‘Thank you for eight wonderful years’: Parks looks back at term with East St. Louis voters

As I enter the last three weeks of my service as mayor of the magnificent and blossoming East St. Louis, I pause to thank people for the tremendous honor of allowing me to serve in this role of leadership.

Representing this city as mayor since May 10, 2007, has been a tremendous honor; I am forever grateful that the voters entrusted this community’s leadership to me, my family and staff. I have sought to do so in a way that demonstrates respect and also commands respect, such as when I have represented our community at meetings and events of all types and in the media.

I have sought to build and keep key partnerships, such as our new partnership with Western Illinois University and Ameren-Illinois. I have fought to keep our city strong by not allowing outsiders to dictate the terms and conditions by which we will live and conduct business, and by working with entities such as other governments and agencies to bring resources that our community deserves. Examples include bringing $8 million in grants from Illinois to support development of the Port of East St. Louis and of the Northeast Riverfront Industrial Park (Goose Hill). Another recent example to be repeated in 2015 is partnership with Remote Area Medical, a relationship that brought more than $300,000 in “free health care” to the community.

We have accomplished much together with the community; we have delivered Live More Abundantly. Bringing beautiful, quality new housing and business development that is affordable, such as Jazz at Walter Circle, is one example of Life More Abundantly. We have put forth the cleanest, healthiest East St. Louis we have seen in decades, thanks to the Life More Abundantly Clean Team initiating the cleanup and to reformed demolition program that has demolished more than 500 structures since 2011.

Just as important, we have helped to set up an absolute transformation of East St. Louis and have produced the beginning of the city’s turnaround. Thanks in part to the state grant, the port and industrial park are currently under development/construction. We have supported and shepherded the development activity associated with the Stan Musial Veterans Memorial Bridge and the related highways, the solar farm under construction, the Loisel Village Sav-a-lot Plaza under construction and the medical marijuana cultivation center.

We have also enticed McCormack Baron Salazar and Williams Metropolitan to serve as master developers, starting with downtown. That partnership will also assist with the very promising riverfront development that is closely pending. Last, the contributions to the youth of this community, including more than $200,000 raised and donated, will pay dividends for years to come, due to the positive exposures they have received.

Congratulations and best wishes to Councilwoman Emeka Jackson-Hicks as she prepares to take the mayor’s seat in early to mid May.

I also congratulate all other April 7 election winners throughout the greater East St. Louis community and applaud all who participated in the process, especially those who voted.

Again, on behalf of my family and supporters, thank you for eight wonderful years of community building. I look forward to working with you as a tax-paying resident who loves East St. Louis.

Alvin L. Parks Jr. is finishing his term as mayor of East St. Louis.