Background Information: I was born at Passavant and raised in the Village. South Jacksonville has always been home. Growing up here, I have seen the village prosper under good leadership, back when I was young. And more recently, I have seen a steady decline due to poor leadership and bad decisions.
I am very proud of the work I have done as an attorney over the last 7 years, often free-of-charge, for so many Village residents. Unlike elitist lawyers, I use my ability to practice law to benefit regular people with everyday issues. I think it is telling that so many residents have come to me with their issues because they trust me and can’t rely on elected officials to get things done. That is ultimately why I am running to serve in this position. I want to continue to serve my community. I want to use my skills to tackle issues, restore services, and make sure that people are being heard. I will personally see to it that local government is once again responsive to the needs of Village residents. I am optimistic, with the right leadership, the Village can once again be the prosperous vibrant community that it once was.
What event/initiative regarding the Village of South Jacksonville are you most proud to be involved in?: I am proud of my record of accomplishments in the Village. I worked with Illinois State Police in 2014 during their investigations at village hall. I later defended the Police Chief pro bono. For the last four years, I gave free legal advice to several Village Trustees every time they asked for it — dozens of times. I have also represented a number of village residents to resolve their issues that were ignored by village officials.
For example, when a village business installed new outdoor lights that caused a nuisance to its neighbors, several home owners contacted me. I was able to resolve the situation by writing the business owner a letter to inform them of the issue, and suggested a resolution, which the owner implemented.
In another instance, when trash began to pile up at a rental property, neighboring homeowners contacted me because the village had ignored their pleas to enforce the code. I immediately went to meet with the code enforcement person, and spoke with board members and the chief of police. Due to my actions on behalf of the residents, the situation was resolved.
I take very seriously the trust that people place in me to get things done, and I am proud of my record of service.
Do you think your Village of South Jacksonville separating from the community tourism office is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that? No, I think it was a mistake for the Village to stop cooperating with Jacksonville and others. In fact, I have already started talking with Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard about ways that our two communities can increase, not decrease, cooperation. This decision, like so many made by Dick Samples, was foolish, short-sided and not beneficial in any way. When I reached out to Mayor Ezard recently to propose greater cooperation between our communities, he agreed. Together, we can accomplish more, and I will look for ways to increase cooperation between the Village and our neighboring communities.
If you could change one thing in the VOSJ zoning code, what would it be and why? We now have more slot machines in the Village than churches. Despite being home to some of the largest congregations in the area, slot machine signs that dot our Main Street make us look like Sin City. We advertise ourselves as “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
If I could change one thing in the VOSJ zoning code, I would eliminate gambling houses because I feel they are a clear sign of moral decay and they do not generate revenues that justify their existence.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the Village of South Jacksonville what would you do with it and why? I would fully fund our police and fire departments, and restore the ambulance service. Unlike my opponent, I will never defund the police, fire or EMT services, and will look for ways to secure grants and other funds to ensure our first responders have the tools they need to do their jobs.
Unlike my opponent, who has never written a grant request in his life, I have extensive experience finding grants and writing grant requests, along with a long track record of results. For example, just last year I was able to secure nearly $15,000 in grants for the local VFW Post 1379, where I am a life member due to my wartime service on the front lines of Iraq.
Leadership and knowledge matters. Last year, the Local CURE Support Program made $250,000,000 available to Illinois local governments to distribute to their local businesses. In Jacksonville, Mayor Ezard secured $400,000 for Jacksonville businesses. In South Jacksonville?
South Jacksonville officials never even applied! I cannot put into words how outrageous that is. A hypothetical isn’t needed because Dick Samples already failed to do his job to secure grants for Village businesses during the pandemic.
Grants don’t just fall into your lap. You have to find them and apply for them, and Dick Samples has shown that as an elected official he has no clue what he’s doing. If I am elected, I will apply for every grant possible so that the Village can fully fund our much-needed services and infrastructure projects.
What is the greatest challenge facing the Village of South Jacksonville and what would you propose be done to correct that problem? Elected officials don’t get anything done anymore. All they do is bicker. It’s embarrassing. This simple solution? Drain the swamp. Vote against wannabe do-nothing-career-politicians. Vote them out.
