STERLING – The newest member of the City Council will run for mayor in the April 2 consolidated general election.
Jim Wise, 58, who picked up his petition paperwork Monday, was sworn in as an at-large alderman on May 1, 2017. During his short time on the council, Wise has been impressed by how hard the people at City Hall are working, but he believes it’s time for a change in leadership.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done, but my decision was made based largely on three issues – roads, taxes and the riverfront,” Wise said.
Wise contends that Sterling residents are more concerned about getting their roads fixed than improving the gateways into the city.
When he ran for council, Wise made taxes the centerpiece of his campaign. He proposed capping property tax increases and city spending hikes at 3.5 percent each fiscal year.
If elected mayor, he would continue his efforts to stabilize property taxes and take a look at another city tax.
“I want to work with the council to strike a balance between meeting the needs of property owners and meeting our pension obligations,” Wise said. “I also think we need to revisit the utility tax because I don’t think it’s needed anymore.”
Regarding the riverfront, Wise understands residents’ frustration with the Lawrence Brothers building, calling it an “eyesore that destroys the image of the community.”
“In the next several months, we should find out the extent of the contamination there, and then I’d like to tear down the building and redevelop the land,” Wise said. “At City Hall, the focus has been on keeping as much of the building up as possible.”
Wise is concerned about government transparency and a growing frustration on the council of how and when information is released. Some on the council feel they haven’t always had enough time to study issues before a vote is taken.
“I’d like to establish Committee of the Whole meetings on a regular basis so that we have more time to talk about some these things before we act,” Wise said. “The public also needs more time to receive and process information so they can participate.”
During his time on the council, Wise has pushed for using all available communication platforms, including social media, to keep residents informed on what’s happening at City Hall.
Wise said it could be time to talk about a possible change in the city’s form of government. While emphasizing his support of City Manager Scott Shumard, Wise said the city should be prepared to make that choice when Shumard either retires or takes another job.
“We’ve had a council-city manager form of government in Sterling for 43 years, and I think a possible change should be a topic of discussion,” Wise said.
Wise has been in and out of local government since 1997, when he became an alderman in Belvidere. He later served as city administrator in Morrison, from 2011 to 2013, and then as village administrator in Cherry Valley. He was in the U.S. Army Reserve for 35 years, and has master’s degrees in business administration and public administration.
Mayor Skip Lee announced Friday that he will run for a third term. In 2011, Lee took nearly 79 percent of the vote in defeating state government worker Marc Batley in an election that brought only 8.5 percent of the city’s registered voters to the polls. He ran unopposed in his quest for a second term.
“If I have an opponent this time, that’s great – that’s how the system is supposed to work,” Lee said Friday.
The mayor said his focus in a third term would be jobs, retail growth, the riverfront, and quality-of-life issues.
Prospective candidates for city office can gather signatures until the beginning of the filing period, which runs from Nov. 19 through Nov. 26. City Hall will be closed Nov. 22 and Nov. 23 for Thanksgiving holiday. Petitions and filing paperwork can be found online at sterling-il.gov or at City Hall, 212 Third Ave. in Sterling. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Call the city clerk's office at 815-632-6630 for more information.