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Bloomington's Next Police Chief Likely To Be Named This Week

Michele Steinbacher
Bloomington Interim Police Chief Greg Scott stands with his wife and grandson, while he speaks at the Bloomington City Council meeting Monday, Aug. 23, 2021, at the downtown Government Center. Scott is retiring Sept. 3. Officials expect to name the next chief this week.

Bloomington's next police chief could be announced within the next two days.

During Monday night's Bloomington City Council meeting, City Manager Tim Gleason said he's made an offer to one of the two finalists.

“I’m working with him today, on finalizing what that would look like,” he said, but declined to say which candidate was offered the post.

Illinois State Police Col. Jamal Simington and Springfield Police Chief Kenny Winslow are vying to replace Greg Scott, the interim chief who is retiring in September.

Simington, a Bloomington resident, has been in law enforcement for 30 years. Winslow has a 27-year career with the Springfield Police Department, the last eight as chief. Either candidate would be new to BPD after a series of internal hires for the chief post.

Earlier at the meeting the council honored Scott, who announced about a month ago he'd be stepping down. Scott emotionally addressed the council, saying in his law enforcement career he was most proud of serving alongside the men and women in Bloomington’s department.

“Greg has done an excellent job for the community,” Gleason said later, noting Scott stepped up twice to fill the interim position.

In part, that allowed Gleason to wait and conduct the police chief search after Illinois reached Phase 5 of the Restore Illinois Plan. He said he didn’t want to do the recruitment in a virtual setting, adding it was important for the community to get to meet the candidates face-to-face.

Public comment policy expanded

Also at the meeting, the council voted unanimously to allow public comments to arrive via live phone calls.

The council’s longtime policy allows in-person comments or emailed comments. When the council met remotely due to pandemic restrictions, an exception was made for phone comments. However, since June when the council began meeting at the McLean County Government Center, the phone calls hadn't been allowed.

Ward 7 council member Mollie Ward called the new category a positive change in the way the council engages with Bloomington residents.

It’s really an improvement for people who aren’t able to attend meetings in person, she said. Otherwise, their only option has been to email comments, which are not read aloud during the meeting.

“When it’s emailed, really only the council sees it — in the moment. And people’s voices are not heard or amplified that way,” she said.

Ward 6 seat now empty

Monday marked the last meeting for council member Jenn Carrillo, who recently resigned after moving outside of Ward 6.

Mayor Mboka Mwilambwe said by the Sept. 13 council meeting he aims to have a recommendation for filling the seat.

Carrillo said while they’re pleased with their new home, they were disappointed they couldn’t find a place in Ward 6. Carrillo lamented tenants are put at a disadvantage against homeowners.

“Our current residency requirements really stack the deck against marginalized people,” said Carrillo, who urged the mayor and council to replace the seat with a like-minded council member, as a way to respect Ward 6 voters' April decision to elect Carrillo.

Michele Steinbacher
Sahara Williams, a Normal Community West High School student, and several other members of the city's youth enrichment program, speak to the Bloomington City Council on Monday, Aug. 23, 2021.

Youth enrichment program

The council also heard a presentation from Nicole Albertson, the city’s human resource director, and several teens who interned in city's youth enrichment program this summer. Speakers interned with the city clerk's office and public works.

The program introduces youth ages 15 to 18 to jobs in city government. It pairs a teen with a mentor among city staff. The Jule Foundation and the Bloomington-Normal chapter of the NAACP are partners with the city on the project, which began last summer but was slowed by last summer's COVID shutdowns.

Ward 8 council member Jeff Crabill said the benefits of the mentorship program are not just for the people involved, but for the city, too.

One participant, Bradley Ross Jackson, a 15-year-old Normal Community High School student, said he’d like to see the program better marketed to bring in more participants. He said he wasn’t even aware it existed until he joined the NAACP’s youth council.

The administration often talks about hiring a diverse staff, but that workforce doesn’t come out of nowhere, said Mwilambwe.

“We have to build a bench,” he said, noting the program’s growth from three to 15 students is a good start. The city set aside $60,000 from its seasonal hires budget to pay for the internships, according to council materials.

In other business

The council:

  • Approved spending about $811,000 to buy two side loaders from Key Equipment of Bridgeton, Mo.; and two crane carrier chassis from Cumberland Servicenter of Elk Grove. The vote also authorized public works staff to auction off the two crane carriers being replaced.
  • Approved a roughly $280,000 agreement with McLean County Asphalt Co. Inc. for the city parking lots project.
  • Heard the city's financial outlook for early fiscal 2022 is good. During his report, Bloomington Finance Director Scott Rathbun said revenue categories are coming in much higher than expected. He credited American Rescue Plan funding, as well as increased consumer spending, and the strong economy in central Illinois.
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Michele Steinbacher is a WGLT correspondent. She joined the staff in 2020.
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