Candidates reach for student voters

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — With only a week left before the DeKalb consolidated election, three mayoral candidates spoke to community members at the Holmes Student Center.

Three of four candidates — Jerry Smith, Misty Haji-Sheikh and Mayor John Rey — delivered their ideas to increase the city’s desirability and their plans to work with the NIU community at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the Holmes Student Center, Regency Room. Candidate Michael Embrey was not at the forum.

“I am the candidate that has a lot of drive,” Haji-Sheikh said. “I have a lot of energy; I have a lot of ideas; and I love listening to people and getting their ideas and finding ways we can work together.”

Smith said some of the candidates’ responses sound similar because each candidate is concerned with what’s best for DeKalb.

“It’s easier to be a critic than it is a leader,” Smith said. “Criticism without some idea of a solution is not what our city needs now.”

When addressing city properties, Rey said his platform has two tiers. The first tier deals with social aspects of the community such as economic development and reducing crime. The second tier consists of long-term efforts such as developing the relationship between NIU and the community and budget planning for infrastructure projects.

“My action steps for my continued service in my next term include increasing economic growth in the community [and] bridging social distance across the community. NIU-city relations are part of this,” Rey said. “Reducing crime, improving street conditions and bringing quality housing options among various lifestyles are among those action steps.”

Each candidate also spoke about their plan to work with leaders at NIU.

“One of the things I’d like to work with the Board of Trustees [is] on the tuition issue,” Haji-Sheikh said.

Haji-Sheikh’s son, who attends Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, has his book fees included in his tuition.

“There’s things that we can do that I would like to share with the Board of Trustees and the administration that will impact students and that will give them an advantage that they don’t currently have,” Haji-Sheikh said.

Rey said he worked hard to establish a first-name-basis relationship with NIU leaders when he first became mayor in 2013.

“We have engaged the president’s cabinet from Northern along with the senior team from the city of DeKalb in community-university conversations,” Rey said. “Those have been hosted on a regular basis throughout the year, addressing various projects that are on the docket for the city [and] various projects that have been on the docket for the university, and those are very constructive conversations.”

Smith, who has received the NIU president’s award for community service, said he plans to work with campus leadership within his first 100 days to address enrollment rates in new and innovative ways.

“I will ask the NIU Board of Trustees and the administration to work more closely with me as we address the enrollment drop at Northern, in other ways the city and the university can work together,” Smith said. “We need to be one community.”

Lindsey Salvatelli is a staff writer. She can be reached at [email protected].