Bloomington mayoral candidate Jackie Gunderson hopes her vision of a welcoming and inclusive Bloomington wins over voters.
Gunderson is campaigning on fostering community and giving everyone a seat at the table. That platform was unsuccessful in earning her a spot on the McLean County Board in November, when she ran against incumbent Republican Susan Schafer in District 9.
Gunderson said running for mayor wasn’t originally part of the plan, but she saw an opportunity to further her pursuit of public service. She said she has the motivation, the creativity and the leadership skills necessary to serve and represent all Bloomington residents.
"I wasn't seeing anyone running that looked like me and lived like me,” Gunderson said. “I just thought, maybe this is a time to harness the momentum I have from the race that I just wrapped up and put my energy towards running this race."
Gunderson said local government has an accessibility issue that is detrimental to the growth of the community. She said she wants to ensure everyone’s voice is heard.
“Giving people avenues to play a part in local government is really important to me--making sure that people are heard, but not just relying on them to reach out to us,” she said. “We need to be going to those people and offering them the opportunity to share what they believe, and not waiting for them to show up at city hall or submit a public comment.”
Gunderson said collaboration is key to addressing the city's financial woes, COVID-19 enforcement, economic development and a plethora of other issues. She said a strong leader knows how to bring key players to table to strategize, acknowledging that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to most challenges.
Gunderson said throughout her professional career and extracurricular activities, she’s learned to listen to and respect different perspectives--and to make sure “her voice is never louder than the other voices.”
Gunderson is a procurement manager at Illinois State University, overseeing capital projects. She also serves as director of the Penguin Project of McLean County. The nonprofit offers performing arts for children and young adults with developmental disabilities. She's an active member of Hope United Methodist Church and volunteers with Healing Rides Ministry. Gunderson and her spouse also run a vegetarian and vegan meal prep service based in Downs.
In her spare time, Gunderson competes in roller derby and fosters senior dogs and cats.
If elected mayor, Gunderson said she’d like to see Bloomington adopt a Welcoming City ordinance, which is aimed at supporting immigrants, regardless of their legal status. The proposal would limit how much local law enforcement assists U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Overall, she said, her goal is to make sure the spaces she occupies are inclusive for all.
“I have a passion for continuous improvement and for our community,” she said. “I just look forward to the opportunity to serve Bloomington in this way and give back to the community that has blessed me in so many ways.”
Gunderson will share the April ballot with city council member Mboka Mwilambwe and entrepreneur Mike Straza. Educator Misty Metroz is running as a write-in candidate.
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