By Angela Simmons & Martha Stoffel
O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce and O’Fallon Weekly hosted a candidate forum for contested city council races on Thursday, March 14.
Casey Scharven was selected to provide opening remarks first for Ward 6. Scharven has been a resident of O’Fallon for almost 15 years, choosing to raise his family here after 20 years of moves with the Air Force. “O’Fallon has been very good to us, and I feel we have a responsibility to give back to the community.”
Scharven explained his focus as an alderman will be on common sense growth which “sets the tone for what we want in our community now and in the future.” He also wants to take care of our schools, to “make sure we do everything we can to set our schools up for success.” The final focus he mentioned was infrastructure, “taking care of what we have today and also taking a look at our future and where we’re headed.”
Tom Vorce has been a resident of O’Fallon since 2007, moving here for a career with the United States Department of Agriculture. Vorce served in the Navy for 8 years and ran a seafood store and restaurant in Virginia for 6 years prior to getting his degree in Forestry from Michigan Tech.
He has been heavily involved with programs and the PTO at both LaVerna Evans and Carriel Junior High, where he recently served as the PTO President. Vorce has coached multiple sports through the O’Fallon Parks & Recreation department and currently coaches lacrosse for O’Fallon Styx. He has been involved in multiple roles within his church and been part of an emergency response team for tornados and floods. To be an alderman, “it’s only natural I would want to continue to serve and be involved in our city” said Vorce.
Vorce was first to answer during the random question portion. He was asked how he would address managing O’Fallon’s current and potential growth, while still supporting existing businesses.
“While our growth is expanding for sure, our annexation of new areas and lands. We can use smart placement of big box stores, things like that, to not push out the little guy. I lived this in Virginia when I had my business. We were the seafood shop in town and then Walmart moved in, so I can sympathize with them. I think it’s smart diversified growth,” Vorce said.
Scharven was asked how involved in the day-to-day operations of the city he feels he should be if elected.
“I don’t really think the aldermen should be involved in the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes working of who’s cutting what check, who’s talking to who. We’ve got a fine group of professionals that get paid to do that every day. I’d like to let them do their jobs first and then bring their experience and their ideas forward to the aldermen. Let other folks (aldermen) that are paid to take a look at the high-level and the big picture look at the big picture,” said Scharven.
Both candidates were asked what makes them more qualified than their opponent for the position they are seeking.
Scharven said, “I think one of the biggest reasons is just simply experience. Experience working with people and organizations. It comes to skill with communication, taking a look and making sure people are aware of goals and aware of the issues then hopefully coming together with what’s the best solution. I’ve been involved in the community for a long time. I have a knowledge of the issues. I’ve been attending city council for an awful long time, and I think I’ve got a pretty big picture view of issues like spending, growth, infrastructure and other things the council has dealt with.”
Vorce said, “I’m involved in the community. I volunteer with O’Fallon Parks & Rec and Styx. I’m also involved in my church. I’m knowledgeable about the city and aware of what’s going on. I’ve been attending meetings as well for quite a while. I’m committed to talk to all the homeowners in our ward, not just the voters. I haven’t just gone to the voters, I’ve gone to every house that I can. I’ve had competent leadership before and experience in dealing with others in a diverse team to make things happen.”
The ward-specific question asked of Scharven and Vorce was how should the city approach drainage issues within neighborhoods that are private property.
Vorce answered, “That is a very pertinent question, as it is a hot topic of many folks I have talked to in my ward. That’s one of the issues that I have plenty of notes on…people consistently bring up. I think the city has an obligation to talk to these people and if it’s not a city problem they need to explain that to them so that the residents understand why they have sinking ground or eroding ground or why they have fencing that falls over because of drainage issues. We need to either fix the problem, or explain why it is not a city issue. I think we can also work with them better than we have.”
Scharven answered, “When I stopped at one house that was one of the main topics. I think we need to be very careful about how we favor a private land owner or a private citizen, one over another. There’s a lot of folks with other issues going on within the city. I think we need to make sure we’re playing fair. I think we need to make sure we’re doing our very best to take care of them and do what the city can. I guarantee there’s a lot of folks that have something wrong they’d like a little help with, and I think we need to be very very careful about where we spend those kinds of funds because we have to look out for the entire city.”
During closing remarks, Vorce said “I believe that O’Fallon is on a good path. Previous administrations and our current aldermen have served our city well and set it up as a place that has much to offer. I’m not running because I’m upset about one particular issue or I have a particular agenda that I’d like to influence. I’m running because I want to keep O’Fallon on the right path. I, like many people in my ward I’ve spoken to, like the small town feel that O’Fallon offers, but I also fully support a fiscally responsible, diversified growth in our city that will weather any economic climate that may come our way.”
Vorce then highlighted current areas of residential growth, future growth along the Rieder Road corridor, the downtown renovations, community events and activities and other things he feels make this a great community to live. “We work for what we care about, and I want to work to build and maintain our city for you, the citizens of O’Fallon. I have the time and concern for our community to invest in it as a member of the city council. I view serving my community as a duty, and it is one I’d be honored to serve in. I pledge to make myself available to listen to the concerns of those in ward 6. O’Fallon is a great place to live, and I love where we live,” Vorce said.
Scharven began his closing remarks touching on the opportunities the military provided him to learn leadership and how to plan, budget and manage projects. He also said “the best leaders are the ones who know how to communicate their goals and their vision, they communicate it well. They listen to those around them, especially the folks that are actually doing the job and have to experience what your ideas are. They are also prepared to make hard decisions when it’s needed.”
A member and past president of the Rotary Club of O’Fallon, Scharven highlighted some of his service to the community. “I’m not running because I think the city’s broken. I’m running because I’m optimistic about the future. I believe I can bring a fresh perspective to the challenges we face, and I think we can do that by focusing on common sense growth. We need to take a look at the fire department and EMS and the police department. I think we need to take care of our schools…that’s the key reason people come to our community. I think we need to take care of our infrastructure. We need to be good stewards of your tax dollars, but even more so good stewards of your trust. I think I can bring innovative solutions and a fresh perspective, and I want to do this for all the citizens,” said Scharven.
To read about the Ward 2 candidates, click here.
To read about the Ward 4 candidates, click here.
To read about the Ward 7 candidates, click here.