Mike Watson was voted in as mayor of Bradley by village trustees at a special board meeting May 2. Watson, who already was a village trustee and a previous two-time mayoral candidate, was chosen for the position after former Mayor Bruce Adams resigned, citing health reasons. The Progressive Citizens party Watson leads holds a firm majority on the Bradley board.
Think sat down with the now mayor. The questions were asked by Phil Angelo, and answered by Watson. Both are edited for length and clarity.
How did you first get involved in politics?
My interest in politics took off when we were facing the landfill debacle (in parts of Kankakee County) and our representatives were not supportive of the people. The issue had been under the radar before that.
I was raising my family. I gathered up my neighbors and said, “This decision is our power.” So, we incorporated (the village of Sammons Point) and we had to do it twice. The first time there was a glitch in the petition. The courts ruled against us, and we had to do it again. The first filing was in 2006. The second was in 2008. I served as mayor (of Sammons Point) until 2012.
I came back to Bradley because I saw some things happening that I did not care for. I moved across the street from my operation.
When I left Sammons Point, there was a good team in place. I do believe in term limits. People should make their contribution and move on.
What makes you most proud of Bradley?
It is a great place to grow up. As a child, 40 kids lived within two blocks of me. I had it all. I still have a lot of contact with childhood friends.
What is the proper relationship between the village of Bradley and the Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau?
We really need to research how the money has been spent, particularly the money that has been raised by the taxes on Bradley hotels. How has that money benefited Bradley?
We need to see what needs to be financed. How has our money been spent, and what have we gotten for it?
What do you see as the future for Northfield Square mall?
I would like to consider a convention center. I think we have a decent team in place to plan for the future of the mall. It needs to be repurposed. It is a tremendous asset.
To me, it would be remiss to let it slip into disrepair. We have an obligation to help Northfield Square be successful again. There is opportunity there.
How much should Bradley cooperate with the other municipalities? What can you do together? What needs to be separate?
I am for cooperating on any facets where we can, but it has to be fair. If we are paying a per capita share, that is one thing. If Bradley’s payment is lopsided that is another.
Take all the money Bradley paid into the hotel tax. Some of it could be used to beautify Broadway and Route 50. Our parks could use improvement. If we had a convention center, that, in turn, would help support our hotels.
What is your goal for the KRMA sewer board?
Well, we need someone on the board to address the financial concerns. I am not sure how to get to where we need to be, but someone has been asleep at the wheel. We need to determine what went wrong.
Will you be changing any major administrators or chiefs in Bradley?
I can’t say. I am still getting to know them. I certainly have some ideas about how things can be done. We are going to approach things as a team.
Do you have any words for the previous mayor, Bruce Adams?
He should certainly be thanked for his services. He and I were on opposite ends of many issues, but I think diversity makes groups stronger.
There were times when I was outvoted 5-1, but I stood my position. That’s OK. It’s OK to be different.
What does the hiring of Jamie Boyd (former Kankakee County State’s Attorney) do for the village?
He was not hired as the village attorney. He was hired to give advice to the village board. That adds a different opinion and he is obviously local.
The ordinance to create an attorney for the board is important. When I was a trustee, I felt I was often kept in the dark, while others had more information. I had to do my own research. It would have been nice to have legal counsel.
How is Bradley coming with a cupcake law?
In effect, it has been recognized. I hope the proposed business is taking off and the baking is taking place.
What is the most fun you have as mayor?
Coming up with ideas and solutions, particularly ones that put more money in the residents’ pockets. I want to see ideas that produce revenue and make things happen.
We have a good team of people, and they are chomping at the bit. We are anxious and excited to make some changes.
What about the idea of swapping a higher sales tax for a lower property tax?
I am 100 percent for it because the property tax is a tough one in Illinois. Lowering the property tax brings economic development with it. This is an area where municipalities like Bradley can lead the way.
What do you think of the public bike share (Zagster) program?
I wasn’t a supporter when it started. I voted against it. I like it far less now. They should have supported this with sponsorships or paid for it through the convention and visitors bureau instead of passing the costs on to the general funds of the municipalities.
It might be OK to have the rentals at the (Bourbonnais Township) park district, where people would use them, but it doesn’t work at the village hall site. For what we are paying, we could just give every rider a new bike.
Is there anything we haven’t talked about that you would like to add?
I will be reaching out to the residents by having a newsletter to keep them informed. I’m not sure any other municipality is doing this.
We also are going to do a lot of brainstorming, assembling a team to come up with new ideas and concepts and saving the residents money.