Oswego Election 2015: Gail Johnson, Candidate for Village President
Name: Gail Johnson
Employment: President/CEO of Face to Face Communications & Training, INC since 1997
Family: Mark Johnson has been my partner and best friend for 37 years—together we have 2 daughters and 1 new granddaughter. In addition I have 1 mom, 1 sister, 1 brother, 9 nieces & nephews, 2 son-in-laws, 2 grandchildren-in-law, aunts, uncles, and cousins—all of whom have helped shape my life and I love with all my heart.
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Northern Illinois University; Master of Arts in Communication studies with an emphasis in organizational development from Northern Illinois University
Previously elected office: Current Oswego Village trustee since 2011
Relevant community service: Past president of the Oswego Chamber of Commerce, Past president of the Oswegoland Park Foundation, Inaugural chair of the Oswego Visitors’ Bureau, Past Oswego Economic Development Corporation board member, KenCom (emergency 911 board) executive board member since 2011; Community volunteer at: Prairiefest, Oswego Senior Center, Wine on the Fox, Brew at the Bridge, Art Fair, Christmas Walk, Recycling Extravaganza, and countless more.
What makes you qualified to be Village President?
As a business owner of 19 years and a volunteer in this community for 37 years I am a proven collaborator, bridge-builder, and leader. Additionally, as a Village board trustee for four years I have been intricately involved in the strategic and comprehensive planning projects as well as our annual budget process. Participation in those events as well as attending committee and commission meetings helps me stay aware of the issues facing Oswego. Most importantly, I listen and act. I do my homework, ask questions, listen for other opinions and concerns—then act in the best interest of all residents.
What do you believe is the role of the Village President?
The Village President impacts three areas of influence:
- The President is responsible for setting the long term vision for the village and making sure that vision is carried out through our professional staff.
- The Village President is responsible for setting the tone and culture of the village and the board of trustees. This profoundly impacts how we are perceived by others and our ability to conduct the business of the Village.
- The Village President is seen “as the Village” when working with various agencies, municipalities, and residents.
If you are elected, what will be the No. 1 priority for the next Village Board?
Attracting and keeping businesses in Oswego. Business brings jobs, revenues for the Village, and increases options for our residents.
What is your vision for the old Alexander Lumber Co. lot and the parcel of land that includes the old Village Hall and the former Oswego Chamber office?
I see a variety of independent restaurants, shops, and housing that open into an Oswego Town Square. That square is where we will gather for a holiday tree lighting, special ceremonies, and meet before heading to dinner. This IS the tipping point for our downtown. Once this site is developed the rest of the downtown will follow.
What is your long-term vision for Main Street?
Main Street is the Living Room of Oswego. It’s the place you CAN’T wait to go and meet your friends, family, and neighbors for a cup of coffee, conversation, a stroll along the river, or a fine dinner. Main Street and the downtown define Oswego and I’m excited that we get to create that identity.
How can Oswego maintain the hometown feel while at same time encouraging development?
Hometown feel is created by a combination of influences. First it is embodied in the people who live here now and will continue to come because of the identity we create. Second, keeping Oswego safe has always been a priority for me. If our children all the way to our seniors feel safe, it will feel like home. Third, the way we create and maintain our roads, streetscapes, and walking paths create an overall impression of who we are. Our new comprehensive plan addresses walkability of a downtown as one of the most important aspects.
How do you propose the village fund its long-term needs for infrastructure improvement?
I propose a two prong approach to this: long term and short term.
First the long term view: we must encourage economic development throughout the Village—bring more businesses to town: downtown, Orchard Road, and sustain business along the Route 34 corridor. Those businesses bring additional, sustainable revenues to the Village.
Second, in the short term: we will have to deal with current reality. The longer we wait to address the infrastructure needs the more expensive they become. We must find sustainable solutions. A majority of the board will turnover in this election and that new board will have to examine all the options: do we tap into our reserves and is that a sustainable revenue source? Do we make deeper cuts into the budget—what will that mean to village services and is it sustainable? Do we place a minor increase in the sales tax? And is that sustainable.
Whatever we do we must ask three questions:
- Is it realistic?
- What impact will this have on our residents?
- Are we able to make this last—is it sustainable?
How can the village better use natural resources like the Fox River for its economic and cultural benefit?
This is one of the biggest keys to a vibrant, successful downtown. We most certainly can work with our Park District and The Conservation Foundation to find ways to tie the Fox River and our “Living Room” together. This has been a key component of the comprehensive plan we are now developing.
What role should economic incentives play in attracting new desirable businesses to Oswego?
Economic incentives should always be used sparingly, conservatively, and with a purpose. Incentives should always be a win-win for the Village and the businesses expressing desire to be here. Last year we unanimously passed an economic incentive policy and it lays out the guidelines for use.
How can the village better work with School District 308 to help ease the district’s property tax burden on local property owners?
Collaborations are extremely important with all of our governmental bodies. I am a born collaborator and will use those skills to reach out to the school board and administration to look for solutions.
What will be your role in attracting a future Metra stop in Oswego?
Metra is a regional issue. I will work diligently with our neighboring communities as well as the county board to put together a plan to bring Metra to Oswego. We can no longer work in isolation on this issue, we need to reach out far and wide.
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