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.
Brian Gibson was first to speak during opening remarks. Gibson spoke of his time growing up in a military family and how he felt he never had a hometown until O’Fallon. He and his wife chose O’Fallon to live after graduating from SIU-Carbondale. “I’m proud of this town. It’s embraced me and my family. It’s given us an opportunity to raise our kids,” he said. “I feel like it’s my responsibility, it’s my obligation, to give back to the community.”
Gibson highlighted his professional career as a commercial banker for 25 years. “I’ve lent millions of dollars to small businesses in this community. I’m hoping to earn your vote and give back to the community that we call home,” said Gibson.
Nathan Parchman, a resident since 2007, moved here after graduating from Murray State University because his wife, Nicole, is a born and raised O’Fallon girl. Parchman has been in finance and banking for the past 14 years and indicated working in O’Fallon is a priority to him. He highlighted his service to the community through the Rotary Club of O’Fallon, Chamber of Commerce and as a youth coach.
“I’ve attended nearly every council meeting for the past 6 months, and that’s been important for me to get to understand and to know the aldermen and understand how the processes work. Living, working, playing and investing in O’Fallon is a priority to me. I care about O’Fallon because it’s my home and it’s all of yours too,” said Parchman.
Parchman received the first random question about one thing that has stuck with him at a recent city meeting he attended.
Mobile food vendors and charity roadblocks were the two specific items Parchman mentioned. “They both don’t seem like major issues, but they raised a lot of concerns with the citizens.” He said he recently took a Facebook poll about the roadblocks and got community feedback regarding safety concerns, traffic delays, and if removed what would be the impact to the community and how organizations would raise that money otherwise. “It opened my eyes to the concerns on both sides because when I cast my vote, it’s not just for me it’s for the entire community. So opening my eyes to not what my opinion is but what everybody else’s is. It did allow me to see other perspectives and not just my own,” Parchman said.
Gibson was asked about his vision for economic development for O’Fallon.
“As a commercial banker and having lived in the community for 23 years now, economic development is obviously key to the growth and the future of the city. I think it’s really important we grow smart. I think we use the resources that we have available to us, tax incremental financing (TIF). The more businesses that we can have that generate sales tax, I think that revenue obviously goes to our coffers and allows us to continue to grow in a smart way. One of my hopes and visions is to continue the growth that’s already taking place, and continue to grow smart. We all have to contribute to the greater good and find a way to continue to develop smartly in O’Fallon, both commercial and residentially,” Gibson said.
Both candidates were asked what makes them more qualified than their opponent for the position they are seeking.
Gibson answered first discussing his involvement in the community as a coach, former Rotarian, host home for foreign exchange students, board member for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Southwestern Illinois, and board of directors for Boy Scouts of America. “I’ve got executive leadership, I’ve got the financial acumen, again of being a banker and crunching numbers and looking at facts. My strength, I think is that financial acumen, the professionalism, leadership. In being a banker, it’s my responsibility to be responsive to my clients. As an alderman, my hope is to be that accessible to my constituents, to be accountable to them and to serve in whatever way I can to continue to make O’Fallon a fantastic community.”
Parchman discussed his local involvement through being an ambassador with the Chamber of Commerce which allows him to be out in the community. He also referenced his time as a Rotary board member and as the Rotarian of the Year 2017. “I was very proud of that, it took a lot of hard work, a lot of time and hours put in, but giving back to my community means a lot to me.” He talked about his time over the past six months attending council meetings or watching online. Parchman wanted to focus on availability. “That’s something I want to make certain the community feels they have. I want people to feel like they can talk to me, I can listen to them… I can get their feedback and I can bring that to the council.”
The ward-specific question asked of Gibson and Parchman was what their approach would be to approving planned use agreements, particularly if some of the residents in that area disagreed with the proposal.
Parchman answered, “That’s a very hot topic. Planned use, I’ve actually got quite a bit of research I’ve done here on that.” He referenced a planned use agreement council approved previously for the land at the northeast corner of Old Collinsville and Milburn School Road for a potential convenience store and coffee shop that was controversial with residents in that area. “This is to bring commercial development into a residential area, and if you looked at the planned development on a map this area is on an island. There is no commercial anywhere around it. Going forward, if there were areas like that for kind of an island in a residential area, I would more than likely have to listen to the citizens just like Dan and David have done. Go around an d talk to citizens, listen to them, get their feedback and understand what their true feelings are about that. It’s not all about my opinion, it’s about the citizens and then I’ll put my perspective on that.”
Gibson said, “I think it’s extremely important to hear from your constituents, and get their true concerns and voice those…be a representative. I’m a banker, I like commercial development. I like residential development. I think it’s absolutely important that my opinion not be the driving force. I think overall, if the due diligence has been done by the city and it has been approved as a commercial development, then I think it’s had its chance to be heard. Obviously I will continue to try to voice the concerns of the community, but again I think O’Fallon’s done a fantastic job of growth. It’s not my desire to override the government or override the residents. It’s a give and take. I think we have to be the voice of our constituents. If they’re for it, great. If they’re not, sometimes we have to make tough choices.”
During closing remarks, Parchman pointed out that while he lives in Ward 7, he also owns a rental home in Ward 3 so he understands the downtown issues. “I’m not just a Ward 7 person only, I’m a city person,” said Parchman. “I’ll do my best to insure your taxes are spent wisely. It’s our due diligence, if I’m elected to council, to spend the city’s tax dollars and your tax dollars properly.” Parchman also referenced his fourteen years of finance experience working with budgets.
Parchman spoke about his desire to be a voice for the people. “I’m only one vote, but if I get enough concern from citizens I will voice all of your opinions to the other thirteen aldermen and the mayor and make sure that your voice is heard.” Parchman concluded, “Being a staple in the community throughout my term will be a focus. I’m not here because I have an agenda, I want to be in the public eye, or the center of attention. That’s not me. I truly care about our community and Ward 7 and I want a bright future for us and O’Fallon. I want my girls to grow up in a city that’s even better than it is today, and that’s a lofty goal because if you live in O’Fallon then you know how good of a city we live in.”
Gibson spoke of the evening’s forum saying, “All this has done for me is highlighted the wonderful community that we live in. We’ve got people that are willing to volunteer their time, their talents, and their gifts to give back to this community. That’s what I’m here for.” Gibson mentioned graduating from Belleville East saying, “I’ve watched the growth of O’Fallon from afar for many years. Anybody that can remember what O’Fallon was like 30 some odd years ago, it’s a completely different community.”
“I’ve spent numerous hours in the community parks, I think they are an absolute asset to this community. We should continue to develop those. Again, being a banker, commercial development is critical for the growth of O’Fallon…smart growth. Residential development, I think we have to continue to grow. Obviously we don’t want to lose that home town feel, but the reality is we live in a desirable community, so we can’t be afraid of that growth. As an alderman for Ward 7, I hope to be able to bring my expertise and my experiences, my leadership of being an executive in a billion dollar financial institution. My hope is to be able to provide some insight, some diversity, and some differing opinions for the council,” Gibson said in conclusion.
To read about the Ward 2 candidates, click here.
To read about the Ward 4 candidates, click here.
To read about the Ward 6 candidates, click here.