Full Name: Jayme Muenz
What office are you seeking? Alderperson, Ward 2, City of St. Charles
What is your political party? Nonpartisan
What is your current age? 49
Occupation and Employer: Human Resources Manager, Experian
What offices, if any, have you previously held? My current role of Chairperson of the St. Charles Youth Commission, to which I was appointed by Mayor Rogina in 2017, and reappointed in 2021 by Mayor Vitek, and have been elected as Chairperson by the Commissioners for each of the past three years. (reference link for staff convenience: https://www.stcharlesil.gov/government/youth-commission)
City: My home is St. Charles, Illinois.
Campaign Website: https://qrco.de/bdfX6E
Education: Harper College, AA degree
Roosevelt University, studied business and psychology
Community involvement: I have extensive advocacy, volunteer, board and appointed work within the St. Charles community. In addition to my appointment to the City’s Youth Commission, my current roles include co-chair of the grant committee on the St. Charles Education Foundation, and Vice President of the Fox Chase Boulevard Median Foundation. I have also worked in board and leadership positions including Vice President of the St. Charles Girls’ Softball Association, scholarship committee chairperson for the St. Charles Women’s Club, and held an 18-month appointment on the citizen advisory committee for Fermilab’s ILC Commission. (Reference links for current boards for staff convenience: https://www.stcefoundation.org/ ; https://foxchaseboulevard.org/)
Marital status/Immediate family: My husband Steve and I have made St. Charles our home for the past 18 years, and we have two children attending St. Charles East High School.
Why are you running for office?
I have a passion for my community and have made a career out of getting things done. I would like to put that drive and those skills to use for the betterment of our city by effectively representing constituents, advocating for strategic and responsible planning and development, and balancing the desire for preservation with the need for economic growth. My drive, commitment, and proven ability to work toward solutions in groups with competing agendas will provide thoughtful representation for the residents of the second ward and of the city at-large. St. Charles is where, 18 years ago, my husband and I planted our roots, chose as our home, and are raising our children. I am invested in our community and its success.
What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
My experience in both my professional career and my volunteerism have demonstrated my ability to work with diverse teams to evaluate and affect change, as well as develop and implement new policy. My work experience has been working as a Human Resources professional for the past 22 years, an appointed commissioner in 2017 and elected chair for the past three years on the City of St. Charles Youth Commission, and serving in VP and other volunteer roles on area non-profit boards. In these roles, I have demonstrated my ability to think critically through potential impacts of decisions and work with stakeholders toward solutions. I bring new and diverse perspectives to the council, with a willingness and ability to connect with and hear the needs of all residents. And, I understand the financial and development decisions made by the council, and their long-term impact on the community.
What is your position on the Illinois weapons ban that took effect in January 2023?
This is a law designed to address a complex issue at the state level where no single, simple solution exists. With litigation pending, and restraining orders in place against enforcement, it is unclear what the outcome will be at this time. My position would be to follow the rule of law as it stands, at the time, if that is the question. Enforcement is not within the purview of the City Council.
Is crime a problem in your community and, if so, what would you do to curb it?
It would be naïve to think crime is not a concern in our community, however I feel St. Charles is a safe community overall. Not being a currently elected official, and not as close to the information, I cannot provide a comparison to our neighboring communities or state if our current officials have concerns which they are not resourced to address. It is important to properly resource our law enforcement officers through adequate staffing and support of appropriate City codes and statutes.
What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?
The challenges posed by the pandemic were unexpected and difficult to navigate. We can all look backward and see ways to improve something we have experienced; Our community faced similar challenges as countless others during that time, and navigated it as best as our leaders were equipped to in the moment. Our responsibility now is to learn from the experience and improve upon it for the future. While there was no road map or thorough top-down guidance on the myriad issues faced, our leadership in each of our governmental bodies had opportunities which may have been missed due to a lack of collaborative relationships between those bodies. While the various elected boards, bodies and appointed representatives serve under different charters, they all serve the people. Those people were receiving sometimes conflicting messaging when accessing services or facilities for the city buildings, schools, park district facilities, library, and county buildings. This creates additional confusion in an already uncertain time, and places the enforcement of these varying rules in similarly confusing hands. Having a plan in place for all units of government to convene and come to consensus around the best messaging and action for the community is a way to reduce this confusion and provide consistency for residents. Continuous relationship building between these entities is important, as they are all working for our community.
