© 2024 Peoria Public Radio
A joint service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Pekin mayor Burress projects business, residential growth in first State of the City address

Pekin Mayor Mary Burress delivers her first State of the City Address on Friday at the Pekin Moose Lodge. Burress said the city is making major investments in infrastructure and retail projects that will have a positive impact on the community.
Joe Deacon
Pekin Mayor Mary Burress delivers her first State of the City address Friday at the Pekin Moose Lodge.

Delivering her first State of the City address, Pekin Mayor Mary Burress said the city is making major investments in infrastructure and retail projects that will have a positive impact on the community.

Pekin Mayor Mary Burress says the city is poised for growth in the years ahead.

Delivering her first State of the City address Friday, Burress said the city is making major investments in infrastructure and retail projects that will have a positive impact on the community.

She said the biggest challenge during her first eight months in office has been trying to overcome the political turmoil that's plagued the city in recent years.

“We did have some division, and it is getting calmer and calmer. We are working very hard together,” Burress said following her address at the Pekin Moose Lodge. “I said from the very beginning I want to build a team, and I think we’ve got the right city manager on board. It's a win-win; we are building a team and that's what makes [a] city grow, true leadership and teamwork.”

Burress said she's made strides in pulling the city council together. Council member Dave Nutter said bridging those divisions has been a key for Burress, as well as filling vacant administrative leadership positions.

“When she first got elected, I said, ‘It'll take you a year to 18 months to get your feet going, knowing where the direction is,’” said Nutter. “And I said, ‘The toughest thing you'll have is vacancies. You’ve got to get the vacancies filled.’ That pulls a team together, having the full-time leadership. She's done a good job of doing that.”

Nutter said the hiring of former police chief John Dossey as the full-time city manager was a critical step.

“Probably the biggest thing that we've done is get out of the ‘interim city manager side’ of the business. It just wasn't the right fit,” he said. “Now, we’ve got a good city manager going on, very aggressive, very positive. [He] brings the leadership that we need to have to pull everybody together. The biggest thing is filling key positions, department head positions."

Burress said those department vacancies were holding Pekin back, and having those vacancies now filled has improved the environment at City Hall.

“A new economic development director [Josh Wray], a HR director [Shelly Costa] — we didn't have those for months and months and months,” said Burress. "It took the pressure off of some of the other staff that were there; they were doing multiple jobs. Now, I think everybody can do their jobs, move their departments forward. That just shows that Pekin is open, we are open for business.”

During her speech, Burress announced Pekin is getting a $4 million federal grant toward extending Veterans Drive to Interstate 474, thanking U.S. Rep Darin LaHood for help in securing the funding. She said that project and Cullinan Properties’ renovation of the former Bergner’s site into new retail space are among the signs Pekin is growing.

“The extension of the ring road, the $4 million, is a huge plus for Mr. LaHood believing in the City of Pekin to help us grow that,” said Burress. “Cullinan Properties coming to town growing more retail — great start for the city of Pekin. New homes being built — our TIF of the east and south districts, people are already taking advantage of those.”

Nutter said the Veterans Drive expansion is definitely needed, and something he hopes to see completed in his lifetime.

“We need to develop a long-term strategy and plan for Veterans Drive from Court Street to 474,” said Nutter. “We’ve got some things in the works for new businesses. Some of them are materializing quicker than we thought. Some of them are a little behind schedule, I'll say, but they're still on the books and it's going to expand Pekin.”

While she could not say where, Burress said Pekin is exploring potential annexation opportunities for future residential and retail development.

“That right there, when we annex land, that is going to grow commercial and the development of homes, businesses. So that is making Pekin grow itself as well,” said Burress.

Nutter said a stronger focus on economic development is something he'd like to see.

“More aggressiveness to look for more revenue sources,” he said. “We're like any other city with revenues and expenses: You can look for revenue, but we also have to get in the mode, sometimes, of cuts — ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ are entirely different. The budget system that we’ve got going this year is 150% better than we've ever had.”

Burress said having city leadership in place and on the same page will help Pekin make progress.

“Now our city is ready to move forward, and that's what I want to see,” she said. “I love the closeness and the willing to work together — one office working with the next office, the police working with the fire. It's just shows you have good, strong community.”

The State of the City luncheon sponsored by the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce also served as a kickoff to the city's bicentennial celebration.

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.