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After serving Peoria as a pastor for 20 years, Clara Underwood-Forman wants to serve on the city council

Clara Underwood-Forman has served as a pastor at Potter's House of Peoria for 20 years, now she wants to serve on the city council.
Collin Schopp
Clara Underwood-Forman has served as a pastor at Potter's House of Peoria for 20 years, now she wants to serve on the city council.

At-large City Council candidate Clara Underwood-Forman isn't originally from Peoria, but the four-decade resident said feels like she was born here. She said that's because she's made an intentional effort to get involved in the community.

Forman is a pastor at The Potter’s House of Peoria, a position she’s held for twenty years. She’s also worked with the South Side Mission and created her own foundation, honoring the memory of close family members she lost to violence.

She’s also been involved in professional development and housing for young people and State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth recently referred her to be the coordinator for the Peoria chapter of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice.

“I wanted to be on the inside reaching out to the people, to be a voice, to be an advocate,” said Underwood-Forman. “I've done that for over 20 years.”

Underwood-Forman says voters should elect her so she can be an advocate for those without a voice.

“By being a pastor for over 20 years, those kinds of things, the outreach, or whatever that we do for the church, I believe that can be very instrumental,” she said. “As far as, you know, being on the council and putting that particular perspective.”

Underwood-Forman sai safety is the foremost issue Peoria needs to deal with, in her view, improving community safety and fostering economic growth and development go hand-in-hand.

“Because if people don't feel safe in our community, you got people that are not really engaging, that are doing a whole lot of online shopping, or whatever,” she said. “Because of fear of going out and going to the mall.”

She said getting a handle on safety starts with bridging a gap between law enforcement, city officials and the wider community, identifying the needs of Peorians and helping them find the right resources.

“When it comes to housing, a lot of people don't have adequate housing because of having a felony. Being able to provide housing for them, jobs for them that when they interview, the moment they put down the fact that they have a felony really kind of negates them even getting the job,” she said. “So those kinds of things, if we could work with those kinds of things. And as I said, bring that, you know, kind of bring that together, I think it would be very, very helpful.”

Another tactic Underwood-Forman believes would increase the effectiveness of the city council is getting out to speak with community members directly and see what their needs are. She would like to see the city “reinvest” in its people following the difficulty many had dealing with COVID.

“I would like to see the city do a city stimulus,” she said. “So that the people will take that money and reinvest that money and spend that money back into our businesses.”

Underwood-Forman also wants to continue work to attract grocery stores to "food deserts," the Peoria areas where there’s less access to fresh food.

“I would like to see the city work diligently on attracting investors to make sure that we have a grocery store in those communities,” she said. “So that's one of the things that I'm very passionate about.”

Even with a number of issues she would like to address, Underwood-Forman is generally positive about the city she’s called home for decades. She compares Peoria to a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis.

“When I moved here it was called the Caterpillar town. Okay, Caterpillar is no longer here, I mean, they are here, but not in the way that they once were, you know, like years ago,” she said. “And so we're going through that phase right now. And I believe that Peoria is going to rise from this when we begin to get in there and tackle the issues that we're facing here.”

After a four year term, Underwood-Forman says she would like to see an increase in jobs that rise to Peoria’s cost of living, an increase in minimum wages and new businesses to start and grow through grants similar to Peoria’s current RISE program.

“I'm, you know, a people person. I have a heart for Peoria. I've been here over 40 years. I feel like I'm a native here,” she said. “And my heart's desire is to work for the people, to serve the people, to serve their communities.”

The consolidated election is Tuesday, April 4.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.