O’Fallon voters on April 5 will have a new mayor for the first time in 20 years, but before then must pick between a candidate who wants to continue Mayor Gary Graham’s legacy or one who wants to seek a new way forward.
Both men have long served the city and the community, knowing one another for 40 years. Both are honorable and have visions for the city.
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Neither would be a bad choice in a city with a professional manager at the helm, but we believe Roach would be a better choice.
Roach’s leadership experience is diverse and has spread into areas that can benefit O’Fallon. His background in finance, contracting and executive management were assets when he researched and then raised serious questions about the cost to residents of privatizing the water and sewer system as well as buying the police computer system that now needs to be replaced. He had a critical, businessman’s eye when it came to the sales tax return on the city imposing the area’s highest hotel tax to build up the Sports Park.
He served on regional, state and international business and trade boards. His background gives him a broad view, and he is pushing for light industry and other diversification of the city’s economic base so the city is not overly reliant on retail the next time the economy takes a tumble. He sees local control of the city’s water and sewer systems as important to controlling that growth.
He doesn’t see tax increment financing as the solution to every economic development need. He said Edwardsville drew Amazon by talking with them and using economic tools that did not include locking in 23 years of theft from those schools.
He said the city should foster relations, not lawsuits, with its schools. Besides the local school board, he served on the state school board, Lindenwood University’s board and the endowment board for the high school.
Cost controls and opening up communication are his main pushes away from the Graham era. He said the city’s spending spree must end. He also said the city never again should be slapped by the state attorney general’s office for violating the Open Meetings Act, as it was regarding an executive session on privatizing the sewer and water systems.
Roach talked a lot about outreach, to surrounding communities and governments. Fostering that relationship with Scott Air Force Base, ensuring the schools are in a strong position, bulk buying with neighboring towns and connecting with the county government all sound like healthy ties and fresh ideas for the city. He fostered communication by visiting every home in his ward each year as an alderman and canvassing about 6,000 homes as a mayor candidate.
Both Roach and Goodwin offered ideas for tax breaks, but, frankly, we have to discount those. Politicians making money promises during an election are just not credible no matter how well-intentioned.
Most important is what are the skills needed to lead smart growth in O’Fallon? To us, Roach’s depth and breadth of experience plus critical approach to questions put him ahead of a really nice guy to whom our nation owes a debt for his service.