The political season in Chillicothe is heating up as mayoral candidates Doug Crew, Sandi Levell and Don White spoke recently.
The Chillicothe Tea Party Patriots hosted the meeting at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4999 Wednesday.
All three have experience as aldermen, with Levell currently serving on the Chillicothe City Council, Crew serving in the 1980s, and White serving before being elected mayor from 2001 to 2005.
The candidates gave brief introductions about themselves to the small crowd, and then answered questions.
They ran the gamut from their goals if elected, their thoughts on highway improvements, sprucing up Chillicothe, budget concerns, combining services with Peoria County, Three Sisters Park possibly disconnecting from city limits, ambulance concerns and more.
Crew is a 1967 graduate of Chillicothe Township High School, worked at Caterpillar Inc. and opened a consulting firm in the last couple years.
White is a 1968 graduate of Chillicothe Township, and works at Dewberry Architects, formerly PSA.
Levell did not grow up in Chillicothe, but has owned a business for 37 years. The Hair Company owner said residents probably have seen her digging in the dirt to beautify the city. She also has been involved with many local groups.
All three candidates have long-standing ties to the community and agreed with each other often as the forum continued.
After attending a class reunion, Crew said former residents remarked that Chillicothe had not changed much since they left. He said that other communities have grown while Chillicothe’s population remains the same. The cost of maintaining city services never goes down, and with income tax and sales tax remaining about the same, something will need to be changed, he said.
“I would like to take a very strategic approach, get input from the school district, the people at Pearce, the chamber and others in the community to come up with what they think has to happen in Chillicothe for us to be successful,” said Crew.
White talked about the mission of a city and its basic services to provide, and called economic development as the umbrella over everything.
He said if elected, he would work on economic development, including more diversified housing.
Some people do not want things to change, White said, and others want it to be like in the 1960s.
“We’ve got to figure out what the change might be and sort of drive our future towards it,” said White.
Levell spoke in both broad terms and zeroed in on fixing downtown sidewalks and getting more aldermen involvement in city discussions.
“Sometimes we start a project on the city and we stop. We jump to another project. I’d like to see it finished before we start on another project,” said Levell.
Page 2 of 3 - Resident Jim Wright asked the candidates what their major goals would be if elected.
Levell said she wanted to see the riverfront finished, staying with the theme of not changing from one project until it is finished. She also said new signage in the community is important. “We could do better of cleaning up our town.”
White also had mentioned signage earlier in the evening, saying even the smallest things make a difference, like new street signs — some are bent over, some have lost reflectivity and some have outdated signs for a blind child who is now 40, he said. Levell said the city has received a grant for new street signs.
The former mayor also said one of his goals would be to see “more teeth” in the city’s property maintenance goals.
A community forum to identify what residents want to change or improve in the community is what Crew said was one of
his goals, followed by prioritizing the items and then accomplishing them.
All the candidates seemed to agree that “Chillicothe is not at the table” when important items come up around the area, such as road projects.
As the third largest community in Peoria County, Crew said Chillicothe needs to be part of the discussion.
“Dunlap is a school district, Chillicothe is a community with a good school district,” Crew said to differentiate the areas.
No forum would be complete in Chillicothe without discussing ambulance service providers.
All the candidates noted Rescue 33’s long service to the community, but it does not have a license. Advanced Medical Transport of Central Illinois has been covering the area since Rescue 33 lost its license due to staffing issues and response times. While Rescue 33 operated as a basic squad on the lowest level of care, AMT is at the paramedic level with the highest care.
Levell said she believes in Rescue 33, and told the crowd when an alderman asked for residents to let the council know who they wanted to serve them, she had a stack of letters for Rescue 33 and only two for AMT.
“I want Rescue 33 to come back strong,” said Levell.
She also said, however, that the city needs paramedics, which Crew and White also said. If Rescue 33 can get a license, they will operate as a basic squad first, although Rescue 33 officials have said they plan to become paramedics as a future goal, possibly in five years.
Crew said one man pulled him aside after a meeting and said he wanted paramedic service now because at his elderly age, he may not make it until Rescue 33 could become a paramedic service.
White said a partnership between Rescue 33 and AMT would be a solution, but “blind pride” for Rescue 33 stands in the way. Crew said he thought a partnership would be good as well.
Page 3 of 3 - In closing, Levell told residents she hopes everyone will vote, no matter who they vote for as all three candidates are good, with her fellow candidates agreeing.
“For the first time in a long time, I think you have three good candidates,” added White.