By CARL GREEN
O’Fallon, IL – The Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council is considering endorsing a candidate for mayor of O’Fallon, IL, 4th Ward Alderman Herb Roach.
Roach spoke to the Council recently, saying he is a longtime resident who supports the city’s current contracts with labor unions and who would seek to hold down taxes and reduce the city’s debt load.
“I think we need to make some changes in how we move things forward,” Roach said. “A community cannot stand still or it falls back. But you need to do it in a very economical and fiscally responsible manner.”
The city on April 4 will elect a new mayor to replace Gary Graham, who has served since 1997 but is not running for re-election. The other candidate is the City Clerk of 16 years, Phil Goodwin.
Roach told the Council that communication is a key issue for him and that he has regularly visited the homes in his ward and this year has knocked on close to 6,000 doors throughout the city.
“I do that to try to get feedback from people,” he said. “When we have a vote, I have a pretty good sense of what people in my ward want to see done and what they don’t want to see done.”
He also wants to promote events that involve the entire community. “O’Fallon used to have a lot of them. We used to have a homecoming, we used to have a firemen’s picnic, we used to have a boosters picnic. We don’t have any of those anymore,” he said. “I want to bring that back together – to bring our community together.”
TOO MUCH TIF
Roach opposes over-reliance on tax increment financing (TIF) to bring businesses into the community.
“We can grow our community without having to give away the farm every time,” he said. “We don’t have to give blanket TIFs to everybody when they come into the community. We can sit down and negotiate.”
Roach noted that he was one of four aldermen who opposed plans by city officials to sell or lease the water and sewer systems. At their insistence, the question was put before voters, who roundly defeated it.
Roach said he had checked with 12 other cities that have gone through the process and determined that the plan would probably have resulted in higher rates and degraded service.
“This would not have been good for O’Fallon, and it would not have been good for the employers of O’Fallon,” Roach said. “When you’re selling something like that, you’re not selling it to a philanthropy group. They’re in there to make money.”
Roach, who grew up in O’Fallon, worked in varying capacities for Basler Electric in Highland and later worked for Heartland Bank in Clayton, where he retired as a senior vice president. His maternal great-great-grandfather built the original Becker’s Tavern in 1850, and the family continued operating it until 38 years ago.
Dale Stewart, executive secretary-treasurer for the Council, said that while Roach has not been a Labor leader, he is the kind of candidate that unions can work with successfully.
“At least you ‘ve got someone you can sit down and talk to,” Stewart told the Council. “He seems to be reasonable and willing to work with us, and he does understand what we do. I think we’d have a lot better shot at trying to change some things around with him.”
Labor can’t always hold out for the perfect candidate, Stewart noted.
“We’ve got to elect these kinds of people who do understand what we do and who will make that tough vote and support us when we ask them,” he added. “I think this guy’s worth our support.”
Roach said his name has often been the cause for humor, but he wasn’t opposed to using it at the Council meeting.
“I will try not to live up to my name,” he said, grinning. “I won’t try to bug you too much.”