From the moment I set foot on the revered ground of West Point nearly 40 years ago, to the moments when I look in the eyes of my junior ROTC students today, I have ultimately had but one job: public service. It’s a commitment to protecting the ideals of the people I serve, fostering excellence in the people I lead and completing the mission no matter the obstacles.
The titles may change... lieutenant colonel, battalion commander, school board member, fire and police commissioner, city councilman... but my commitment to serve a cause greater than any one person does not! This is no side gig for me nor a weekend hobby: it’s the central thread of my adult life.
As Naperville must elect a new mayor on April 4, we’re in need of a qualified replacement. Someone who is not just willing, but who has the experience to further Naperville’s deserved reputation for safety, desirability and community. I feel called to do what I have been trained for and have trained others to do—lead! It's a skill I learned and practiced through my studies at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and subsequently during my 22 years spent on active duty with what is arguably the best and most extensive education on leadership in the world: the United States Military. It’s a skill I refined by earning a doctorate in values-driven leadership from Benedictine University and an MBA from Webster University.
Combining that experience, my 17 years as a Naperville resident, and my growing years as a senior member of Naperville’s government, I’m not just well-prepared for the office, I am uniquely qualified for the mission: a high stakes decision-maker, manager and mentor with a background in the business of governing—where the bottom line is effectively serving the people we represent. It comes down to building trust. I’m ready to get to work and so I ask for your vote to be your next mayor.
READY and forward!
I count myself very lucky. I found the right girl for me in high school and I’ve held onto her for 41 years and counting! We raised two children in Naperville who are now finding their own success as adults. My wife, Kim, is truly the unsung hero of my career, taking care of our family while I served our country.
For 22 years of that career I was in the Army, starting as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and retiring in 2008 with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During that time, I lead, mentored and developed future leaders. Then and thereafter, my steadfast commitment has been to live by West Point’s mission—Duty, Honor, Country. It remains at the core of who I am as a person.
The Army holds dear the value of selfless service, where you put the needs of others before your own. We were regularly reminded that we succeed as a team, not as an individual. This is the essence of public service, fulfilling the needs of the team—the community. It’s a job that’s never complete, never gets easier, and is never the same from one day to the next.
Through my experience, I’ve become well-versed in governing: responding to the needs of the community and using the resources of government to find solutions. Being mayor, particularly of a city with the scale and expectations of Naperville, requires someone who is no novice to the task. I’ve prepared for Naperville’s challenges and I’m committed to seeing the work get done.
Each of my credentials show that my career has been dedicated to service:
To our country... serving, managing, and leading as a career officer in the U.S. Army, which builds strong leaders to keep every part of that organization operating and adapting effectively.
To our community... serving Naperville’s residents for over 10 years in elected office, in addition to being part of several boards and commissions. I’ve gained a deep understanding of how our local government operates through the relationships I’ve built among the staff, community and business leaders, volunteer groups and residents. I led the effort to update the language of the city’s mission statement: "To provide services that ensure a high quality of life, sound fiscal management, and a dynamic business environment, while creating an inclusive community that values diversity."
And to our kids... serving on the D204 school board for five years, and, for the past 15 years, as a JROTC instructor and mentor. Encouraging their involvement in the community is crucial to making them responsible citizens.
As a former career army officer, former Fire and Police Board commissioner, and the son of a police officer, I fully support our exceptional, internationally-accredited fire and police departments. That includes supporting them as they continue to evolve and adapt to the demands placed on them, such as through the police department embracing the pillars of 21st Century Policing.
I’m regularly in contact with the police and fire chiefs to keep abreast of issues they’re facing and what equipment would improve their effectiveness. It is critical that we continue to provide them with the resources, materials and training to carry out their mission to the standards the community demands! It’s through this support that they will continue to set the bar, with the accolades to show for it, as a modern and valuable asset to the community.
We enjoy a city with a documented crime rate far lower than the vast majority of US cities, and lower than most all the surrounding communities. Some residents, though, do not believe that fact because social media has made us more aware of criminal activity. But our numerous national recognitions for being one of the safest cities to raise a family are no error!
