Community, History, Diversity, Opportunity—remarks from this week’s Candidates Forum

Lansing, Illinois – Our local library hosted a candidates forum this week that gave residents an opportunity to see and hear from both Mayor candidates, both Clerk candidates, and all seven Trustee candidates. In preparation, we were all asked to be able to answer the question, “Why are you running for office?” I answered that question in my opening remarks, and then I reinforced the message in my closing remarks. The transcript below combines both my opening and closing statements:

Love of Community
candidates forumMy name is Melanie Jongsma, and I’m running as an Independent candidate for Village Trustee because I love Lansing! I grew up here, and I’ve lived in several different neighborhoods throughout my lifetime here. It’s fun to see people from those neighborhoods in the crowd tonight–from Escanaba Avenue, where I spent my childhood, to the Villas of Lansing, where I live now.

History and Destiny
These good people who are part of my history with Lansing affirm for me what a strong history we have. I love our history, and I’m grateful for it. I’m also excited about our future. In fact, I think the best way to honor the hard work of the generations who built this town is to keep building it, to keep moving forward, just as they did generations ago.

Diversity and Opportunity
Perhaps what most differentiates me, particularly from the party candidates, is that I consider Lansing’s increasing diversity not a handicap to be accommodated, but a strength to be leveraged. For example, my young Korean neighbor is managing three successful businesses–one is in Lansing. Her mother would like to open a little shop as well–how can we help her? There’s a young black man down the street from me who has a successful music business. He plays gigs in Chicago and all over the country–but he hasn’t played at Autumn Fest yet. How can we get Lansing on his radar? How can we make sure our Spanish-speaking residents feel welcome and have access to the resources they need? These are hard-working people who want to build businesses and contribute to our community. They are a resource. They bring value to Lansing. And I want to make sure we’re not missing out on the opportunities they represent.

I’d like to see us be more intentional about reaching out and learning from each other. I have some unique experience building cross-cultural relationships. I have skills that I learned in my work with an international organization as well as in the multi-cultural church family I belong to in Glenwood. I’m excited to bring these skills to the role of Trustee because I think they will benefit Lansing economically, socially, and culturally.

Exciting Possibilities
These are exciting times in Lansing, Illinois! And I may be biased, but I think this is an important election. The choice will be up to you. You can try and stay where we are; you can try to head back to where we were–or…you can choose to build on the work that’s been done–and move forward.

We have come through some tough economic times, and now we are financially healthier than we’ve ever been. We’ve worked hard to climb out of millions of dollars of debt, and now we’re starting to see the results of that hard work. We have some excellent, professional, qualified department heads in place who are collaborating with each other to serve Lansing. Cronyism is out. Territorialism is out. Inconsistency is out. What’s in is accountability, results, and exciting possibilities.

I want to be part of that. I want to contribute my skills and my time to keep moving forward. I’m asking for your vote on April 4.