Sam Shore, who has served as the Vice President of the Champaign County Young Democrats and as Democratic Committeeman from the City of Champaign’s 12th precinct, is running for an at-large seat on the Champaign City Council. We chatted with him to learn more about his reasons for running and what he’d like to see change in the city of Champaign.
Smile Politely: What is your professional background?
Sam Shore: I have a B.A. in History from the University of Illinois. I have since worked at Kessler Optical, a locally owned small business in downtown Champaign. There I have worked with optical labs, insurance companies, and patients in a number of capacities while learning way more about glasses and eyes than I ever thought I would.
I have coordinated two national campaigns to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, organized by the Humanist charitable organization Foundation Beyond Belief. Between 2012 and 2013, we raised just under a million dollars for cancer research and patient care. I am currently the Membership Coordinator at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign, where I facilitate congregational growth and connectivity.
SP: Why are you running for Champaign city council?
Shore: I have a longstanding fascination with the political process, fostered by my dad’s side of the family. Politics was not something I grew up afraid to talk about at the dinner table, so I’ve been exploring and arguing about it from a young age. I consider political engagement to be both a passion and a hobby of mine.
Champaign is the ideal place for me to take my engagement in a new direction. I was born in the suburbs, but chose to stay in Champaign after college because I love the diversity, culture, and interconnectedness of the city. It’s a city that is passionate about the issues it faces, aware not just of what’s happening nationally but also local concerns like the aquifer and fiber infrastructure. I have a great appreciation for the level of engagement many of Champaign’s citizens have in the political process.
My candidacy isn’t about a pet issue or ideology, it’s about an approach to getting things done: We are all entitled to our opinions, but not our own facts. I strive to be the kind of person who look at the evidence handed me and change my mind if it conflicts with my preexisting opinion. That’s the bottom line of why I’m running for City Council. As a nonpartisan body, there is greater room for independent thought. I believe I could thrive there and represent the diverse residents of this city fairly.
SP: What political or leadership experiences have you had?
Shore: In college, I was part of the leadership team for the Illini Secular Student Alliance. Our team got some national attention for our service and interfaith work, as well as our diversity initiatives. Ultimately, our work even garnered us a mention on CNN and citation in an academic journal on student life. Currently, I’m completing the United Way of Champaign County’s Emerging Community Leaders program. I’m the team leader for a group of program participants that is working to produce a children’s literacy event at the Douglas Branch Library in October.
I’ve never held a paid political position, but I have volunteered in a number of capacities. Over the last year I’ve served as the Vice President of the Champaign County Young Democrats, Democratic Committeeman from the City of Champaign’s 12th precinct, campaign manager for Former County Board Chair Pius Weibel, and treasurer for Mayor Don Gerard. Knocking on doors, discussing important issues with friends, and other forms of grassroots activity are their own kind of civic leadership and I believe that these volunteer roles have prepared me well for the rigors of a campaign and keeping the lines of communication open to constituents thereafter.
SP: What challenges do you think Champaign is currently facing?
Shore: We’re in great shape – recent data suggests that our city is cutting unemployment even while growing. We’re building on that success and population growth through increases in construction to meet greater demand for goods and services. We’re receiving national accolades for the community we’ve built together. The challenge will be leveraging that momentum wisely to ensure the long-term growth, stability, and sustainability to all neighborhoods within the city. Our city isn’t perfect, but we’ve been handed powerful tools to work on those imperfections. Maintaining that position is of utmost importance for me.
SP: What would you most like to see change about the city Champaign?
Shore: We must stop the bloodshed stemming from this summer’s violent crime outbreak. This city can learn from the efforts of other municipalities that have thought outside the box to fight similar epidemics without militarizing our local police or breaking the budget. For instance, neighborhoods in Baltimore, Chicago, and New York have tried treating crime as a doctor would a plague to great success. Successfully addressing this issue will be key to creating the safe neighborhoods necessary to fully capitalize on Champaign’s economic momentum and continue growth.