Shorewood mayoral candidates express views, reflect village heritage
Shorewood’s future and its heritage are reflected in the April election for mayor.
Current Shorewood Mayor Rick Chapman is seeking re-election and Trustee Barbara “Cookie” Kirkland is to challenge him in the race.
Both candidates are residents of Shorewood by choice. They have served as major figures in village government. And Chapman has lived in Shorewood long enough to remember when Kirkland’s father Dave Barry served as mayor during the 1980s.
“He was in there,” Chapman said. “I only met the man once.”
The candidates brought up issues about the future of Shorewood. But they all in some ways have been part of the 60-year history of the village, which was incorporated in 1957.
“[My dad] and my mom were some of the original people instrumental in incorporating the village back in 1957,” Kirkland said. “He was on the village board and on different committees throughout almost the whole time since the village was incorporated.”
Changing the village’s vantage point
“Since being back on the board for the last three years, I’ve just seen what I think is opportunities for improvements and changes,” Kirkland said. “[I’ve] learned a lot, and I feel like I’m ready to make that move.”
Chapman, mayor since 2001, is seeking his fifth term.
Kirkland said it’s time for change.
“I think we could a better job with some of our planning—be a little more proactive rather than reactive sometimes,” she said.
Kirkland recalled discussions she and other village officials had in regards to a proposed new development in the works for nearby Joliet.
“I think for us right now, there’s a lot of potential things going on around us that we need to be on top of and aware,” she said. “For instance, if that mall actually happens at I-80 and I-55, that could be a huge impact to us in many ways.”
Kirkland, too, shared the importance of working to address the issues facing the village and demonstrating a commitment to residents.
“I think, for us right now, we need to be real aware of our traffic, because right now we just have traffic issues,” Kirkland said. “A lot of it is just growing pains. We need to work on that.”
Kirkland said this is an issue that stems, in part, from the village’s overall plans needing review.
The village’s comprehensive plan is 10 years old.
“It’s time to take a look at that and identify what specifically we want where and make sure that those are things we go after,” Kirkland said. “We’re going to go out and try to find that, rather than sit here and wait for someone to come to us.”
The village of Shorewood has grown in a number of ways over the years by bringing new developments into town and adding new jobs.
Kirkland said this is an area of strength for Shorewood, but she hopes the village’s character isn’t forgotten as it grows, either.
“I still think that we have that small-town feel, but we’re around 17,000 people now,” she said. “We’re really not a small town anymore, but I think that with the services and stuff that we provide to our residents, we still have a lot of that hometown, small-town feel. That makes me happy.”
If elected, Kirkland intends to examine the village’s committees and seek greater community involvement.
Kirkland said this is one initiative she would devise to boost the promotion of the village’s small-town feel.
The past 16 years
Chapman said he’s running for mayor because he enjoys serving the community in this capacity.
“I’ve been here [in Shorewood] when we were 1,300 people and now we’re almost 18,000,” Chapman said. “All these changes have just been constantly taking place, and you need to have a vision of where all this has to come together. I think that I’ve got it.”
Chapman envisions the village being a place where his grandchildren can grow and feel safe, where people can be proud to live there and where there is a lot of activity so they can feel compelled to shop, dine and enjoy their time.
“I’ve been fortunate to keep it coming in that direction,” he said.
One project that he’s most looking forward to seeing come together is the acquisition and engineering of Lake Michigan Water.
Chapman said he and other village officials have been working to develop solutions to address the declining water supply issue pressing municipalities across the region to identify alternative sources.
“It’s taken me a lot of years first of all to get the position to finance it to where it’s not a burden on the residents,” he said. “It took quite a while to get there. It took a lot of work to get to the position we’re in today, where we’re actually engineering the water from Lake Michigan into Shorewood.”
That project is slated to take four to five years to reach completion.
Chapman said just getting that initiative started is a huge accomplishment in his eyes.
There are a number of other accomplishments for which the mayor feels proud of, Chapman said. They include the building of Village Hall, the amphitheater and veteran’s memorial.
Chapman said in his time as mayor, he likes to believe that he represents all of Shorewood. The notion that change is needed as some might contend holds no weight, he said.
“The typical slogan for somebody who wants to come in to [do] what you’re doing is it’s time for change,” Chapman said. “How many times have you hear that? It’s time for change. Well, what do you want to change? Do you want an unbalance budget? Because I run a balanced budget, we don’t owe anybody [and] they don’t owe us. I run a balanced budget. Change? If you want change, do you want it to be unbalanced?”
Chapman refuted the idea of needing for change for the sake of change, saying that he believes establishing longstanding relationships with people helps get the job done.
“I look at it and I go, ‘it changes everyday,’” he said. “The face and the body stay the same, but the village changes on a constant; it’s dynamic.”
Chapman said though his focus is largely on water and maintaining quality infrastructure, there’s one thing the village is missing and he is to pursue that if re-elected.
Chapman intends to develop an athletic recreation center for children, teens and older persons to enjoy.
That project comes with its share of obstacles, Chapman said.
“We don’t have a park district, so we don’t have that separate taxing body pulling money out of the public,” he said. “We have to take our money from the general fund to support our parks. So, it’s more difficult for us than it is for Plainfield, Channahon, Joliet.”
Chapman added that he wants to help the village find a way to bring the project together if elected to serve another term.
“I want to stayed focused [on] the job at hand, and I think I’ve been able to do that for my length of time,” Chapman said. “I want to represent everybody, not just a select few.”
Rick Chapman: Mayor since 2001; trustee from 1993 to 2001; retired Troy Fire Department lieutenant
Barbara “Cookie” Kirkland: Appointed as a trustee in 2014; previously served as a trustee from 1997 to 2003; lifelong Shorewood resident