Community / News / January 14, 2009

Knox professor running for Galesburg mayor

Knox Journalism department co-chair and distinguished professor of journalism Marilyn Webb will throw her hat into the ring in the upcoming Galesburg mayoral election. She is one of ten candidates in a list that includes an alderman, two former aldermen, a former mayor, a pilot, and a recent Knox graduate.

Webb spent most of her journalistic career in New York, the home state of both Webb and Galesburg founder George Washington Gale. She has served as editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, and has worked for publications such as New York Magazine, Women’s Day, and Redbook. Her 1999 book, The Good Death, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Webb has lived and taught in Galesburg for the past eight years and intends to spend the rest of her life here.

“People have the opinion that this isn’t a great place, but I come from a city that people call one of the greatest cities in the world and this is where I want to make my home. This is a good city,” she said.

Webb decided to run for mayor because she was depressed and frustrated by the mudslinging going on in Galesburg politics, with community leaders squabbling about GREDA and the recent poverty report put out by the Galesburg Community Impact Group among other issues. She says her experience living in Galesburg combined with her background elsewhere will combine to bring a breath of fresh air to the town.

“[Galesburg] needs new blood, someone who doesn’t have baggage. We need more creative juices flowing than angry juices,” she said.

Webb says she will apply the listening skills she’s gathered from a lifetime of reporting to really listen to the Galesburg community to develop practical ideas. She will work with Galesburg citizens to solve the city’s problems from the bottom up, rather than searching for “saviors” like factories or Chinese business to take Galesburg out of the economic slump triggered by the closing of the Maytag plant in 2004.

“The [office of the] mayor doesn’t do enough,” Webb said. In Galesburg, the office of City Manager does most of the actual governing of the city. “There has to be some vision involved…the mayor could inspire community conversations to take care of ourselves rather than finding saviors.”

If elected, Webb has a wide range of goals for Galesburg, from connecting to President-Elect Barack Obama’s plans for implementing alternative energy like corn ethanol and wind farms, to encouraging local entrepreneurship, to improving womens’ health services. She says she will look for solutions in places other city leaders have not.

“We need to understand why young people are leaving and how we can get them to stay and build community…to start listening groups around coalitions of young people and people of color. They might have solutions we haven’t heard before,” she said.

Webb will have to collect 211 signatures by Jan 26 to appear on the mayoral ballot, a task made more difficult by the fact that, as a Knox employee, she cannot campaign on the campus (unlike the other mayoral candidates.) The election will take place April 7.

Deana Rutherford

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