Inman seeks third term as Macomb Mayor

Steven Barnum , News editor

Mike Inman feels prepared to serve another term as the mayor of Macomb.

The Macomb High School and Western Illinois University graduate found work with the Illinois State Police in 1986 and remained with the department for 25 years. Inman’s interest in law enforcement developed after working as a security guard in the hospital. He also spent time with the McDonough County Sheriff’s office as a radio dispatcher and a jail officer.

“All during this time, I was getting involved with local politics,” Inman said. “It’s always been my philosophy that you should be giving back to the community that has been so generous to you. I had a great childhood here and I have nothing but pleasant memories of Macomb.”

Inman entered the political atmosphere in 1994 when he began serving on the county board. He then served on the library board, which put him in a position to pursue running for city council. He was elected as the alderman of the fourth ward before becoming mayor in 2011. He ran for re-election unopposed in 2015 and will be the only candidate on the ballot this year. Inman is glad that he has the experience in government and law enforcement prior to his time as mayor.

“I feel that my background has been very beneficial for me in this job,” he said. “There are a lot of skills I honed as a police officer and serving in the local government. First and foremost, you have to be willing to listen sincerely to people. You have to understand their problems so that you have the best chance to solve them. I hope that folks who come into city hall appreciate the fact that they have been heard and every effort to help them has been made.”

When it comes to the current city council, Inman believes that everyone is effective as a group. He said that even during votes where not everyone agrees with each other, they find a way to move on without taking anything personally. Furthermore, he tries to surround himself with people with different mindsets in order to give the city a more diverse perspective.

With less money to spend in recent years, the city has reduced employees through attrition. Through this practice, Inman is able to let cut back on the costs of running departments like the police force or the public works department without laying off employees. The city currently employs 110 people, a number that Inman said is lean and the reason why he is reluctant to reduce the staff any further unless the city runs out of options.

Expecting that Macomb will lose population after the upcoming census, he said that city has prepared for the impact for the last five years. Macomb paid the Census Bureau $91,000 to get a more accurate count during the last census, which he said netted an additional $351,000 in residents who weren’t counted during the first attempt. Collecting every dollar they can is important, according to Inman, since there are few tax revenue avenues left to pursue.

The potential decline in population, both student and fulltime residents, keeps Inman realistic about convincing new businesses to open. People may look for brand name restaurants and stores that are known nationwide, but Inman said that there are locally-owned operations that are comparable in Macomb.

“I personally share the same desires of the people to have more here,” Inman said, “but part of what was able to drive our ability to market the community to business developers was our student population. Developers look for students.”

In addition to a decline in enrollment at Western, Inman said that the United States is moving away from brick and mortar shopping. Stores like K-Mart and JCPenney have shut their doors, which Inman said is an external factor that the city cannot control.

“The way we shop in this country is shifting,” he said. “I don’t like it because it takes jobs out of the community and it takes sales tax out of the community, which is what we use to improve roads. Even though being able to shop at home on your computer is convenient for you, it’s terribly detrimental for the overall economy.”

When Inman and city leaders are able to attract businesses to open in Macomb, it’s a long process. It took three years for McAllister’s and the city to finalize the project, which Inman said is the standard time frame for anyone who questions the city’s urgency to add stores and restaurants.

“There’s a bit of naivety to think that just because we want a certain store or restaurant that it’s going to come here,” Inman said. “We are competing with every community.”

Regarding economic development, Inman looks at the announcements that NTN-Bower and Pella will add hundreds of jobs as a positive improvement in the manufacturing sector. He also mentions the role that the agricultural sector continues to play in the community should help lessen the impact of the recent layoffs at Western.

“Anyone who is objective would see that the University is still facing a number of challenges,” Inman said. “The layoffs have a ripple effect on the entire community, both to the individual and the economy. Having said that, we need to be supportive as a community, the majority of the decisions are going to have to be made by the institution right here in Macomb.”

Regarding write-in challenger Kristen-Diane Pollock’s displeasure with the way Inman filled Mellie Gilbert’s seat with Annette Carper, Inman said his process was fair and extensive.

“I had an extremely diverse group of candidates that brought a lot of talent to the table,” Inman said. “That was probably the most diverse pool of candidates I’ve ever interviewed in my life. Mrs. Carper has made a career out of serving people and I felt that she was the most qualified.” Inman will run for a third term as mayor of Macomb on Tuesday.