Joliet resident Rachel Ventura knows that it takes a community-wide effort to make a city run well.
So, when an opportunity arose to create change and run for an at-large position on the Joliet City Council, she said this is it.
“Our unemployment is up, our crime is way up, litter is all throughout our streets, our infrastructure is crumbling—and these things I know can be repaired especially if we’re $50 million in the black,” Ventura said. “Some of these things can be invested in. I don’t see that happening in our city. I’ve got two little girls who are going to grow up in Joliet, and I want them to be as proud of the city they come from as I was.”
The Joliet native moved to California after graduating from high school in 2001. It was there she bought her first home on Long Beach. Around that time, officials were breaking ground on the downtown area to redevelop it.
Ventura said it was while living in California that she realized how she could make a difference in Joliet upon returning last year.
“I watched them give tax incentives to businesses in a very short period of time, and those incentives had strings attached,” she said. “The businesses came in all at once as a group, instead of one at a time. That’s what I want to do for our downtown [in Joliet]. I want to offer these businesses to come in and revitalize all at once—along with the housing that we’re already implementing—and continue to implement the Camiros downtown study that Joliet paid for in 2015.”
Ventura said if the city aggressively goes after opportunities to revitalize the downtown, that’ll make all the difference just as it did on Long Beach.
“They had big investors behind them—the F-150 racetrack was a big push for that to happen, the same with some of the hotels and some of the large chains,” Ventura said. “They wanted to be on the water, and Long Beach was a perfect place for the water. So, here we have some of those same elements. Though we have tourism that we’re not taking advantage, I want to leverage some of that, so that we can bring in outside revenue.”
Ventura said the businesses and housing developments that come to downtown Joliet need the cross promoting of other businesses and people in the area. The prospect of revamping the city’s tourism efforts is therefore an avenue worth exploring, she said.
“I think it is that outside revenue that ultimately, will help us clean up our gateways and beautify our downtown, as well as moving out westward and having some additional project that we want to do,” Ventura said. “That sustainability that tourism brings [is key]. We have water and we have history here, and we need to use some of those things to our advantage.”
Ventura works as a business director for a publishing company called Legendary Games. Thought she’s never held office within a political capacity, Ventura refuted the notion that previous experience is required to run for Joliet City Council.
“A lot of the energy is fueled by the need for change, the need for new ideas, for innovative ways,” Ventura said. “For whatever reason, it’s not fostered [here in Joliet]. I believe I have a special skillset when it comes to networking and putting people together and putting my foot in door and say, ‘yes, let’s work together—whether it’s with the county, with the park district, with school and library.’”
Ventura said she believes everyone wants to see Joliet survive and do well. Together, as a coalition, they can do more, she said.
“It wasn’t really until I had my kids and really started getting them involved in school and more of a community aspect that I started to see how important everyone in the community makes when it comes to the family unit,” Ventura said. “That if our city does well and those around us do well then my children do well. That’s vital to how much you invest in the community.”