Full Name: Jim Wise
What office are you seeking? Mayor, City of Sterling, IL
What is your political party? This is a nonpartisan election.
What is your current age? 62
Occupation and Employer: Retired
What offices, if any, have you previously held? Alderman, Belvidere, IL 1997-2008.
City Administrator, Morrison, IL 2011-13.
Village Administrator, Cherry Valley, IL 2013-14.
Alderman at Large, Sterling, IL 2017- present.
City: Sterling, IL
Education: A.A.S., Sauk Valley Community College.
BA, Liberal Arts, Western IL University.
MPA, MBA, South University.
Community involvement: I am a lifetime member of St. Mary’s Church, Sterling, IL. A 4th Degree member of the Knights of Columbus Council 662. A member of the Sterling Optimist Club, the Sterling Moose Lodge 726, the Sterling American Legion Post 296 and a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I am also a member of the Sterling Rock Falls Historical Society.
Marital status/Immediate family: I am single and have four adult age children.
Why are you running for office?
There are many reasons why I want to be mayor of our community. First and foremost, I want to help our community be the best place it can be to raise families, to work, to play and to live. I want to help ensure that city hall continues to be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. Also, I want to help our community reach its goals. Goals like redeveloping our riverfront, investing in our public infrastructure and working to strengthen our community partners, employers, educators and healthcare providers are important to the future of our community, and we must continue our work to accomplish these goals. Moreover, goals such as improving the quality of housing stock and making housing more affordable in our community are also important to our community’s future. In addition, we must also continue our work to keep our first responders and 911 staff safe and secure.
As you can see there are many things that we must do for our community and much more. As a person who has dedicated his life to serving others, I want to help our community accomplish these goals and more. That is why I am running for mayor of our community.
What makes you qualified for the office you’re seeking?
My experiences in municipal matters come from 20 years of involvement in municipal government as an elected or appointed official. I have served the past six years on the Sterling city council as an alderman at large and have watched and learned from the best what it takes to be a good mayor.
I am experienced, dedicated and committed to serving our community. I have experience in the areas of municipal government, public infrastructure, public works, finance, code enforcement, wastewater treatment and emergency services. All of which are services that are provided to our community.
I have experience working with the Illinois Department of Transportation, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Revenue, Department of Commerce and Economic Development and the many other agencies and offices that oversee the State of Illinois’ policy’s, programs and much more. I also have experience in working with our state legislators to obtain favorable rulings and actions that benefit our community.
I am retired and have the ability to work every hour of every day for as long as it takes to get the job done. I will be a full-time mayor who works for part-time pay. This is what makes me qualified to be the next mayor of our community.
What is your position on the Illinois weapons ban that took effect in January 2023?
No matter what my answer to this question will be, it will be liked by some and not liked by others. Every day there are actions taken by our legislators in Springfield that are approved by some and opposed by others. This issue is no different. For some this issue skirts the edges of constitutionality and for others it offers the opportunity to feel safe and secure in any environment where people may gather. This matter is currently under review by the courts and once their ruling has been issued, we must accept the final outcome; that the law is the law. We must respect each other’s right to approve or disapprove of this action, and ultimately the courts’ rulings, and accept the fact that we must live with the final outcome once it has been established and codified as law.
Is crime a problem in your community and, if so, what would you do to curb it?
We have an outstanding police department that works very hard to keep crime in check in our community and there is always room for improvement in our efforts to control crime. Ideas that we have about coordinating efforts between the various departments of our city services to control crime in our community are discussed daily. Reviews and revisions to existing ordinances, policies, procedures and the creation of new ordinances designed to control crime are underway as well. Efforts to clean up our neighborhoods and improve the quality of housing will help make our neighborhoods safer and protect families from criminal elements too. Working with our educators, healthcare and social services agency’s always helps to fight crime too. As mayor, I will be part of a team that will work to keep crime low and protect the residents of our community by doing all of these things and more.
What is your assessment of how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled locally?
Our local healthcare providers have done an amazing job in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Federal, state and local support helped to ensure that our community did not experience an overwhelming surge in healthcare needs as other communities had experienced. This is a great example of a what a strong healthcare system can do for a community and our local and county healthcare providers deserve all of the credit for a job well done.
What did you learn from the pandemic?
I learned that a local community owned hospital such as our CGH Medical Center is a great tool in managing healthcare crises problems. The lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic are important to knowing how to handle a future healthcare crisis should one arise. And our CGH Medical Center has proven that they are capable of doing that when called to.
How would you spur economic development in your community?
We will create economic development opportunities by continuing to do the things that create economic development opportunities. Investing in our public infrastructure, redeveloping our riverfront, improving the quality of housing and being business friendly, as well as other things, will help spur economic development in our community. It is because of the great team at city hall that is business friendly, and works with developers, retailers and community partners to create economic development opportunities that our Northland mall has a new lease on life and the old KMart Plaza will soon be redeveloped and become home to several national chain retailers.
