Community / News / April 1, 2009

Sal Garza, mayoral candidate, looks to bring opportunity back to Knox

Sal Garza, 45, lives with his wife, Eva, and their three children, ages 18, 14 and five. He worked as a Senior Engineer for Maytag for 20 years, and when Maytag left began a new career leading Illinois’ Workforce Development program “Opportunity Returns Economic Development.” He has since transitioned to a job in the Western Illinois Region, working as a regional economic development professional.

How do you plan to address the safety of off-campus students and Galesburg residents in the greater Galesburg community?

“I would actually narrow that down to the neighboring area to the west of Knox College. We’ve had break-ins and people are concerned not only for their home security, but for their own safety. I plan to sit down with John Schlaf to more clearly understand the challenges and how the police can address them. John is a savvy guy, and I have great faith in the police, but if you’re experiencing a higher frequency of break-ins and people are concerned about their own safety, I want to know what we can do to mitigate that.”

How do you see Knox fitting into the community at large?

“I know that Knox has a good number of professors and graduates, and I’m looking to identify additional opportunities to integrate the talent that resides at Knox with the community. I want to see how they can weigh in and help the community move forward. I’m looking to recruit that talent, in some capacity, in task forces or commissions, or by tapping into their expertise, as with economics professors, for example. Galesburg’s plan currently includes redeveloping the National Railroad Hall of Fame, expanding the Amtrak station, reconfiguring roads to be more conducive to biking and walking to the downtown area and physically connecting downtown to Knox. In doing this we’re incorporating perspectives from people at Knox as well. We’re asking, ‘What are they looking for in terms of resident attraction?’ but we also want to make it more enjoyable for students. New shops will spring up, in terms of restaurants, maybe ethnic foods. We’re looking to make more options available to students, faculty, and residents.”

Do you believe that the resources at Knox College have been of benefit to the community?

“From an economic development perspective, yes. The employment Knox provides and the economic investment back into the community by revamping older buildings on campus and the creation of new buildings: that creates construction jobs in the community, promotes business, and contributes to the local community.”

How do you think Galesburg could better use the resource that is Knox College?

“Right now, Knox is being under-utilized, and I think that they’re being under-utilized only because there’s so much talent that could weigh into the issue we have here in the community. I welcome the opportunity to identify those opportunities, and I’m looking at establishing a task force or a commission to identify those opportunities, and then move those opportunities into reality. I would look at it as exploratory. We need to take a look at how we can maximize the potential Knox college has, not just as an economic resource.”

Why do you want to be the Mayor of Galesburg?

“I’ve lived in this community for the greater part of my life. My family came here from Mexico, looking for opportunity. Today our community is struggling to find its new identity. What is its local economy? What’s it comprised of? The passion that I have is to return Galesburg to a place where you can raise your family as well as be a community full of opportunity. Those opportunities are gonna be different, because of the changes to the global economy. I plan on having Galesburg continue to prosper in the future. The only way we can do that is by having coherent leadership in place. I worked at Maytag, and when Maytag closed its doors I decided to stay, and staying here I knew I needed to prepare myself to contribute to work force development first, then economic development. After dealing with 102 counties helping to develop the WorkForce initiative for ten years, it’s a smooth transition to economic development. My vision is simple, give this community more opportunities, and help it to find its new identity.”

How do you plan to address the issue of Galesburg’s growing poverty?

“I’m not waiting for an election to address the issue of Galesburg’s poverty. A year and a half ago we established the Knox County Poverty Task Force Initiative. We’re attempting to address Knox County being on the poverty list for three consecutive years. There are four indicators. First, high school teen pregnancy rates; second, a high unemployment rate; third is the graduation rate for high schools; and fourth is the dedicated poverty rate itself, where so many households are living under a federal level of poverty. We are mobilizing the community, all its sectors—education, economic development government—to come together and clearly understand what the issues of poverty are. We also seek to identify and, in terms opportunities, drive efficiency and an understanding of where the gaps are. We’ve identified the models that are working today in other parts of the state, as well as across the country. Mature models have been in place for 25-30 years or better. We’re looking not only at generational poverty, but at situational poverty. I chair that task force.”

David Nolan

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