By Stephanie Malench
On January 14, The St. Jacob Small Business Council invited the current mayor Richard Schiefer and his opponent Raymond Muñiz to be interviewed by a handful of members at the Lucky Rooster in St. Jacob.
Schiefer is running for his third consecutive term for mayor and had previously been mayor from 1989-2001. Muñiz had previously been mayor from 2001-2013. The St. Jacob Small Business Council is made up of 43 small businesses throughout the village.
Each candidate had their own 45 minute time slot to answer 6 questions from the members and talk about anything else they felt is important that was not answered with a break in between. Schiefer had the first 45 minute time slot.
The first question was “This pandemic has been difficult for many, particularly small businesses. Several of our small businesses are struggling and many are still open thanks to our supportive community. As Mayor, what are some things you plan to do to support small businesses”?
Schiefer said that he “supports masks and staying six feet apart but would rather see businesses open back up”. He believes people should go back to work instead of having the government providing stimulus payments.
If anyone has ideas on how the village can help small businesses, Schiefer said to let him know and he will see what they can do.
Muñiz said the business community has been devastated during the pandemic and the village should set up a fund waiving their water bills until the pandemic is over. Although maintaining infrastructure is important, Muñiz feels the bigger need is to establish community values in “St. Jacob and it’s greater community” by creating events on a monthly basis once it is safe to do so, including Jakey in June, a BBQ festival in 2022.
The second question asked the candidates “What are your thoughts about cross collaboration with other communities to enhance local small business visibility and support?”
Schiefer said he is a member of the Troy/Maryville/St. Jacob/Marine Chamber of Commerce and has a good relationship with each city’s mayors. Additionally, Schiefer said he is the Secretary of the Southwest Illinois Mayor’s Association.
Muñiz said when he was mayor, he “was St. Jacob’s biggest cheerleader” wherever he went as president of the Illinois Municipal League, telling everyone all the great businesses St. Jacob has to offer. He said you have to have positive relations with other communities and ask “What can I help you do to make it?”
Question number three was “Many of our small businesses benefit from community-wide events, such as homecoming, Jakey in June, Military Appreciation Day, etc. As Mayor, what will you do to ensure our businesses are publicized and treated equal to special event vendors?”
Schiefer replied that he is not opposed to local businesses being open during events.
Muñiz answered “they will be treated with preference, not equal”, asserting that community events are a time to showcase what the community has to offer for visitors to want to come back to St. Jacob another time.
The fourth question raised was “In light of recent political events, do you plan to run a clean campaign?”
Schiefer answered ‘I think I’ve always run a clean race but I have been accused of running a dirty campaign. It is going to be clean and fair in my opinion”.
Muñiz also pledged to run a clean campaign. “I have never run an ugly race. That is not something I have ever done. I will talk about policy and I will talk about ‘the current Village Hall’. Muñiz added “we have to be friends to each other when this is all over. I have no axe to grind with anybody”.
The fifth question was “What are your plans to improve St. Jacob (the things we already have) before expanding?”
Schiefer said “”I think we already have been. It would be nice to put curbs and gutters in throughout the village, but that takes a lot of time and money”. He added that when developers put in new subdivisions, they pay the costs to have the infrastructure put in.
Muñiz stated that “New development is great. We need new growth”. But “it has to be well developed, designed for St. Jacob, not cookie cutter”. He does not believe that current residents should have to pay for out of town development.
Muñiz added “I don’t think that is a priority with the current administration. Make shift maintenance a plan. Develop a long term plan with water and streets and alleys and set aside money to make the improvements”.
The final question was “How will you encourage new residents to get involved in St. Jacob?”
Scheifer replied that he would like to see homecoming come back.
Muñiz said community engagement is his number one priority. “The Village is the people. I’ts not the mayor. It’s not the trustees. It’s not the building”.
Schiefer used his open floor minutes to list his accomplishments the past eight years, mostly routine maintenance and boy and girl scout projects completed in the city, including the free mini library next to Village Hall and the new full size basketball court at St. Jacob Park, as well as securing financing for the new Village Hall and activity center renovations.
Closer to election time, there will be a live streamed event where both candidates attend at the same time and answer additional questions.