KANKAKEE — Two weeks earlier than expected, outgoing Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong said goodbye to the Kankakee City Council, department leadership and citizens.
The mayor, reading from a prepared statement, presented her reflections — “sharing from my heart,” as she described it — at the conclusion of Monday night’s city council meeting.
The address caught at least some council members off guard as they were expecting her to be on hand for the May 3 council meeting and were going to make their comments then. The mayor, however, stated that she would not be able to attend the May 3 meeting. She will continue work as mayor until the end of her term.
During the “mayor comments” portion of the council meeting — which is the final matter of every city council agenda — the mayor launched into her statement as she reflected on the past four years.
She described the four-year tenure as something akin to “an abusive relationship,” meaning she felt attacked from all sides.
As the first black person elected as Kankakee mayor, Wells-Armstrong certainly had obstacles, but she said her heart was always for all the people of Kankakee.
Wells-Armstrong was soundly defeated in the April 6 municipal election by 6th Ward Republican Alderman Chris Curtis. Curtis will be sworn in as the city’s new mayor in two weeks.
“There are many broken people in this community,” Wells-Armstrong said. “... I pray our community heals.”
She stated people who refuse of open their eyes are destined to remain in the darkness.
Every council member thanked Wells-Armstrong for her service and her leadership, even if they failed to agree on the direction she was taking on a particular issue.
Every council member also wished Curtis well as he will take the leadership role. Some, however, said they will be watching to make sure the entire city is represented in a fair matter.
Wells-Armstrong stated she planted “many seeds” during her four years, chief among them the proposed Kankakee Riverwalk along the banks of the Kankakee River. The plan intends to take full advantage of the river as a backdrop for commercial, retail and recreational development.
“The city is better for the vision of this administration. A lot of seeds were planted,” she said. She encouraged the community and the council to hold the incoming administration accountable from making sure the riverfront project continues to move ahead.
“Build the riverfront. It will improve the quality of life,” she said.
She also told residents to stop being fearful when in comes to addressing leadership.
“Make sure your voices are heard. ... Stop being silent to lies, hate and abuse,” she said. “Work to make life better for those around you.”
The mayor said she has not lost faith in Kankakee.
“I still believe in Kankakee, but there is still much work to do,” she said.
She said the work which is ahead will require courage and compassion as well as people not being fearful to step outside of their personal comfort zone.
She then recalled herself as a little girl who grew up on the city’s east side. She never could have imagined that little being mayor of this city. She said others now know they can become a mayor of a community if that is something they truly desire.
“I believe in the potential of Kankakee to be great,” she said. "We gave the city a bold vision. Work to bring results here.”