Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner has named Mollie Ward, co-founder of the McLean County Interfaith Alliance and leader in the Bloomington-Normal Not In Our Town movement to fill an open seat on the city council.
Ward would replace Scott Black and serve the remaining seven months of the term in Ward 7 that covers much of northwest Bloomington.
The city council will vote on the nomination at its Nov. 9 meeting.
Black announced in September he would resign from the council because he was moving out of the ward. He previously said he wasn’t going to run for a third, four-year term.
Ward is the director of spiritual care for Carle BroMenn Medical Center and Carle Eureka Hospital. She is the faith and outreach co-chair for the Bloomington-Normal Not In Our Town Steering Committee, co-founder and co-chair of the McLean County Interfaith Alliance and member and chaplain of the Diocese of Springfield Episcopal Women Board.
A 20-year resident of Bloomington, Ward said she hopes to put her social advocacy to good use.
“I realize that I have spoken out about community issues. I have marched about community concerns,” Ward said. “Now it feels like the right time to begin to actually do something concrete.”
Ward said one of those issues is a welcoming ordinance to limit police interaction with federal Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. In 2018, Renner directed then-police chief Clay Wheeler to make it a part of city policy. Ordinance supporters have re-ignited their campaign in recent weeks to urge the council to adopt it.
Ward said she plans to speak with Ward 7 residents to gauge their interest, but she believes the city must embrace the ideals that such an ordinance symbolizes.
“Immigrants have a lot to contribute to our society. They do contribute a lot to our society already, and we need to acknowledge that and make it clear they are valuable and they enrich our lives,” Ward said.
Calling herself a “fierce advocate for west Bloomington,” Ward said she also wants to see more economic development in the ward. She points to the planned replacement of O’Neil pool as an example of how the city can provide more healthy activities for young people.
“Their ability to move around in the world safely and not fall victim to violence and injustices I think is part of having a healthy community and I think Ward 7 in particular is a ward that has a lot of needs in those areas,” Ward said.
Renner said Ward’s history of advocating for the less fortunate moved her to the top of the list of nine candidates.
“(She is) someone who has a long record of being empathetic and understanding,” Renner said.
Kelby Cumpston, a project manager for affordable housing construction, is the only candidate to have declared for the city council seat in the April 2021 election.
Ward said she hasn’t decided whether to run for the four-year term.
Nominating petitions for the seat must be turned in Nov. 16-23.
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