Fred Peterson, 54, a 1972 Galesburg High School graduate, unsuccessfully ran for Knox County Clerk 15 years ago but is hopeful his bid for mayor of Galesburg will not end similarly. Peterson, the former owner of Virginia’s Ice Cream, former Protexall sales manager and current entrepreneur, picked up petitions from City Hall to get his name on the upcoming election ballot just four days before the deadline and collected 229 signatures, 28 signatures more than required. If he wins the election April 7, he will face some big challenges. Earlier this week, he took time out of his schedule to answer a few questions.
How do you plan to address the safety of off-campus students and Galesburg residents in the greater Galesburg community?
“I own an apartment building near the Knox campus, and I rent to both Knox and Carl Sandburg students. I would like to see an emergency light installed on the corner of Simmons and West Street. The campus is so full at Knox that there are not enough places for students to live on campus and a light there would be great. Any other property in the vicinity of the campus where students live should have a light installed near them. As far as Galesburg’s residents go, from what I understand we have a large police force for a city our size. If the economy was not the way it is now I would like to see video cameras installed along Main Street. If anything is not working safety wise, we need to look at how to fix the problem.”
How do you see Knox fitting into the community at large?
“I think Knox does a wonderful job of trying to fit into the community. However, one thing I have thought about is a weekly newsletter Knox could put out to let the community know what is happening on campus; but that would be too costly. It would be neat if Knox could tie into the Chamber of Commerce website and work with someone to link what is going on at Knox to the site. As a whole, Knox is an advantage to Galesburg. We need to let the citizens and our visitors [be] more aware of what Knox is to Galesburg.”
Do you believe that the resources at Knox College have been of benefit to the community?
“The resources at Knox have absolutely been a benefit to the community, but we need to fine tune to toot Knox and Carl Sandburg College’s horn a little more to let people know the resources that are available.”
Why are you running for mayor?
“I left Galesburg in the early ‘70s after I graduated and I moved back 22 years ago and bought Virginia’s Ice Cream. Back when I bought Virginia’s, which was located on East Main Street, I tried to get the city to extend the TIF boundaries. Virginia’s was west of Chestnut Street and the TIF ended at Chestnut. I am running for mayor because someone needs to think outside of the box and get everyone on the same page and make things happen. Someone really messed up 22 years ago by not extending the TIF and making something happen. I can make things happen and get everyone on the same page.”
How do you plan to address the issue of Galesburg’s growing poverty?
“I have to refer to my favorite movie, Field of Dreams, for this question. If you build it then they will come. If we could get a large corporation to come here that would help, but I don’t think we will ever get another large corporation to move to Galesburg. I still have contacts from my time at Protexall and I would like to see if there is a remote possibility we can get a large corporation here but look at the economic times we are in right now—that is going to be tough. If we can keep status quo then we will be okay. President Obama says there is money available for entrepreneurs. We need more entrepreneurs here. The National Railroad Hall of Fame Museum would help, but I think it is going to be hard to get companies to invest in it; but if they are supported by what is in it I think they would donate. I think the museum should go inside the Sandburg Mall. It is a great location and all kinds of railroad specialty shops could go in there. We could put train simulators in the old movie theater. It would be very cool. You would not have to spend money to buy up land and there are 3,000 parking spots at the mall. There are only about 150 parking spaces that will be available at the current proposed location. We need to start out big and not small when it comes to the museum.”
What do you see as Galesburg’s greatest strengths?
“Where Galesburg is located is a definite strength. We are centrally located from just about anywhere in the United States via the railroad and interstates 34 and 74. We are right in the heart of things. The people who live here are another strength. The people are friendly here and Galesburg is a people town.”
What is your platform?
“My platform would be economic development. We need to get more jobs in Galesburg. We need more than just retail and to show people what we have whether it is the Logistics Park, the former Butler location or Maytag location. We have a workforce here.”
Why should people vote for you?
“We are all qualified in different ways but one thing I have noticed with other candidates is a bunch of fluff. A mayor tries to get people to agree. I want to get everyone on the same page and get all the economic groups we have on the same page. The city not wanting to deal with GREDA is a hard pill for me to swallow. One of the things about me is that I am a straight shooter. The city needs someone not afraid to go up against something put in front of them and I am not afraid to do that and make things happen. I have two daughters. Hayley is a 21-year-old junior at Bradley University and Abby is 19 years old and in her final year at Carl Sandburg College. I can relate to Knox students and respect them. They are so focused on college and what they are here for which is to get a great education and better themselves. ”