A journalism professor at Knox College for the last eight years, Marilyn Webb, 66, is a candidate in the upcoming mayoral race in Galesburg, Ill. She is married to retired businessman John Sheedy and has three stepchildren: Patrick Sheedy, Ally, who has a daughter, and Meghan Antonangeli, who has a son. Her daughter Jennifer Kiefer has three boys. Together with professors David Amor, Robert Siebert, and Robin Metz, Webb built the journalism program at Knox, leaving the life of professional journalism that she had built in New York.
How do you plan to address the safety of off-campus students and Galesburg residents in the greater Galesburg community?
Webb says that the crime rate in Galesburg is not as high as it is perceived to be and has stayed at pretty much the same percentage over the last 20 years. The crimes committed are against property, not people, as well as drug crimes. Webb recommends that Knox students give their phone numbers to Campus Safety for the campus alerts, as well as staying alert when in the Galesburg area. Webb says, “Sexism and racism still exist in America and that is sad. While I can’t change that as mayor, I am going to try to bring people together to address the ways in which it interferes with our interconnectedness in Galesburg and to try to find some community solutions by talking about issues from the bottom up through neighborhood and town meetings and new city commissions that, as mayor, I can appoint.”
How do you see Knox fitting into the community at large?
“The relationship between Knox and the community is more porous than it is perceived to be and it should be encouraged,” says Webb. She feels that the city has been very welcoming to journalism students, at least, that she has had go out into the community to do assignments. She also says, “Knox has a wealth of faculty that could help get Galesburg back on its feet.” She also admires all of the students who volunteer and student teach in the community.
Do you believe that the resources at Knox College have been of benefit to the community? How do you think Galesburg could better use the resource that is Knox College?
Webb thinks that the faculty could be of use on city committees, especially those faculty from the economic and technological fields, as the city moves from an economy based on manufacturing to whatever the future economical provider will be. She also thinks that the business and art departments could utilize the empty storefronts in Galesburg for student projects. “The music department could expand beyond McGillacuddy’s on Thursdays,” says Webb.
Why do you want to be the mayor of Galesburg?
Through teaching at Knox for the last eight years, Webb says that she has developed extremely close relationships with all sectors of the city. She feels these relationships can help a lot towards rebuilding Galesburg. “This is the first time I have ever done anything like this,” Webb says. The focus of her journalism while she has been at Knox has been the community, local elections, community events, etc. The reason that she is so drawn to Galesburg is the journalistic history that it has with S.S. McClure and Carl Sandburg. She says, “We need to have a model for journalists to be objective and engaged. Now is the time to be engaged.”
How do you plan to address the issue of Galesburg’s growing poverty?
Webb feels that Galesburg has two kinds of poor, the first being “the new poor.” These are the people who have lost their jobs for the first time in their lives, the ones who thought that they were secure. The second poor are the poor people that people perceive to be coming here from Chicago and people who are concerned about the city’s public housing situation. However, most of the people living in the public housing are single women, the elderly, and young or single parent households. One of the things that sparked Webb’s decision to run for mayor was legislation that was trying to ban further building of multifamily housing. Webb feels that a lot of this issue is racial.
What do you see as Galesburg’s greatest strengths?
Webb says that Galesburg has the friendliest people she has ever met, citing an issue of USA Today in which Galesburg was said to be the friendliest city in America. She also thinks a strong asset is Knox College and how much the community supports it. She also thinks that Carl Sandburg College is a good school that has done much for the community through helping former Maytag employees and its research into wind energy. She also feels that Galesburg is “energy central” because of the possibilities for future energy research in agriculture and wind. Galesburg’s history is also a strong selling point for Webb. She thinks Galesburg’s strong points are not only journalistic exports, but also the Lincoln-Douglas debates and the anti-slavery movement. Webb says, “We should live up to and be proud of our history. This is the history my heart is totally aligned with.”