On Dec. 1, the day of the Lights Fantastic Parade in Carbondale, Mayor Mike Henry and I had our first conversation as candidates for the office of mayor of Carbondale.
It was exactly the conversation Carbondale needed its two mayoral candidates to have.
Mike approached me while I was sitting at a table with my partner and our children after I had waved at him as we both entered City Hall.
Geoff Ritter, of The Carbondale Times, was sitting a few seats over from my family and I and he snapped a candid photo of our conversation. This is written to provide context for that conversation.
Mike approached me and was respectful of the fact that my family and I were eating and offered a greeting of a fist bump in place of a handshake.
Unbeknownst to Mike, I’m sure, I had been excited to speak with him one-on-one and was well prepared to have the conversation that followed.
I started off by telling him that I was excited for a campaign that will make Carbondale a better place, regardless the outcome. I shared with Mike that person after person has told me that same thing, that whatever the outcome of our race, it will be a race that serves the interest of our city.
I told him that I have been in his corner before, whether running a parody Twitter account against his opponent in the 2015 mayoral race, or using the WTF? Carbondale social media accounts to shield him, council and staff from the aggressive criticisms of a single individual during the food and beverage tax policy process in 2016.
I apologized to Mike for having been aggressive toward him in a few posts on this account earlier this year, and that statements I have made in any newspaper about my issues with him were not from a place of malice, but the softest and most truthful answers I could provide to reporters when asked about what my opposition to our current mayor is.
I also explained to Mike that I understand the difference between what I have been, an outside antagonist, and what I hope to be, an institutional leader. I was clear with him that I understand that I have been a headache for him, our city manager and others with my activities, but that I wish only to work with our municipal leadership to make our Carbondale a better Carbondale.
I said it and I mean it.
I am on no war path against anyone. We have dedicated, knowledgeable and professional city staff throughout our city government and my wish is to provide a vision which they may have input in, and ultimately, the capacity to fulfill.
We discussed business, and the professional sacrifices he and I understand we must make if we seek to serve our city and its citizens. I told him how I had already been required to relinquish my monthly column in The Southern Illinoisan's Southern Business Journal to ensure there could be no charge of bias during this campaign. I also told Mike that I would likely be asking the city for a liquor license for a new business myself and three other business partners are working to bring to downtown. I explained to him that I understand that if I am privileged enough to be elected that I would have to immediately and fully divest from that business because a mayor may not hold a liquor license in the municipality in which they are elected.
Mike empathized, explaining to me how he had to reduce his business with the City of Carbondale from more than $40,000 a year to less than $1,200 per year when he was elected mayor.
I commend him for these actions in service to our citizens.
We closed out the conversation by talking about an approach I made to him nearly two years ago, an approach in which I asked him for any resources he could direct me toward as I attempted to bootstrap a run for Congress.
In that conversation, Mike acknowledged the value of my ideas and contributions during council meetings, and encouraged me to run for mayor or council before seeking higher office.
He chuckled as he said he didn’t expect that I would take his advice and run against him.
It is undoubtable that we will have to trade jabs at some point during this campaign, whether during debates or through the media, but that will not be how we define our campaigns.
I am appreciative of the time Mike spent chatting with me, and I hope it will not be the last. Pleasant conversations between our politicians bodes well for this campaign and the future of Carbondale.
We have an opportunity to define our campaigns with ideas, with energy and with our visions for the future of Carbondale.
By doing so, regardless if Mike is re-elected as mayor or if I am newly elected as mayor, we will all benefit from the political process.
That’s something I believe we all deserve.