What is something the current VOSJ Administration has done that you support? I can’t think of anything.
What is the best thing to the VOSJ in the last five years? I only recall negative things about Harry Jennings and Dick Samples. When state police were conducting investigations at Village Hall, Dick Samples literally put tape over the security camera that was pointed at his desk. That wasn’t good. It also wasn’t good when Dick Samples was suspended by the Village for 2.5 days for violating Village of South Jacksonville policies.
It wasn’t good that Harry Jennings acted so inappropriately on Facebook that on August 13, 2019, the board passed a resolution condemning his inappropriate behavior. (Trustee Paula Stewart asked me to write the resolution for the board, which I happily agreed to do free-of-charge…). It wasn’t good when Dick Samples voted to defund the ambulance, or when he told the local press that we suddenly couldn’t afford the ambulance due to “simple economics.” It wasn’t good when Samples voted to end the concert in the cornfield, a revenue generator. It wasn’t good when Samples ended the leaf pickup and offered no alternative for village residents. It wasn’t good when Samples said the sudden appearance of a $148,000 debt from 2003 was no big deal. Part of the reason why I am running is to end these shenanigans.
What needs to be changed immediately to make the VOSJ a better place to live and work? Better cell phone services, restore the ambulance, restore leaf pickups, restore road and culvert maintenance, restore normal services. Increase transparency and implement anti-corruption measures. You can read my platform to make the VOSJ a better place at: VOTE-MANKER.COM.
How do you see the Illinois Governor’s Criminal Justice Reform Bill impacting the VOSJ? I am afraid it will have a negative impact, because the changes it enacted do nothing to protect law-abiding citizens or help VOSJ police officers to enforce the law. We need to get back to the basic understanding that people who break the law deserve to face consequences. The simplest way to avoid the criminal justice system is to not break the law.
Personal info you wish to share: Family is everything to me. I love my 2-year old niece, Maya, more than the world itself. I have a bulldog puppy, Lily, who enjoys making friends at the local Bark Park. And my mom, who still lives in the Village, is of course very important. I know other village residents love their families just as much, which is why I am fighting to make the village a community to raise a family—just like when I was a kid growing up here.
Richard (Dick) Samples
Background Information: I was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission in 1999. In 2002, I was appointed to fill the unexpired term of a Village Trustee, then re-elected in 2005, and 2009 for the position of Trustee. In 2013, I resigned the Trustee Position to become employed with the Village as Building Inspector and Code enforcement Officer which I did until 2015, when I resigned due to that Administration, and then was reelected as Trustee in 2017.
What event/initiative regarding the Village of South Jacksonville are you most proud to be involved in?: In 2002, as my position as Trustee, I was chairman of the Fire Department, and it was my job to get the New Fire Department Building constructed. I was also involved with the construction of the new Police Department. It was also my job to become involved with the TIF Program and promote that program to potential Builders or Developers to the Village. Latest TIF application was the new roadway being built around South Jacksonville School, resulting in a Million dollar Project.
Do you think your Village of South Jacksonville separating from the community tourism office is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that? I was one of the Initiators of separating from the Community Tourism Office several years ago. This move has enabled South Jacksonville to manage its own promotion for the Motels and Events held in the Jacksonville area. In Fact the Village board approves more Requests for Monetary Assistance to the Businesses and organizations in the City of Jacksonville and area than in South Jacksonville. Let’s examine some Facts. All of the Motels are in direct Competition with each other regardless of where they are located. The “Name of the Game” is to put “Heads on Beds.” You create that situation by promoting events for People to come and participate in those events. The South Jacksonville Board has no one to hire or support in the implementation of distributing funds for promotional purposes, thus allowing more “Funds” to become available for promotional purposes. When the Hotel/Motel Tax Ordinance was written concerning the South Jacksonville Motels, there is a provision written into the Ordinance that allows the Individual Motel to be reimbursed up to 40% of the Motel Tax back to that Motel. All they have to do is spend the Money and turn the receipt back into the village and they will be reimbursed. Currently the Village motels utilize this reimbursement for Advertising on Billboards, Internet, and other Expenses for the promotion of their own Motel. If that Individual Motel wants to pay or invest a portion or all of its dedicated 40% reimbursement to the Community Tourism Office, then that motel will be reimbursed from the tourism fund. I currently think that this program needs no changing at this time.
