On Tuesday, the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation and the Senior Task Force hosted a mayoral candidate forum at the Naperville Municipal Center.
Candidates Scott Wehrli, Benny White, and Tiffany Stephens each answered 40 different long-form and rapid-fire questions about pressing issues in the City of Naperville. Topics included financial plans, public safety, infrastructure improvements, and mental health investment.
Wehrli’s opening statement
Wehrli considers public safety to be a “main part” of his platform. He served as a park policeman with the Naperville Park District for 32 years.
“Naperville is no longer the safe place it was when I started in 1990,” said Wehrli. “A lot of things have changed and I don’t want to see Naperville become a safe place for people to do bad things. My street experience will be very helpful.”
Wehrli is an executive at the DuKane Precast Construction Company, a bank director at Busey Bank, and has served on the Naperville Liquor Commission for nearly three decades.
“I’m a job creator,” said Wehrli. “I understand what businesses who desire to come to Naperville are looking for. I’ve had those conversations and been very successful in helping bring those kinds of companies here.”
Stephens’ opening statement
Being a 25-year resident of Naperville, Stephens considers herself “an outstanding choice” to serve as mayor.
“As a highly experienced public servant and business leader, I offer exceptional qualifications, insights, and perspectives that will shape the quality of life for every resident and community,” said Stephens.
Stephens founded Caring for Children Daycare as well as Kids Teen Rider – a non-profit organization that provides transportation services to kids and teens within the Naperville school district.
“We provide transportation to serve low-income families, kids, and teens who are temporarily homeless,” said Stephens. “Our organization has served over 5,000 children, along with mentoring 100 teenage girls that attend Naperville School District 204.”
White’s opening statement
White has spent the last 11 years serving the local community. He has been a Naperville city councilman since 2017, while previously serving on the Indian Prairie School District 204 Board and the Board of Fire and Police commissioners.
“I want us to remain the safest city in America, public safety and public health,” said White. “I’m all about good governance. You need to be able to trust the people in front of you.”
White spent 22 years as an officer in the Army. He considers the experience to be “instrumental” in his development as a leader.
“Army values talk about loyalty, duty, honor, integrity, selfless service, personal courage,” said White. “Those are the things that drive me. And I want folks to understand that as your mayor, I will be using that to guide my decision-making.”
One question addressed each candidate’s potential in managing Naperville’s budget: What is your experience in budgeting and financial oversight?
Werhli talked about his experience running a local business in the city, as well as his role with Busey Bank.
“Our family business has over 200 employees,” said Wehrli. “I guided the company through the recession and the pandemic. I’m also an elected member of a board of a publicly held corporation. It’s a bank that’s got $13 billion in assets and is one of the most highly regulated businesses in the country. Those numbers don’t scare me.”
White touched on the 11 years of leadership he’s had in Naperville.
“On the Board of Education for IPSD 204, we were dealing with multimillion-dollar budgets,” said White. “And for the last six years, I’ve been doing it here on the city council. We have balanced our budget each and every year. We’ve kept the tax rate steady, and in fact, we lowered it in our last budget cycle.”
Speaking from her experience with Caring for Children Daycare and Kids Teen Rider, Stephens says she knows how to “make a little out of a lot.”
“Even with my non-profit organization, we had a half-a-million-dollar budget, which is not much, but we always wanted to make sure that we kept making sure that we don’t overspend,” said Stephens.
Nichols Library parking deck
One question addressed city council’s recent discussions about the 2008 proposal for a parking deck at the Nichols Library: Do you feel this multimillion-dollar expenditure is the best use of the property, as well as the best way to address a perceived parking problem?
White said downtown Naperville has more of a “parking convenience” issue rather than a problem with the number of parking spaces available.
“We have a lot of money that’s been set aside, earmarked specifically for parking,” said White. “Right now we need to study this particular problem to see if that parking is needed. I think at one point we all felt that it may be needed, but driving habits have changed, especially post-pandemic.”
Stephens called parking decks an “eyesore” and is in favor of alternative ideas.
“I definitely think we need to look more into researching, and look more into if we actually need it,” said Stephens. “Growing up I definitely did not like the look of a parking deck, so if we can come up with some other innovative ideas, that would be great.”
Wehrli prefers “more efficient” layouts than the currently proposed Nichols Library deck, and he wants to speak more with the library officials.
“Digging up studies years later is not always the best way to get us what we need in the present and for the future,” said Wehrli. “So I would be in favor of looking at that plan, but also keeping our mind open to other alternatives.”
The Naperville Consolidated Election will take place on April 4, 2023.
You can watch the full candidate forum here.
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