For this election cycle, there are three at-large seats up for grabs on the Champaign City Council. At-large council members are elected by the whole of registered voters in Champaign, rather than only those from a specific geographical area. There are four candidates running: current at-large City Council members Matthew Gladney and Will Kyles, former City Council member for District 4 Greg Stock, and Kathy Shannon, who is stepping down from Unit 4 School Board to run for this position.
I sent questions to each of the candidates, and will be publishing them as received. The election is April 4th, but early voting is happening now. Find all of your voting information on the Champaign County Clerk’s website. You can also read more from each candidate at the Champaign County Voter’s Alliance website and in The News-Gazette, or by watching the League of Women Voters candidate forum.
Smile Politely: What is the most important issue facing Champaign right now, and what is your plan to address it?
Will Kyles: We need to strive towards continuing to build healthy neighborhoods by investing in people, increasing public safety, and building healthy neighborhoods. As a the City of Champaign is a destination site, we need to continue to work on these initiatives for both existing and future citizens. Addressing these issues while maintaining a balanced budget, may be a challenge. However, it’s one that I believe that Champaign is up for.
SP: What is an issue you wish you’d handled or approached differently during your previous time on the council?
Kyles: As I knock on doors this election season, I notice that there needs to be more education to the public on policies passed, programs passed, and tools that we already have available through city resources. I would do more door to door campaigns and attempt to work directly with neighborhood groups. Most of our citizens may never attend a City Council meeting, but are still interested in building and impacting their communities and our city. Working with neighborhood groups will be critical in educating the masses and also in getting feedback on how to continue to improve our city.
SP: What are you most proud of from your previous time on the council?
Kyles: I am excited about how the voters chose to direct the city council to spend ARPA resources — towards addressing homelessness, neighborhood infrastructure in Garden Hills, and eliminating gun violence. I am most proud of how we listened with programs such as the L.I.F.T and the gun violence reduction plan (addressing both community development and police staffing needs). I am excited about the SLEEP program in Garden Hills and the very well needed infrastructure developments. I also excited about the low barrier homeless shelter. I one day look to see a facility, such as Restoration Urban Ministries, that addresses both emergency and long term needs.
SP: How do you approach problem solving within a structure such as City Council, which brings together people from all parts of the community, with differing views, who are advocating for those they represent?
Kyles: I am more apt to listen and process what people are saying before I speak. I’m more prone to ask questions before I respond and this has helped me greatly. Everything doesn’t need an immediate response. Even if I completely disagree with a person’s viewpoint, I try to understand their viewpoints to find the common ground on the behalf of the city.
SP: If you are not elected, how would you continue to advocate for the issues you care about in Champaign?
Kyles: As God would have it, I was born to be a community servant for His purposes. Thus, I’m always going to be a community servant in numerous capacities whether it be government, community, and church. I love people (even when it’s hard) and as long as God allows me to live, I’m going to serve in some capacity.