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Peoria's new assistant city manager is on the job. Here's what she wants to do first

Peoria Assistant City Manager Kimberly Richardson
Contributed photo
Peoria Assistant City Manager Kimberly Richardson

Kimberly Richardson has lived in or around Chicago for most of her life.

The new Peoria assistant city manager started the job on Jan. 31. She will oversee the economic development, information technology, and emergency communications departments in the city.

Richardson comes to Peoria after a stint as deputy city manager in Evanston. That Chicago suburb's economy is centered around Northwestern University.

"We really had to think differently with COVID, of how we look at our economic development, and I think Evanston taught me a lot about relationship building with our local businesses, and helping them get through and bring some great services to that community," said Richardson. "But Peoria is different. And Peoria has a different need, and Peoria has different challenges and different strengths."

Richardson said she is getting to know the story, or history, of Peoria's economy right now.

"I know what we have, I know what we've had, and I know what we could have in the future," she said.

OSF HealthCare's new downtown Peoria headquarters is one exciting prospect, she said, adding onngoing work by the economic development team in the Warehouse District and Mayor Rita Ali's efforts to grow new economies in the city are also positives.

"My job is to support that work, continue that work, and listen to the community, hear what their needs are, as we try to address some of the needs and our areas that have been most affected by COVI,. And by our population changes, shifts," Richardson said. "And so I have a big lift, but I have some great team members that will be supporting my opportunity to really get to learn, engage and be able to support and continue to expand on the work that's already started."

Richardson said she sees her job as a marathon, not a sprint. Building up her relationships with people around town is one of her main priorities, but she said she does hope to be able to show progress in some areas in a year's time.

"I know we're talking about parking in our downtown, what does that look like? And, you know, again, we have a new headquarters coming in our downtown. I know that we're looking at what we're doing in the South side of town, how that needs to be supported and lifted up. I'm excited to see our new fire station coming online very soon, and how that's a great bonus and added value of community for that side of town," she said.

Richardson said she also wants to ensure ARPA relief funds are distributed in a fair manner.

"How we identify, as well as distributing those funds into the community, and making sure we look at them with an equity lens is important to me," she said.

Richardson said she's grateful for the warm welcomes she's received in Peoria so far.

"I recognize there's a common denominator in the communities I've work for. And that is the the community members, the passion and the love and the pride that they have," she said. "And I just want to do my job as a public servant and making sure that we show that pride, and that we respect that pride, in everything we do."

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.