Investing in our public infrastructure improves our transportation network, stormwater management and wastewater treatment. Improvements in these areas increase our ability to grow businesses and take on new businesses as well.
Redeveloping our riverfront will create jobs for the skilled trades, construction and many others. Once new businesses have occupied the commercial space there will be more part-time and full-time jobs added to our community. All which helps to create economic development opportunities.
In addition, it is said that - quality housing equals economic development. Currently, we are experiencing a depleted housing stock and its quality and affordability is declining. We must improve the quality and affordability of housing in our community. We need to work with our community partners to find ways to bring new housing development into our community. Safe and affordable housing for the workforce creates stable homes and strong families. Families that will work, go to school, shop locally and do the many other things that families do, and you know it, will create economic development opportunities for our community.
Another area that we must address to create economic development opportunities is childcare. We have limited childcare availability and affordability in our community, and we need to correct that problem. Getting mom’s and dad’s back to work will help our businesses grow and having quality affordable childcare gives the workforce the security of knowing that their child is well cared for while they are on the job. By increasing the employed rates of our community more people will have money to spend, and when people spend money that means that there will be economic development opportunities for our community.
For other economic development opportunities, we need to take a good long look at the West Lincoln Highway business corridor and search for ways to increase development in this business district. The west side of our community is primed for economic development opportunity. Home maintenance, woodworking and personal services businesses have recently established themselves in this business district with the other businesses that are already there. And there is room for more. Planning for future business expansion, transportation and utility needs for our West Lincoln Highway business corridor is a must do item for the next mayor and city hall.
The Illinois Department of Transportation will be working on the North Locust Street corridor in 2023-24. They will also be installing a roundabout at the Rt.40 / Science Ridge Road intersection during this same time period as well. These improvements will open the door for economic development opportunities from 15th street to beyond Science Ridge Road north of our community for us. Working with property owners, community partners, retailers and developers to plan for this opportunity will be another priority for the next mayor and city hall to work on.
Economic development is a critical component of a vibrant healthy community. As your mayor we will work on creating economic development opportunities for our community every day.
Would/can/should local governments do anything to help reduce the tax burden on residents?
To help reduce the tax burdens on our community we will always be good stewards of the taxpayer’s money. We will always be looking for ways to relieve the tax burden on our business partners, property owners and residents too. We recently discovered that bonding for funds to cover our pension liabilities will provide us with opportunities to relieve the tax burden upon property owners. We are now investing these funds to maximize the returns that will give us opportunities to reduce property taxes that are paid to the city over the next several years. There are never any guarantees when you are dealing with financial investments, but the future looks good for the opportunity to reduce property taxes over the next several years because we made the right decision to cover our pension liabilities.
Do you support recreational marijuana being sold in your community to help lower residents’ tax burden?
Our community does not qualify for a recreational marijuana dispensary because we are not a disadvantage community. If we did have a dispensary, we would tax its sales to the maximum amount allowed to collect as much revenue as we could which would help keep other taxes down. As it is we do receive a small amount of funding from the State’s shared recreational marijuana tax funds, and it is deposited into the general fund. And revenues provided to us by the State are always welcomed.
What projects or infrastructure would you look to address in your community and how would you do it?
I believe that it is important to complete the public infrastructure projects that are scheduled to be undertaken over the next several years. Currently, there are plans to do major road work on West LeFevre Road, Griswold and Woodburn Avenue, East 2nd Street, 16th Street from Lynn Blvd to LeFevre and several smaller road and stormwater projects are also scheduled to be completed. Some of these projects includes sidewalks and/or paths along with coordination for new utilities too.
We have also started the process of planning for and building a new wastewater treatment plant for our community. This will be a large project that requires a great deal of coordination with several State Agency’s along with engineering and construction support that will be ongoing for the next 3-5 years.
In the near future we will need to conduct an engineering study of our streets to identify the next series of roads to be repaired or rebuilt. This study will give us the ability to prioritize the repair / rebuilding schedule for many of the streets in our residential neighborhoods.
These projects will be paid for by occupation sales tax revenues, sales tax revenues, State funding sources, grants and other sources of funds that pay for such things.
As your mayor we will complete these projects, and more, as they all are critical to the future of our community and will provide much needed improvements to our transportation network, storm water management and wastewater treatment services.
Will you accept the voters’ decision in your race on Election Day?
Yes, I will accept the voter’s decision on election day.
What is your position on open, transparent government?
I believe that transparency is a pillar of democracy. We must be open and transparent at all times. As mayor we will work to expand the use of our social media platforms and media partners to keep the residents informed of what your city government is doing.
Do you support the Freedom of Information Act and citizens’ ability to freely access government records?
I support the Freedom of Information Act and the citizens ability to freely access government records.
Would you sign a nondisclosure agreement with a prospective company that would limit your ability to communicate with your community?
No, I would not. Communicating with the community is one of the mayor’s priorities and must never be hindered.