The issue that arises from this is misinformation, and the decisions that result from it. The opportunity is for government to be a resource and ally, educating residents and preventing misinformation from being its own form of harm—be it regarding crime, home repair scams, elder abuse or the like. It’s my direct experience in confronting misinformation, alongside the city’s skilled employees, that informs better decision-making within government. And it will make me a more informed mayor for Naperville!
Unfortunately, we cannot mention policing without also noting how mental health issues underpin about half of local emergency response incidents. In response to this, some 70% percentage of our police officers have so far undergone CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) training and all are trained in Mental Health Awareness.
At my urging, we complimented this training by installing social workers within our first responder ranks to engage with residents experiencing a mental health crisis.
Another serious issue we are very aware of is the mental health of our emergency responders and medical teams. Covid-19, in particular, has drastically increased the likelihood of mental health issues amongst these people!
We, as a community, must be vigilant about the strains brought by mental health issues, both in how first responders are called to address crisis situations and how we can identify and preempt a crisis in the making for the betterment of our residents. I will continue to look for ways to ease these strains, based on evidence-based research, through public policy.
An experienced, results-oriented leader
A robust business community is a fundamental part of why Naperville is such a healthy city. From the vantage point of my seat on the city council and being its representative to the Naperville Development Partnership, I’m proud of our successes in attracting new businesses, filling storefronts, maintaining a vibrant downtown and expanding the tax base—which has then enhanced our ability to pursue sound fiscal policies and lower the property tax rate.
Determining what new development is right for Naperville, right for the location and right for the residents is a painstaking process. One that benefits from having excellent city staff, but demands an experienced leader who can bring together the right minds to help find a way forward. That process is not complete without the community being involved and engaged as well!
Facing tomorrow's challenges
One particular challenge we will face in the coming years is adapting to changes coming due to the sustainability movement. Issues such as ordinances for EV charging infrastructure, zero-emission construction standards and transitioning to renewable energy sources will all demand we answer difficult questions! None will be resolved in the near future, but they represent a core duty of government: planning for a tomorrow that may look quite different from today.
Working with city staff, I’ve seen the seeds of these changes start to sprout. We need to get in front of this by researching how they affect residents and city resources, and the demands they will place on our budget.
Another critical topic facing us is expanding the city’s workforce/affordable housing stock. We have a state-imposed requirement to have at least 10% of our housing stock qualify as affordable. We have not met this threshold, so it is not a subject we can simply ignore. Achieving this can be done without upending Naperville’s reputation for safety, desirability and community as affordable housing projects have been completed throughout the city with success. Satisfying the law and maintaining our standards are not mutually exclusive goals.
Naperville needs to find a way forward on this. Doing so offers real benefits and opportunities for our residents, particularly those looking for housing options for all stages of life. We (government and the community) need to have these conversations on how to do this to our collective satisfaction. As mayor, I intend to both encourage the public to help us and apply the skills unique to my background to drive us towards a solution.
Good governance is a critical part of the compact the public makes with its government. To execute the power and authority given to government, we must earn and maintain the public’s trust from the top-down. It’s an obligation I feel every time I take my seat as a second-term city councilman because every one of my decisions impacts someone else’s life.
Government delivers services not for market share, competitive advantage or to maximize revenue but because they are essential to the mission of governing. The means to pursue that mission may be familiar to the private sector—a world I understand and respect from being the city council’s representative to the Naperville Development Partnership—but obligation is a different beast in that arena. When I was in the military, we had another word for obligation. One we don’t take lightly: duty. It’s a revered concept because it’s one of the Seven Core Values that the Army instills in everyone who wears the uniform: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.
For 22 years, these core values were the underpinnings of every decision I made, every action I took and every command I gave. They informed me at every stage of my time in the public sector, and they will continue to do so if I have the privilege of serving as Naperville’s next mayor.
What defines good governance? You’ll find terms like participation, responsiveness, efficiency, transparency, ethics, competence and cost. These clearly synergize with the Army’s Seven Core Values, which is why many former military members find that staying in the public sector plays to their strengths. We’re built for the job—a job that prioritizes purpose.