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Twin Cities Talk: How accessible are six Sterling aldermen?

STERLING – As promised, I am taking a closer look at the accessibility of Sterling officials in this week’s column. 

Although it wasn’t always this way, Sterling gets major points for its city website, Sterling-il.gov contains a wealth of information about how to contact aldermen, department heads and other officials. 

Each of the six aldermen have at least one form of contact information listed. 

Residents will find an email address for Aldermen Amy Viering and Barry Cox. All the others – Retha Elston, Lou Sotelo, Linda Marley and Joe Martin – have phone numbers and email addresses listed. 

In the past, I have been able to reach Elston, Marley and Martin relatively quickly. It has taken a day or sometimes two to reach Viering, Cox and Sotelo. With jobs and busy schedules, it can be difficult to find time to connect with a reporter. But, when I’ve needed input from them I’ve found a way to get it. 

More than a year ago, I did a series of profiles of Sterling City Council members. Every council member agreed to be interviewed for the series, except Cox. When asked, he said he would rather not sit down for the interview. 

I appreciated the others’ participation. They were designed to give readers a better sense of what type of people are leading the city.

When it comes to being accessible to residents, Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said he checks his email just about every day, and regularly corresponds with residents about concerns or questions they have.

The questions he can answer, he will as soon as possible. Other inquiries are forwarded to the right person to field the request, he said. 

“It really is our desire to communicate with people,” Lee said. 

From my experience, the mayor is an accessible man. You can even find his home number listed in the phone book.

“I am elected by the people,” Lee said. “I’m their voice. If I don’t talk to people, how do I know what their concerns are?”

Sterling City Manager Scott Shumard also is available to help those with questions. In the past, he has readily provided me with information about a particular topic. He also provides documents when applicable to supplement what we discussed in the conversation. 

“I think overall the city of Sterling is very responsive,” Martin told me. “I think the city of Sterling has put customer service as a very high priority in the remodel of the Coliseum. A lot of that remodel is with the mindset of making it easier for people to handle numerous city functions in one spot.”

In the past, the city clerk’s office was downstairs at the Coliseum; the Finance Department was on the third floor and the mayor and city manager were on the second floor, Martin noted.

“By putting them all in one area and having a couple receptionists that could direct you right to the people all in one spot, I think it shows the city is looking for ways to ... be as responsive as they can to citizen’s complaints,” he said.

Sauk Valley Media reporter Kiran Sood covers government and happenings in Sterling and Rock Falls. She can be reached at ksood@saukvalley.com or at 800-798-4085, ext. 529.

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