approach to every situation and always try to be inclusive. Hampshire is a fantastic place to live, work, visit, and raise a family. We are poised to be so much more if we work together to make it the place we want it to be. I am responsive to residents, present at local events, and active within the community. I support our staff and the hard work that they do to support our community. It is the difficult conversations that define relationships; we do not always need to agree to work together or do what's right for the people that chose us to represent them. I will make this promise to the Hampshire community, if I am chosen to be the next Village President, I promise to continue to lead the same way that they have come to expect from me over the last eight years.