Have you thought about running for mayor?
There was no
awakening moment when Keith Snyder said to himself, I'm going to run
for mayor. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
He was working for Lincoln Christian University, and seeking the
mayoral position had not entered his mind. He explained: "I was
approached by a group of people and they said, ‘Have you ever
thought about running for mayor?' And I was quite honest," he
laughs, "when I said NOPE, I never have."
They said, "Well, we think you ought to consider it; you have
some abilities that the city would benefit from."
The mayor went on to say: "I spent several months thinking about
it, and by late summer I decided maybe I'd give it a go."
Indeed, Snyder does have education and experience that has and
will continue to be beneficial in the mayoral position.
He has a bachelor's degree in political science and a master's in
business administration, and his first career was 17 years with the
After graduating from college he applied for a graduate
internship, which was to last one year, but at the end of that term
he was asked to stay and did so for another 16 years.
He was appointed by Gov. Jim Edgar to be a member of the
Educational Labor Relations Board and was also an ethics officer for
the state Senate for another five to six years.
Snyder's departure from his state position was at the hands of
former Gov. Blagojevich. He explained: "I served six years on the
labor relations board and was eligible for reappointment, but the
governor by that time was Blagojevich and he felt that someone else
could do my job better, so he made a new appointment."
After the state position, Snyder went to work in Bloomington in
the corporate offices of State Farm Insurance, in their procurement
"I was a contract negotiator, dealing, for example, with people
who wanted to offer software packages to State Farm. Rather than
hire attorneys to negotiate the contracts, the company hired their
own procurement staff to do the negotiations. Then the attorneys
reviewed the contracts before they were approved," he explained.
Snyder was with State Farm for three years, and then in January
of 2008 he got the opportunity to work at what is now Lincoln
Christian University as an associate vice president of development.
In that position, Snyder's primary responsibility is to deal with
fundraising and donations for the university. He works with
individual donors, church donors and conducting donor appreciation
events as well as fundraisers. He says that the bottom-line goal is
to try to bring in the money.
Snyder enjoys his position with the university and hopes that he
will have a long-term relationship with the school. He also said
that they have been very gracious about working with him on the time
he needs to devote to the mayoral position.
Before he was even elected, an opportunity presented itself
Snyder announced last September that he would run for the mayoral
position, and by October, an opportunity presented itself that he
knew would be good for the city if it could be achieved. So even
before he was elected, he started laying the groundwork for what
would be the city's first big project after the May change of
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Snyder explained that State Farm helped to underwrite a community
study that was done in Bloomington. One day he got an e-mail from a
friend at the company saying, "I know that you're interested in
renewing some parts of Lincoln, so this might be something you want
to come up and sit in on."
Snyder said he drove to Bloomington and sat in on the meeting
about a redevelopment plan for the city's west side.
Scott Goldstein, who is a consultant for Teska, was there for the
meeting, and afterward Snyder made a point of meeting him. "I went
up to him and introduced myself and said, ‘Hey, I'm running for
mayor of Lincoln and am intrigued by the plans you guys have come up
with, and I'd like to keep in contact with you,'" Snyder said.
The two did stay in touch and over the months talked about fiber
optic broadband technology and bringing it into Lincoln.
Later on there came a morning when Snyder and some others were
having breakfast together, discussing a comprehensive plan for
Lincoln. Goldstein was working in the Peoria area and was invited to
join them for breakfast. In the course of the conversation,
Goldstein told the others that there was approximately $4.7 billion
in the federal stimulus plan earmarked for broadband technology.
Snyder recounted: "As we got to talking about it more, we thought
this could really have some good possibilities for Lincoln, so it
developed more and we got Alderman (David) Wilmert involved in it
(as a city council member)."
Under the Lincoln city governance, the mayor cannot actually
introduce and pursue a project. If he has something that he wants to
see happen, he brings it to the attention of an alderman, preferably
one who chairs a related committee. Then the mayor can work with the
committee as needed.
Because there was no real technology committee, Wilmert was
chosen and the sanitation committee he currently heads up was
modified to include technology.
Speaking about the fiber optic grant, the mayor added that he had
just learned that 2,200 applications in all were made for a grant
from the federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. He's
been told by Goldstein that sometime in October the city will find
out if they have made what he referred to as the second cut.
The mayor also said that being one of only 10 municipalities in
Illinois to win the state-level grant should work in the city's
[By NILA SMITH]
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