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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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April 15, 2024
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Professor Schwartzman runs for Mayor of Galesburg

Professor+Schwartzman+runs+for+Mayor+of+Galesburg

Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman, a city Alderman and current candidate for Mayor, speaks with Knox students. (Courtesy of Peter Schwartzman)

Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Schwartzman, a city Alderman and current candidate for Mayor, speaks with Knox students. (Courtesy of Peter Schwartzman)

April 6 Update: Professor of Environmental Studies Professor Peter Schwartzman has been declared the winner of the Galesburg Mayoral Election, receiving 46% of the vote. His opponents incumbent Mayor John Pritchard and Kristine Crowe received 41% and 12% of the vote respectively. TKS will continue to report on this developing story. Our story as originally published is below.

If elected, Peter Schwartzman would balance his responsibility as a Knox professor with those as Galesburg’s mayor. The local election will be held on Tuesday, April 6th.

For Environmental Studies Professor Peter Schwartzman, the opportunity to run for alderman first presented itself ten years ago, when he encouraged several acquaintances who were heads of organizations in town to run for office. Despite his praising their leadership, all of them declined. As a result, Schwartzman wondered if this was his cue for himself to run for office. 

 “I was sitting there thinking, well maybe I should run… I’m not good at persuasion but I guess I could talk myself into doing it.” Schwartzman recalled.

After careful consideration and gathering insight, Schwartzman made the decision to run for the fifth ward alderman in 2011. Running against an incumbent and a third candidate, success was far from certain. After going door to door in the city, Schwartzman was successful in garnering the majority of the vote. 

 “I didn’t know if I had a chance at all…” Schwartzman said. “I was not a politician, I had never been a politician, I never imagined being a politician.”

Since then, Schwartzman has been reelected to fifth ward alderman twice. In these last ten years serving on the council, he admits that communication hasn’t been the best.

“It’s been challenging to get things done.” Schwartzman admits. “I’ve learned how city government works and how it doesn’t work.”

The issue of communication and efficiency isn’t unique to Galesburg politics. It’s an issue within most if not all local governments, but is something that Schwartzman hopes to change. He hopes to facilitate communication between community members and the council, so that elected members can better respond to the concerns of the public.

 “In deciding to run for mayor, I looked at the situation and I said, ‘I’m just as much in love with Galesburg and its future as anyone,” Schwartzman said. “And for it to realize its potential, I think we need a change. And I think I have the vision to make that happen, and make it happen for all people in Galesburg, not just people in one sector.”

Many of his initiatives involve taking both an environmentalist and humanitarian approach. Several years ago, the city completely switched to renewable energy for its electricity. More recently, the city began powering its water pump through solar energy, which saves the city fifty thousand dollars a year. In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, Schwartzman spoke out against the water shut-offs that were occurring for those that were unable to pay their water bills.

“You have to be able to justify what you spend, but you also have to make very strategic investments to save money,” Schwartzman explained when discussing his initiatives.

In the eyes of Schwartzman, community involvement is of utmost importance, regardless of whether everyone agrees or not. Citing the mayoral election four years ago, only 4,500 people voted, which leaves out several community members that are able to vote. Most people vote in major presidential elections and rarely vote in local elections, despite local elections having significantly more influence in progress that gets made at the community level. 

“I’m doing everything I can to make sure everybody votes,” Schwartzman said. “Whether they vote for me or not, it doesn’t matter. I prefer that they vote than they dont vote.”

In the case that Schwartzman wins the mayoral election, he doesn’t see it affecting his career as a professor too heavily, despite it being an unprecedented combination of occupations.

“As far as I know, there has never been a professor at Knox who has been the mayor of Galesburg.” Schwartzman said. 

With the mayor’s salary being only twelve thousand dollars per year, quitting teaching is out of the question. In addition to that, Schwartzman fully intends to teach for as long as he can, regardless of his political position. With that, the only possible adjustment that may happen in the case of winning the mayoral election is to slightly lower the number of courses offered in order to better manage both the duties of mayor and professor.

 “Teaching is an extremely important part of my life.”

 The election for the mayor of Galesburg as well as several other local offices will be held on April 6th. Schwartzman is running against incumbent mayor John Pritchard, and Kristine Crow.

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