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The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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Mayor Schwartzman Reflects on First Year, Looks Toward Future

Mayor+Schwartzman+Reflects+on+First+Year%2C+Looks+Toward+Future

Mayor Peter Schwartzman believes Galesburg is at the beginning of a “virtuous cycle”. Progress is happening, and that will inspire more progress. 

“If we can get more people to believe in an optimistic-collective mind set, there’s nothing stopping this community,” Schwartzman said. 

Schwartzman has long been active in the Galesburg community. He has taught environmental science at Knox College since 1998 and was elected Ward 5 Council member in 2011. He was sworn in to his first mayoral term on May 3, 2021 after running a campaign based on government transparency, environmental and economic sustainability, and community engagement. Schwartzman quickly established the type of mayor he intended to be. Following through on his campaign promise of transparency, he made his phone number available to all in the community. 

“I think Galesburg can be the best city if more and more people are engaged and more and more people see that they could play a role in the future of Galesburg,” Schwartzman said. “And that means that I have to be more accessible.”

A year into the job, he and his new Council have accomplished a lot – and have even more plans for the future. 

Bringing the Council Together

The election was divisive; Schwartzman won 47% of the vote, defeating the incumbent John Pritchard and Kristine Crow. There was also a significant turnover of the Council. Two longtime Council members lost reelection to political newcomers with progressive leanings.

“There is an acknowledgement that the voters want change,” Schwartzman said.

The current Council was fully seated four months into Schwartzman’s term. Schwartzman nominated Jaclyn Smith-Esters to replace himself as the Ward 5 representative on the Council and Kevin Wallace for the Ward 3 representative after the resignation of Lindsay Hillery.

In an acknowledgment of the divisiveness of his election and the shifts in the Council, Schwartzman’s goal for the first few months was to bring a sense of unity to the Council. Despite their differences, Schwartzman believes there is a lot that the Council can come together on.

“We want the city to thrive, we want the people in Galesburg to thrive, we want the economy to thrive, we want our downtown to improve, we want the city to look better… we want everyone to be fed, we want everyone to be housed, I mean the list goes on,” Schwartzman said.

Schwartzman’s next steps were to take those shared hopes and turn them into detailed, achievable goals in the Strategic Plan – something that hadn’t been done in Galesburg in 8 years. 

“It was a priority of mine to have the priorities of the Council solidified in the strategic planning document,” Schwartzman said. The Council made 23 goals under five categories ranging from Community and Youth Engagement to Economic Growth and Strength.

Engaging the Community 

The Council has already started working on several projects relating to the Strategic Plan. Schwartzman considers them accomplishments of the whole Council, not just himself.

“I see myself as kind of a connector or catalyst,” Schwartzman said. “I float ideas and see what sticks.”

One such idea was the Youth Commission, one of the first projects the Council took on. Schwartzman’s original idea was to add a nonvoting youth member to the Council – but the Council took it further, revamping the composition of the existing Youth Commission.

“They are the future, investments in them is what is going to keep Galesburg afloat and thriving,” Schwartzman said.

Schwartzman wants even more for the community though – for both youth and adults. He is determined to deliver Galesburg a community center and expressed his discontent with the closure of the previous one 9 years ago. 

“I voted in favor of selling it, but I made it very clear at the meeting that I was doing so with the expectation that we would have another community center in the next year,” Schwartzman said. 

Schwartzman is encouraged by the Council’s recent vote approving the transfer of Churchill Junior High from Galesburg District 205 to the City. He sees it as a potential location for such a community center.  

“That was a huge decision and I think it does set us up for a very promising project in the near future,” Schwartzman said.

More Projects

The Council has started on several other Strategic Plan goals as well. This past winter the City partnered with the Salvation Army to start the first warming center in Galesburg to help the homeless population. The City is addressing a rise in crime by adding several new police positions.

Schwartzman was particularly proud of the City’s new website. One of his campaign goals was to improve transparency and communication between the public and the government. He feels this website makes it significantly easier for citizens to communicate with the Council or file complaints.

“We put numbers and dates on many of the goals so that we’re accountable, which I think government is often not,” Schwartzman said. “I think we still have some work to do.”

Other projects approved this year include economic incentives for minority owned businesses, an initiative to plant 400 trees, and the demolition or refurbishment of dilapidated buildings.

In his campaign, Schwartzman also focused on environmental sustainability, and the Council has several projects in the works on that front. The City is planning to perform an energy audit for the town and increase the use of solar energy. The Council has also requested funds for a study on Galesburg’s public transportation with the hope of improving the sustainability and usability of the system. All of this, and more, is included in the Strategic Plan.

“It’s exciting to be part of that process,” Schwartzman said.“To feel like you put your penny into that jar and to see success come out of that.”

This story was produced in collaboration with Tri States Public Radio. 

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About the Contributor
Eleanor Lindenmayer
Eleanor Lindenmayer, Editor-In-Chief
Eleanor Lindenmayer '25 (she/her) is a journalism major. She started working for TKS as a staff writer when she was in her first year. She has also worked as the discourse editor and is now the Editor-in-Chief. Eleanor has also been published at Tri States Public Radio, where she was an intern and a freelancer. Eleanor was born and raised in the pacific northwest and will argue that there is no better place on this earth. Awards Illinois College Press Association 2024
  • 1st Place In Depth Reporting
  • 1st Place News
  • 1st Place Feature
Illinois College Press Association 2023
  • 2nd Place Columns
  • Honorable Mention Columns
Knox College 2023 Ida M. Tarbell Memorial Prize For Investigative Reporting    

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