Velpula ‘Thankful’ For Being Chosen To Fill Peoria City Council Vacancy
Dr. Kiran Velpula is the consensus choice to fill the vacant at-large seat on the Peoria City Council.
“It’s a single thought in my mind that I want to give something back to society,” said Velpula, who said he was motivated to apply for the opening following an unsuccessful run for a seat on the Illinois Central College board of trustees.
“There are several opportunities that I saw which I really think can help the community, and trying to see where we can find opportunities that we can improve Peoria.”
Velpula, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, said one way the city can improve is by using the area's burgeoning biomedical technology industry go grow the economy and help local communities.
“I thought I could be a liaison between the powerful medical (and) health care system, and connect the dots on the city council so it would be a new avenue to generate revenue and bring new jobs and new ideas to (what is) already a wonderful city,” he said.
“We need new thoughts, new sources, new avenues to rebuild and restore Peoria. So that's why I thought I would be a good candidate, and I am thankful to the council and thankful for the decision.”
Velpula was one of three finalists among two dozen applicants for the opening created by the election of Mayor Rita Ali. A vote on Velpula’s appointment is planned for the next City Council meeting on June 22, which happens to be his 43rd birthday.
“Once he’s confirmed, he'll be sworn in on that same evening,” said Ali. Velpula will finish the remainder of Ali’s at-large term that was set to expire in 2023.
Velpula works in the UICOMP departments of Cancer Biology and Pharmacology, Pediatrics, and Neurosurgery. He is in his first term as a commissioner on the Zoning Board of Appeals, and he serves on numerous boards and committees, including the WCBU Community Advisory Board.
Velpula said he’d like to see the city do a better job of promoting itself.
“That’s how we grow the community: We show it’s safe; we show there’s something for everybody in Peoria,” he said. “It’s a good place to raise a family: Good neighborhoods, good people.”
He said revitalizing neighborhoods and improving the city’s infrastructure are
“I don’t know how it can be done in the blink of an eye; it needs an effort to get there,” he said. “But I think it is something that I would hope to see that happening in pursuit of bringing more people here.”
In the cover letter with his application for the council opening, Velpula said he wants to help make Peoria “more attractive to the next generation of leaders.”
“My passion is to show the world what an amazing place Peoria is to work, raise a family, and enjoy a great life,” he wrote. “We have the basic assets that many mid‐sized cities do not, but we need to enhance those resources and showcase them nationally to attract new residents.”
The Council met in a closed executive session Saturday to discuss the finalists; an executive session scheduled for Tuesday for further discussion has been canceled. The other finalists were Kim Armstrong and James Kemper, emerging from a pool of 26 original applicants.
“That shows very high interest in the position, and I expect we're probably going to have high interest two years from now when the position comes up for election,” said Ali. “It shows that people want to be involved in local government, they want to be involved in the decision-making process, so I’m encouraged by that. We did have strong candidates overall, and certainly strong candidates in the top three.”
Ali declined to detail what set Velpula apart from the other finalists.
“There were three strong candidates that we discussed in executive session,” Ali said. “But I will say that he does bring his talents and I think ability to work well with the council as a whole.”
Velpula said that although he has no previous experience representing a constituency, he believes it won’t take him long to get up to speed.
“For me it’s a new platform, and I’m a quick learner. I will learn fast,” he said. “We have a lot of learned people on the council and the mayor has a vision. I'll see if my perspective fits in their thought processes for the betterment of the city.”