FULTON, Ill. — Fulton mayoral candidate Wendy Ottens believes her eight years of experience on the River Bend School Board make her prepared to take on the role of mayor.
Ottens served seven of her eight years on the school board as the school board president. She believes her experience on the school board gives her budgetary experience that would help in her transition if elected as the city’s next mayor. The school board hired three superintendents in her eight years on the board, she noted.
“I have dealt with budgets over $1 million and that’s the best experience I could probably say that I brought from the school board,” Ottens said. “You have to know to work within your means. You have to know not to transfer balances and at the school board, it was impossible to do that because of the state legislature. But at the city level, it needs to be watched. And so that’s where my experience from the school board, I think, will transfer easily into being mayor.”
The mayor needs to know Robert’s Rules of Order and be the facilitator of the meeting, Ottens said. She believes one of the jobs as mayor is to get aldermen to speak about the issues they are voting on, she said.
”The most specific one that I feel is important as my job as mayor is to get the aldermen when they make a decision to speak and address what they’re voting for,” Ottens said. “If they say no, I want to know why. If they say yes, I want to know why. And that’s my purpose, I believe, as a mayor is to get the aldermen to speak so that their constituents who voted them in know exactly where they stand.”
Ottens supports the city engaging in goal planning, something she sees as imperative when working with a large budget. The plan needs to be utilized even when different officials are elected, she believes. Ottens stressed improvement of the city’s infrastructure will not happen overnight.
If elected, Ottens will focus on how the city can acquire grants, she said. Even with Illinois’ financial state, there are grants out there, Ottens believes. She supports hiring someone to write grants for the city, she said.
”I believe a good grant writer is an artist in and of itself,” Ottens said. “Grant writing is tricky. Grant writing is very professional. And grant writing, I think at the city level, we need to hire. Because at the stroke of a pen, you can get so many hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Ottens believes adding more events in Fulton may be a way to increase revenue, she said. The city already has Dutch Days that is offered each year, she noted. She would like to add new events in the future, she stated.
”I think we need events to take place here,” Ottens said. “Events bring in money. Events bring in new people. Our little river town has a lot to offer people. We have a museum. We have the Windmill. We have Heritage Canyon. If you’re a small town and you don’t have these things, you become a pass through. And if you can possibly take advantage of the things we have, that’s awesome.”
Ottens has attended many meetings since she made the decision to run for mayor, she noted. She believes the city needs to get information from the City Council to the public. She supports making meetings available for residents without physically attending City Council meetings. She noted the city recently started recording meetings, which is an improvement, she believes.
The next Fulton mayor, whether it is Ottens or challenger Kevin Wright, will have several hirings that need to be done. Ottens noted the city needs a city administrator and city clerk. They will also need to fill an alderman vacancy in the First Ward, she noted. There is no candidate on the ballot for the First Ward vacancy. The city will also need to hire a police chief.
”It’s going to be jump in with both feet into the fire,” Ottens said. “But they do have educational programs that are offered in the area through the state. Lots of places that I will be able to go and begin to be informed. My experience with the board gave me the professionalism, I think, that I need to be a good city mayor. And that’s a good start. And my wanting to do a good job. I think that’s so important. I want to be positive. I love our little town.”
The Clinton Herald reached out to Fulton mayoral candidate Kevin Wright this week for this article but he could not be reached for comment. Whomever is elected will fill the seat held by out-going Mayor Mike Ottens.
The Whiteside County consolidated general election is scheduled for April 6.