Despite their differences in a hotly contested and often rancorous mayor’s race, candidates Phil Goodwin and Herb Roach shared a lighter moment of civility that prompted hearty laughter during a mayoral forum March 23.
The forum, which was attended by a standing room only crowd at City Hall, featured mayoral, treasurer and city clerk candidates in a specific format. The mayoral candidates were allowed five to seven minutes for opening statements, two minutes to answer questions drawn at random by moderator Ann Collins, an associate political science professor at McKendree University, then two minutes for closing comments.
When Collins asked Goodwin “What quality do you admire most in your opponent?” he slapped his hands down, smiled and chuckled. Roach, laughing too, turned to him, spread his arms, and exclaimed, “All yours!”
“I’ve known Herb for 40 years, pretty close. I know he’s a dedicated man to the city. We do believe differently in our philosophies, and I think you see it applied here tonight. But I know he’s dedicated, and he’s done a lot of good stuff in his life. And I applaud him for that,” Goodwin said.
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Both men shook hands afterward, and the crowd applauded. But niceties were short-lived.
Goodwin, who has been city clerk for 16 years, is a retired Air Force colonel originally from Quincy, Massachusetts. He has lived in O’Fallon since 1977 and currently runs an insurance business, Phil Goodwin and Associates.
Roach has served on the O’Fallon City Council since 2011 and has been active in the community for 35 years. He spent 40 years in management in the corporate business world. He is currently vice president of SCORE, which provides counseling and training to small business owners.
Goodwin said his goal is to keep the city moving forward, and he is running to “prevent O’Fallon from falling into the wrong hands.”
He is proud of being elected to four terms.
“I don’t take that trust lightly,” he said, vowing transparency. “In 16 years, I have never had one complaint about my office. I ensure that very resident and business are treated equally.”
Goodwin took issue with his opponent’s “false statements” in his ads, explaining that he has never voted on tax increases or any vote. “The clerk can’t vote.”
Goodwin criticized Roach’s opposition to the economic development project Destination O’Fallon.
“I have had a front row to watch my opponent vote no against progress of our city — in fact, more than 80 percent of the time. Do you want to have ‘Mayor No’ talk out of both sides of his mouth?” he said.
Goodwin brought up Roach’s no vote March 20 against the artificial turf for city soccer fields.
“It’s the third time he has voted against Destination O’Fallon. It’s very clear he does not support the project and wants to stop it at every turn,” he said.
But then Goodwin was incredulous about Roach’s participation in the “Shovel Party” Tuesday at the Family Sports Park.
“He was the first alderman to show up and take credit, and then he hustled to get in next to the mayor for the shovel dig to get in the photo. This is the real Herb Roach. Where I come from in Quincy, Massachusetts, we call this being ‘two-faced.’ This is not the character of someone who I want to be mayor, and I want to stop his shenanigans like these,” he said.
Roach said he did vote against the bid on the soccer fields’ turf, but explained that it was because they only had one bid to consider for the $4.6 million contract, and criticized the city for not going out for bids or being content with one bid on some items.
“We had a gentleman come to the meeting and say he could have saved us over $500,000 and wanted the chance to bid,” he said. “This has happened repeatedly on a number of projects — a software contract, a multi-million dollar garbage contract over five years, $100,000 on new street signs, and many other projects. This has cost the city, I believe, thousands and thousands of dollars.”
Roach said he would propose to the City Council that any purchase over $10,000 be required to solicit bids.
In stressing fiscal responsibility by touting his plans for “smart growth,” Roach said he wants to stem unnecessary tax increment financing projects and noted that O’Fallon’s debt has risen 500 percent, from 11 to 67 percent. He wants to be able to be proactive on taking care of worn-out infrastructure, freeze water rates and rollback property taxes.
Goodwin also stressed fiscal responsibility, and said, contrary to what his opponent was saying, there is “no debt problem.” He said the city has $37 million in the bank, $7 million of which is surplus.
He wants to use surplus funds for water rate reduction and provide property tax relief through a sales tax plan. He noted that giving a water bill break to O’Fallon water customers will include those who don’t live within the city limits — the rural and Fairview Heights residents.
“If you pay our water bill, you will get the rebate — that’s fair,” he said.
To separate their experience, style of leadership and managerial approach, both men brought up their backgrounds. They have both been involved in community activities, serve on boards and in organizations, and are longtime residents.
Roach emphasized transparency, and said he will continue town hall meetings like he started as an alderman. He pointed out he has walked through his ward, asking for opinions and suggestions every year he served, and now through the whole city as a candidate.
“The first thing is improved communication, that’s what the citizens want,” he said. “My plan wasn’t developed by an ad agency, it was developed by the citizens.”
When asked about what kind of relationship O’Fallon should have with St. Clair County, Roach said an improved one would be beneficial.
“It behooves us not only to improve our relationship with St. Clair County, but develop relationships with any other schooling, any communities around us, and turn these relationships into pluses,” and suggested going together into a buying consortium to reduce costs for cities.
“When I suggested this years ago, it fell on dead ears,” he said.
Both men shared similar goals for safety and a top-notch police force, and their desire to help residents.