What did you learn from the pandemic?
So many things. From a leadership perspective, I learned the positive impact that clear and consistent messaging can have in uncertain times for people who look to leadership for stability and direction. On a community front, I learned that people want to be kind and care for others. I saw that in my neighborhood and extended network as I personally had different injuries during 2020 and 2021 and had to rely on others for so much at a time when we were all so physically separated. People found ways to help me, and my family when we most needed it, despite the challenges surrounding us all. And on a national level, I learned that we have a lot of work to do toward communicating effectively with each other. It will likely take more listening than talking, and true community engagement at the local level to help turn the tide.
How would you spur economic development in your community?
St. Charles has several economic development opportunities, and developers who have expressed interest in those. We have a talented city staff who are cultivating those relationships and rely on their education and expertise to advise on best practices and strategy for economic development. We have, where appropriate, several incentives to offer. For example, creating a Tax Increment Financing district, or TIF. A TIF is an important tool when used properly, and its intent is to offset infrastructure costs for either absent or decaying systems such as power and sewer lines. These could apply to locations like Charlestown Mall site, Pheasant Run, and potentially the old police station site, depending upon how the site study findings are returned. I am also interested in opportunities like we see in Batavia and their business incubator program of the Batavia Boardwalk. These have many ways to positively impact economic growth, by providing opportunities to launch micro-businesses into something larger. These businesses cultivated in these incubator settings can grow to be a part of the community, finding future homes within our available storefronts, bringing vibrant growth to our city.
Would/can/should local governments do anything to help reduce the tax burden on residents?
Resident’s tax burden is an increasing concern as we change our patterns in how we drive and purchase. These changes impact both the motor fuel tax, and our sales tax revenue, where a large portion of our city’s revenue is generated. A review the current fiscal strategy to determine if it will meet these challenges in the long-term, or if adjustments need to be made may help to address this tax burden concern. We will want to work with experts in the area of municipal finance to determine what would be the best course of action for our community.
Do you support recreational marijuana being sold in your community to help lower residents’ tax burden?
I am mindful and respectful of the fact that we have residents on either side of this debate, and that there is nuance within this conversation. In general, I am in favor of legal businesses operating within our city, generating tax revenue. In the case of businesses such as recreational marijuana, I support continuing to allow these businesses to operate as is in our current ordinance.
What projects or infrastructure would you look to address in your community and how would you do it?
Road reconstruction projects require immediate attention in our community, and we should be exploring all available funding sources to help defray these costs away from residents. There are state funding opportunities through grants from Rebuild Illinois, as well as possible funding through the Federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. As more programs are made available, we should be exploring those avenues as well. Beyond that, we should be prioritizing the development of the eastern gateway in the parcels at the Pheasant Run and Charlestown Mall sites to accelerate our opportunities for tax revenue. In those areas where we currently have residential development underway, and possible future additional mixed-use development, we should be exploring opportunities for green initiatives and energy efficiency in new development projects through the federal Inflation Reduction Act. Being aware of and utilizing these opportunities can help over time with cost reduction.
Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?
Yes, I believe in our system of voting, and will accept the results of the election as determined by the Kane County Clerk’s office. Respect for the expressed will of the voters through the counting of their ballots is the bedrock of our democracy.
What is your position on open, transparent government?
A transparent government is vital to communicating and building trust with our community. Transparency is important in gaining support and approval for projects. People are busy, and are not always as engaged or aware as they might wish to be at the inception of each project or initiative. This is why I further support early outreach as a component of governmental transparency on large, impactful projects. Engaging and educating the community on complex projects provides the opportunity to elicit early feedback and change course where appropriate. It also provides openings for education and outreach to improve community relations. Recent resident surveys indicate a desire for more clear and effective communication with the public, and in meeting this need we improve transparency in our government.
Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?
Yes, I support the lawful application of this act to ensure citizens’ access to information as this is a vital component of our democracy.
Would you sign a nondisclosure agreement with a prospective company that would limit your ability to communicate with your community?
I support transparent government, and that basic transparency should not be restricted by a nondisclosure agreement from a prospective company around city business dealings. Our city council alderperson roles are not full-time positions however, and many officials hold full-time jobs which require them to sign NDAs as part of those jobs. If these positions pose a conflict, our ethics ordinances should require abstaining from conversations and recusing from votes on those matters. It is not clear in this question to which scenario the NDA question applies.