Name: Wendy Piersall
Office sought: City Council Member
Occupation: Publisher at Woo! Jr. Kids Activities
Education: B.A. Psychology, Prescott College
Elected offices held: None
Social Media: Facebook.com/ElectWendyPiersall
1. What is your largest priority for Woodstock if elected?
My largest priority for Woodstock is to work on what our residents tell me are the problems they want addressed. While knocking on doors and listening to voters, they speak of four core issues. They want to see our roads fixed. They want to see our city grow in terms of both residents and businesses. They are concerned that our property taxes are so high. They want to know that their local government is being ethical and fiscally responsible with their tax dollars.
While addressing these challenges, it is important for the council to prioritize quality of life issues such as maintaining our sidewalks and parks, supporting culture, entertainment and local events, and keeping our crime rate low. These issues are what attract new residents – but also make Woodstock a wonderful place to live.
2. What changes should Woodstock make in the future?
A common thread I hear from voters is some work the City of Woodstock does is inconsistent. I believe this is a result of inefficient systems for documenting and addressing resident complaints and following up to ensure the resident is satisfied with the results.
This is a problem of scaling our processes to meet the needs of a larger, growing community. It is similar to the needs of scaling a business as it grows – processes must be put in place to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. The population of Woodstock has doubled in the last 30 years. With a focus on continued growth, it is important to analyze and update our policies and procedures to ensure we can meet the needs of our businesses and residents fairly and consistently.
3. How do you feel about Woodstock’s video gambling?
In over two years of talking to Woodstock residents about the issues that are important to them, Woodstock’s video gaming policies have rarely been mentioned. Our community is much more interested in fixing our roads, attracting new businesses and residents, and ensuring that our leaders are both honest and transparent. This is a small part of the overall business landscape of our town, and I am not inclined to expand it beyond its current scope. I will ensure that any new video gaming terminal licenses are issued consistent with both Illinois and Woodstock laws.
4. How do you feel about Woodstock's TIF district?
Many valid questions were brought up on both sides of this issue during the public hearings held while the city was considering the establishment of the TIF. Done correctly with strong oversight, TIF2 will be a benefit for Woodstock for decades to come. The new Council must ensure that these funds are invested wisely with a goal of growth and prosperity for our residents. The Council is not simply charged with making good decisions for now, but for the future of our city for decades to come.
The most effective way that the council can support our schools and lower property taxes for all is through residential and business growth. This will reduce how much each taxpayer pays to cover the tax levy. While the TIF is not a perfect solution, it does give our Economic Development team the tools they need to accomplish this goal. Six new residential or commercial developments are now being considered thanks to the establishment of the new TIF district.
5. How do you feel that Woodstock should work with the school board on housing within the TIF district?
I would never put our school district into a position of financial strain. All the current plans for development in TIF 2 are not projects that will attract families with children. TIF statutes already provide a formula to reimburse schools for students who may end up living in the TIF district. Additionally, the first TIF district is newly providing $400,000 annually to School District 200, which would cover the costs of nearly 450 new students.
Should TIF 2 be so successful that it attracts “too many” new school-age residents, there are further ways to reduce the cost burden on the schools. The simplest way to do this is to remove parcels from the TIF and return those funds to District 200. One of the most important reasons we moved to Woodstock was because of our great schools. I am committed to retaining that excellence for the future children of Woodstock.
6. What should Woodstock attempt to do with the Old Courthouse?
As a member of the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House Advisory Commission, I have been deeply involved with the development and analysis of ideas for the use of these two buildings. Not only have we ordered several feasibility studies, we have gone on many site visits to research how other historical properties have been reused and renovated. There has been no shortage of great ideas of what to do: a museum, an art school or art gallery, and an incubator / co-working facility are some of the excellent ideas that have been evaluated. What there has been a shortage of is great and viable ideas.
We are sensitive to the concerns people have shared about to the costs of renovation. The commission felt it was most important to determine a use that would provide a sustainable result. Creating a banquet facility, boutique hotel, and flexible use gallery space met our criteria of having the least impact on taxpayers, being fiscally sustainable, and will allow the buildings to remain open to the public. The bonus is the economic impact these uses can have on our community – it will draw visitors and business to Woodstock beyond the revenue from room rentals alone.
7. What else should voters know about you?
Our family has come from humble beginnings and built our lives here in Woodstock. My own business, after working out of my home for 12 years, has grown exponentially since I expanded to an office near the Square. We moved here because my husband’s business Lake Marine & RV relocated here, and the City of Woodstock was wonderful to work with. Both he and I have worked directly with the Economic Development team and appreciate exactly what it takes to move or expand a business here. We know firsthand: this city is worth investing in.
For the past two years, I have regularly attended council meetings and have garnered the knowledge and relationships needed to continue the council’s work. I serve on the Old Courthouse and Sheriff’s House Advisory Commission and the Promote Woodstock Advisory Council, and am a member of the Rotary Club of Woodstock. I have the time, talent, dedication and passion to work to make a difference as a member of the Woodstock City Council. Your vote gives me the opportunity to serve and make a difference in your everyday life. I invite you to visit my website at ElectWendyPiersall.com to learn more.