New mayor looks forward to connecting city and NIU

By Ali Combs

Mayor-elect John Rey said economic vitality and collaboration with NIU are among his top priorities in his coming term.

City Council sets policy for the city, while the city manager and staff carry out those policies on a day to day basis. The chairman of the council is the mayor, who oversees the community as a whole. In the last several years, issues with economic development and working with the NIU community have been key issues for the council, Rey said. He is looking to make progress and move forward with these issues in the next few years.

Economic development is a major concern in DeKalb, Rey said.

“Reactivating the economic vitality in the region, I think is a major overwhelming theme,” Rey said. “Beneath that, I see collaboration with NIU and others in the region being a key to facilitating that. I think the housing issue is a major consideration that we have to give attention to, but I’m becoming more convinced that attracting jobs in the community is the primary focus that will begin addressing the housing situation.”

Rey said his main focus in restoring economic vitality is “returning DeKalb to a growing, thriving community, one which is attractive to business and industry, one that is attractive to individuals to come live, grow and enjoy the amenities in our community.”

Mayor Kris Povlsen said the city’s budget will be one of the first things the new council will be dealing with.

“He’ll [Rey] be inaugurated on May 6, and 10 minutes later he’ll be running a budget meeting,” Povlsen said. “It’s an important process, and this year’s budget affects all following years’ budgets.”

Rey said he doesn’t think there is much waste within DeKalb’s budget now, but he and the council will look for ways to make the city more financially efficient.

“We’re going to be looking at maintaining a budget which focuses on smart spending, not necessarily more spending,” Rey said.

Rey said he’ll look at the budget carefully and making sure the needs of the police, fire, streets and sanitation departments are strategically addressed.

Although the city has drastically altered the budget in the last several years due to recession, more improvements can be made, Rey said.

“I think over the last five years, the city administration has done a good job paring back those areas which are not necessarily critical activities within the city government, but a continuing vigilance on the annual budget process is going to be very important,” he said.

With new administration and fresh faces on the City Council, collaborative efforts between NIU and the city should be as effective as they’ve ever been, Povlsen said.

Rey is ready to work with others in DeKalb.

“[I’m looking forward to] being able to work with the various constituencies within the community, building a strong collaboration with the NIU community,” Rey said. “Clearly, NIU is the major economic driver in our community. The city has got to acknowledge the economic benefit that NIU brings to our community, work together in strategically moving the municipal government and the university forward.”

Rey has been a part of the DeKalb community for 48 years. In those years, he has worked and volunteered on various service projects and committees, ranging from the Kiwanis Club to DeKalb’s Economic Development Committee. He received a master’s degree in finance from NIU, where he met his wife, Marjorie Rey.

“John brings a broad base of experience to it,” said second ward alderman-elect Bill Finucane. “He’s been involved with the Economic Development Committee, involved with Re:New, and has a pretty good base knowledge of the city. I think it’s going to be good for the city.”

Povlsen is supportive of the community’s choice in his successor.

“He will be a mayor with vision and follow-through,” Povlsen said.

Rey has two sons, Dan and Tim Rey.

Rey was elected to office with 33 percent of the vote Tuesday. He and the other newly elected City Council members will be inaugurated at a special meeting of the council May 6.