New City Council ties to University

By Gus Bode

New City Council ties to University

All members attended SIU, some took their relationship further

Newly elected members of the Carbondale City Council look for the group to better represent SIUC and its students when the seven city leaders take their seats at City Hall for the first time May 6.


All the council members have ties to the University in one way or another, and all have expressed interest in making sure SIUC is represented by the council as much as possible. This additional focus on the University will likely come because of all the new bonds members have with the University.

“We’ll all be able to bring a new perspective to the council table,” said Steven Haynes, one of four new members on the council. “We’ve all got ties to the University in one way or another, through work or affiliation of being there as a student.”

Haynes, a 39-year resident of Carbondale, said he feels his own close ties to the University because he’s been nearby for so long and was an SIUC student. He attended SIU for a couple years and was involved in programs such as Black Affairs Council before deciding not to complete his degree in Business Management.

“The entire city, including SIU, will benefit from the new council,” Haynes said. “We have people who have concerns for SIU, and concerns for the entire city.”

Fellow council member Chris Wissmann agreed with Haynes’ assessment of the new situation. He said he does not think students have been well represented at City Hall in the past, and he sees the new council changing that.

Issues that Wissmann hopes to address when seated in office include housing opportunities for students, new entertainment options in Carbondale and a remodeling of the Human Relations Commission, all of which he said will help bring students closer to Carbondale and help retain them after they graduate.

“I’m hoping to be more of a student voice and provide that on behalf of the city,” Wissmann said.


As a student voice, Wissmann said he will make efforts to increase state funding to the University and bring in as many new students as possible by making the city more appealing to them.

“To do that involves treating the students well who are already here,” he said.

Sheila Simon, a third new member to the council, teaches in the SIU School of Law as a clinical assistant professor. Her father, Paul Simon, also works for the University as director of the SIU Public Policy Institute.

She also attended the Law School for one semester to complete her graduate degree, and is now a student of the Saluki Violin Program with her 8-year-old daughter, Brennan.

Simon said she believes SIUC and the City of Carbondale form a symbiotic relationship already, but that the new council’s ties to the University will help the city in addressing SIU concerns more quickly.

“SIU is such a big part of Carbondale, and Carbondale’s such a big part of SIU that the connections seem to be obvious there,” Simon said. “I really think Carbondale and the University are so tied together now, that it would be hard to have a City Council that’s not concerned with the University.

The other City Council members, Lance Jack, Corene McDaniel, Maggie Flanagan and Mayor-elect Brad Cole, also have their own ties to SIUC that will likely show when it comes time to vote on school related issues.

Cole attended SIUC as an undergraduate and earned two degrees, one in political science and the other in biological science. He also served a stint as Undergraduate Student Government president.

Cole has said he believes the University is the lifeblood of Carbondale and therefore improving relations between the school and city should be a primary concern.

Wissmann agrees with Cole and said the city economy depends on SIU remaining a strong presence in Carbondale.

“We don’t have a lot of factories or shipping industries like in Bloomington – Normal,” Wissmann said. “We have a University, and that’s really it. Everything else we have in this town is so dependent on the University for its economic well-being.”

As an employee of SIUC at one point, McDaniel also understands the economic importance of the University to the local community. She has lived in Carbondale for 38 years, and after graduating from SIU, she followed in her mother’s footsteps by working in Building Services for a short time.

Jack also attended SIUC and earned a few credits, but never completed his degree after taking various classes at SIUC and John A. Logan College for 10 years.

“I probably have enough credits for two degrees, but it isn’t something I feel I have to have,” Jack said in March. “A degree doesn’t make a person or an education.”

Flanagan, like the others, attended SIUC and earned an undergraduate degree in university studies before going back for her master’s degree in community development. She now works as a College of Agriculture rural development specialist.

All seven members of the new council have their personal connections to SIU, and all said they plan to use their involvement with the University, past or present, to better represent the school when they come together to vote on issues that will affect the school, its employees and the student population.

“We’re in a situation where the city needs things from the University like growth, development and future residents,” Wissmann said. “The new council should help the city accomplish those goals.”

The new council members and mayor take office May 6.

Reporter Brian Peach can be reached at [email protected]