Giving something back to Carbondale

By Gus Bode

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Giving something back to Carbondale

Lifelong involvement in the community prepares Steven Haynes for City Council


Many 8-year-old boys choose to become part of a community by joining the Cub Scouts or playing Little League. But Steven Haynes, four-year term candidate for City Council, took an extra interest in his hometown of Carbondale at an early age. He got involved in politics.

Haynes credits his father, a former precinct committeeman in Carbondale, for peaking his interest in local events. The two would walk the precincts together and hand out fliers that supported candidates in coming elections. Haynes also accompanied his father to political rallies.

“I vividly remember shaking Jim Thompson’s hand when he ran for Illinois governor,” Haynes said. “He did a whistle-stop through Carbondale, and I got to meet him.”

Haynes was fascinated with the political process as a boy and has become part of it as a man. Haynes first ran for public office in 1992 as a candidate for the Jackson County Board. Although he was not elected, he did not think of it as a total loss.

“It was a great experience,” Haynes said. “I got to go out and communicate with people. I got to talk to them about what they want to see in the community.”

In 1996, Haynes put his lessons learned from the defeat to good use. He was elected to serve on the county board. He served four years and gained experience in local government functions. Haynes decided to branch out to city government in 2001 and ran for Carbondale City Council. Like his first attempt at running for county board, Haynes came up short. He attributes this to the strong list of candidates who ran for City Council in 2001.

“The field was packed with a good group of candidates,” Haynes said. “I think at that point in time, Maggie Flanagan was running. So was Corene McDaniel, Carl Flowers and a few others.”


Haynes said he is fortunate to have run with such a strong and diverse mix of candidates.

“They gave people a wide variety,” Haynes said. “I learned a lot of things from that, and it made my desire to want to run for City Council where it is today.”

Today, Haynes is on his second attempt to be a councilman. After getting through the primary election in February, he looks forward to the April 1 election and is ready to make some changes in Carbondale.

One of the changes that Haynes would like to make is allowing the City Council to be more representative of Carbondale as a whole. He proposes that the Council should take special care to invite more local interest groups to voice their concerns at meetings. He appreciates groups such as the SIUC Undergraduate Student Government being present at council meetings and believes more groups should be heard.

“I think we need to invite some other organizations to come speak at the table,” Haynes said. “Anyone could come. I think that there could be a round-robin type of system that should allow certain time frames for registered organizations to have the floor. We’ve got to give that credence and be willing to do what we can to make sure everybody has a voice at the table.”

Haynes is also an advocate of a business-oriented City Council. He would like to see a council that reflects not only the community but also the business community. He has spent time serving on the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and is the store manager of Kroger on the west end of Carbondale. He feels that these credentials give him some extra business insight to put to use on City Council.

“I think I can bring something to the table as an individual who’s been involved in business,” Haynes said. “Having pro-business people on City Council is not a bad thing. I think those individuals who sit at the table should have some knowledge of what they’re asked to work with on a daily basis.”

He said that Council members with business backgrounds would be more capable of relating to the concerns of Carbondale’s businesses. The process of creating and bringing businesses to the city would also be sped up, Haynes said.

“If I am elected, I want to be an ambassador to businesses in Carbondale,” Haynes said. “I’ve always believed that a person should be pro-active and intent to bring other businesses to the community. As a member of the chamber, I’ve always been there to help in those efforts.”

Haynes has also offered his services to the ongoing debate regarding a Human Relations Commission in Carbondale. The commission was created by the City Council to combat discriminatory acts performed by law enforcement or businesses in Carbondale. He served as a member of the original task force that made recommendations to improve race relations within the city, including the suggestion of an HRC. Haynes said he wants to make the commission a reality and assures all businesses in Carbondale that the task force has never meant to hurt them.

“It was never the intent of that group to make the HRC a whipping post or something that’s going to be cruel to Carbondale business,” Haynes said. “We wanted to make this a tool and an avenue for access to people in our community.”

The question of whether the HRC’s members should be appointed or elected still exists. Haynes said he believes that once the members are in place, they should be given the right to choose whether the commission has subpoena power.

When he is not serving on task forces or managing Kroger, Haynes spends as much time as possible with his family and friends. He has been married for 18 years and has five children and nine grandchildren.

Haynes shares much of his leisure time with his 16-year-old son, his only child still living at home. He enjoys watching his son’s high school basketball games and the two share a household hobby.

“I collect model trains,” Haynes said. “My son is into it, so we have a great opportunity to spend time with each other. I enjoy just sitting down and watching the trains. It’s almost like we’re the Addams Family.”

As a lifelong Carbondale resident and former SIUC student, Haynes said he is indebted to the community for helping him achieve his goals. That is one of his reasons for wanting to serve on City Council.

“I’m a child of the community,” Haynes said. “You hear a lot of people say that it takes the village to raise the child. That’s true in my case. There have been lifelong members of this community who have taken me under their wing. I just want to thank Carbondale by giving something back to the community.”

Reporter Burke Wasson can be reached at [email protected]