Walter McAllister is both the owner of popular Q’s Cafe on Main Street and a candidate for the Mayor of Galesburg. The Knox Student spoke with McAllister to discuss his reasons for running for mayor and what he hopes to accomplish if elected.
The Knox Student: What made you decide to run for Mayor?
Walt McAllister: It wasn’t any one specific thing, it was an accumulation over the course of the years. I think the first one was about three years ago, when the Boys and Girls Club came to the city because they needed help with their heater. The way the city treated them was shameful and I was ashamed of my town. That just stuck with me.
Then, I had a parking issue out in front of my restaurant and I took it to the city. The disrespect that was shown to the store owners downtown added to that frustration. The city also sold the community center with the promise of another one, and that hasn’t happened. Then, when we took up the Armory fight, and the Mayor said “We don’t need a community center,” that was the final straw.
TKS: How has the process of running for mayor been?
WA: It’s been overwhelmingly supportive to the point where it’s humbling. I announced my intentions and I was inundated with phone calls at six in the morning the next day. Facebook was just blowing up Ñ what can we do? How can we help? It dawned on me at that time that, okay, there’s a lot of people putting hope in us, so we have to make sure that we are truly speaking for them.
TKS: Do you have any things planned to talk to the community or events coming up for the campaign?
WA: As far as the campaign goes, right now what I’m doing is collecting signatures to get on the ballot. Building up a Facebook following. … I’m meeting with city leaders. … Right now, because I’m trying to get a sense of what we need, because I have a very limited view here. So, if you came to me and said hey, this is the issue that Knox students have, when I speak for you I’m saying it the way it needs to be said. I want it to be less about my personal opinion and more about what the experts know.
TKS: What are the goals you want to accomplish if elected?
WA: Number one, we want a community. We want everyone to work together, to grow this city, where everybody is included, everyone rises with the tide and everyone is respected.
TKS: How are you going to go about creating the community and fostering respect for everyone?
WA: We’re going to listen. We’re going to sit down and we’re going to be available. We’re going to take their opinions as they should be taken and see if we can get all the groups to work together as opposed to being protective of their own groups. We want to get city leaders to sit down, answer emails and phone calls … Encourage people to come to city council meetings and advertise that, hey, there’s a city council meeting coming up and these are the issues. Just be available. … I will promise that you will be listened to, because I care.
TKS: With the way the [Galesburg] city government is set up, as the city manager form of government, and how the mayor does not have as much power as the City Manager or the City Council, how will you deal with issues that you personally believe in, but are voted down?
WA: Well, I think that the Mayor has the opportunity to use the bully pulpit and get into the newspaper and say, Hey, here’s how I feel about things, these are the councilmen who are against it. If you live in their district and are against it, please call them. I want participatory government. I want the people in town to stand up. They’ve been disenfranchised for so long that they don’t get involved anymore. I have heard from some city leaders, who have had issues that, when they get up in front of the council, they get ridiculed. And then the next day in the paper they get ridiculed again. In the long run, they have hurt themselves more than they have helped themselves by speaking out and that’s the culture we have to change. And that’s the culture we can change.