Salary: Part-time pay, full-time responsibility
Party affiliation: Democratic
Second job: Real Estate Agent
What are the three most pressing issues you believe your city faces, and how will you address them? What people or entities will you enlist to get these things done?
Aging Infrastructure – The City of Forest Park cannot stress enough how important increasing investments in resources and services, ranging from social care to transportation and jobs, to infrastructure is to the vitality of our city; however, current sources of revenue are mainly based on regressive taxation – property tax, sales tax, and user fees.
Community Growth and Planning – We have been very successful in the development of our Fort Gillem Logistics Center, but many residents worry about community planning issues such as transportation, parking, the high cost of homeownership in relation to average incomes. We need to focus on more homeownership and building communities and neighborhoods to bring growth in our residential sector.
The City Budget – Our budget is linked to a broad view of the community’s goals and focuses on getting the best outcome-based value. Planning the city’s budget is very challenging due to balancing short- and long-term perspectives and creating openness and transparency to the public on how the council is working toward reaching their goals.
How much money did your city receive from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and how much has been spent so far? How are you using the funds to aid residents and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic? What efforts have you been able to fund that the city didn’t previously have resources for?
The City of Forest Park received approximately $3.5 million in 2021 and is scheduled to receive another allocation of $3.2 this year. We have used these funds to not only pay our dedicated staff but incentivize our emergency responders and invest in issues important to the community. We commissioned a survey to our community and asked how they would like to see the funds used. The resulted showed many of the respondents wanted us to focus on blight/demolition of old/abandoned structures, maintain city services/roads and sidewalks.
Are you spending any of the ARP funds on rent relief? If so, how much?
Yes, the City of Forest Park established a rental program using a no-profit in the city to administer the program. Our council approved $400,000 to provide a one-time rental assistance payment up to $2,500 per household.
What are the biggest challenges for recruitment and retention of police and other city personnel?
Our biggest challenge for recruitment and retention is no different that the challenges other municipalities are facing, competitive pay. We are working diligently to address this issue.
Describe the challenges you face with reaching constituents and how you plan to connect and communicate with residents, including social media.
It took over half of my entire first term as Mayor but with the assistance of the City Manager, the City of Forest Park just hired its first EVER Public Information Officer and is in the process of establishing its Public Information Office. Our PIO has already made vital contributions to spreading our gospel and improving our communications with our constituents. Social media is one avenue and the other will be a quarterly newsletter.
During your first term, you helped bring 3,000 jobs to the city. Outline your plans for continuing to boost economic growth in Forest Park.
I have a sagacious team of visionaries that share my vision for economic growth. It is through collaboration and intentional effort that the momentum generated over the last four years, will continue the next four years. PROGRESS has always been my vision for Forest Park, but PROGRESS is also our destiny.
Describe a lesson you learned during your previous term(s) and how that knowledge will help guide your upcoming term.
At 14, I learned about the fickle characteristic of people. However, as Mayor that lesson has been reenforced. I like to say that as Mayor, I am as celebrated and condemned as quickly as the next item on the agenda. With that, I learned to always be authentically me, never give into demands and always stand firm on a decision. I also learned a person’s commentary of me is often a reflection of themselves. With that I do not take what people say too seriously.
Click here for an interactive map to learn more about Forest Park. (Created by Maggie Lee)