If you could change one thing in the VOSJ zoning code, what would it be and why? The Zoning Code is a constantly Changing Set of Rules, Regulations, and Ordinances, created to protect the majority of the residents of the Village. Currently we are dealing with Animal, Birds, and Other Fowl that residents want to raise or have for pets which cause a burden to the neighbors. Others are installing Solar Power Panels which can be offensive to the Neighbors. I believe that we need to be receptive to current trends and be able to adapt to those changes.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for the Village of South Jacksonville what would you do with it and why? South Jacksonville will be and is in need of an additional Water Tower. The Village also needs Repairs to the Current Water and Sewer systems. The Village also needs some additional equipment for the maintenance of the roadway system.
What is the greatest challenge facing the Village of South Jacksonville and what would you propose be done to correct that problem? In the next four years, I believe the Greatest Challenge to the village of South Jacksonville with be in maintaining and/or increasing the money to fund the village. Our Governor has just eliminated, or postponed, Payments allocated to the towns and villages of Illinois. We Have a very stagnate opportunity for employment or new businesses being located in South Jacksonville, BUT this is evident everywhere in Illinois as residents are leaving Illinois and relocating in other States that offer Opportunities. There will be some very Tough Decisions to be made in South Jacksonville in the next few years, probably resulting in reduced Personnel Services and now offered to the residents.
What is something the current VOSJ Administration has done that you support? The current administration has been extremely active in the promotion of our local School System. The elimination of the Ambulance Service, this program was a fiscal burden to the Village and had limited use by Village Residences. We Provide the First Responders Service to the Citizens of South Jacksonville and surrounding areas. The TIF Program. The Tourism Program. Codification of the Ordinances which should be completed by May of 2021. Vehicle Replacement Plan for all of the Departments. New Water Meter System providing remote reading and reporting of the meters to the Water Department. New Process for the Enforcement of codes and Ordinances, now utilizing the Morgan County Court system. Yearly Maintenance of Streets provided by Motor Fuel Tax funds. Creation of the Committee of the Whole for the discussion of Village Situations, conditions, Problems, Etc. instead of being determined by 3 Members it is now brought to the attention of all Trustees and the Village President. With my suggestion, the hiring of a “Grant Writer” to help the village obtain additional revenue sources.
What is the best thing to the VOSJ in the last five years? 1,000,000 Dollar Expenditure for the new road system for the South Jacksonville Public School., paid entirely from Surplus TIF Funds.
What needs to be changed immediately to make the VOSJ a better place to live and work? Simply Put, Some type of Industry, Business, Shopping Centers, Single Family NEW Residences, Major Type of Employment, Restaurants, all that just starters. If elected, I will do, as I have done in the past 20 years, everything that I can do to promote the Village of Jacksonville.
How do you see the Illinois Governor’s Criminal Justice Reform Bill impacting the VOSJ? Absolutely too Early to tell. The Village has recently passed a Resolution sending a Recommendation to Governor Pritzker to Veto HB 3653, which Resolution was done in vain, but showed the intentions and displeasure of the Village Board Members with the Governor in signing this bill. It is my gut feeling that this House Bill 3653 will absolutely cause Havoc with our current operations in our police department.
Personal info you wish to share: I have been married to Pam Samples for 46 years, residing in the Village for the past 36 years at the same address, on Bonnie Lane, South Jacksonville. We have 3 Children, Robyn Maher, married to Justin, with one Grandchild, Lauryn. Kelly Miller, married to Mike Miller, with twin 7 year Old Boys, and Zach Samples, Married to Billee with Girl and Boy Grandkids. Graduated Jacksonville high School, and Graduated Culver Stockton College. I am Self Employed as an Auctioneer for the past 41 years.