WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Macomb Native Now Running the City

May 20, 2019

Scott Coker grew up in Macomb. After college, he worked at NTN Bower and Western Illinois University before becoming the city's public works director a couple years ago. Now he holds the top job in the community's government – city administrator.

Coker took over the job on May 1. He replaced Dean Torreson, who retired after a couple stints in the position. Coker worked closely with Torreson for the past six months to train for the city administrator position.

Tri States Public Radio talked to Coker about his new job and his goals for the city. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

TSPR: Why is (city administrator) something that appealed to you?

Coker: I enjoy helping things get better, help running the process. I think I have things to offer to do that. So I saw that as an opportunity.

TSPR: What would you like to see Macomb do better?

Coker: I think in these times we have big concerns about the census coming up. The university is struggling currently so we have to help with that. We have to continue to work hard for community development, economic development, and things like that. So that’s a main priority.

TSPR: What do you think the city can do to help the university attract and retain more students?

Coker: I grew up in Macomb so I’m very familiar with this area. I believe that once folks get here they understand how nice the town of Macomb is. Everyone is very welcoming. I think that’s the same at the university.   It’s hard to understand that until you get here. So I think just continuing to reach out in whatever way possible to do that. We have to work together.

TSPR: I would imagine that one way to appeal to today’s students is to have an up to date website. I think Western has that. The city’s website looks outdated. Is that a priority for you?

Coker: Yes. Yes it is. That’s on my to-do list. We’re a smaller staff at the city. We don’t have a technology person directly, per se. So it’s a little bit of a struggle just to have the personnel to do that but we will achieve having a new web page. Yes, that’s a goal, absolutely.

TSPR: Will the budget require you to reduce the number of positions at City Hall?

Coker: The city’s fiscal year starts May 1. We have a balanced budget within a couple of percent so we’re good right now. Our concern is that when the census comes out our population will go down. We get quite a bit of our funds from the state and federal governments through shared revenue. For each person it’s about $150 per year. So moving forward we have to be very cautious on any additional spending.

My goal is not to reduce any staff that we have. I feel the city is pretty lean in most areas. If we have to reduce anything we’re going to have to reduce services to our citizens. And that’s something we don’t want to do. So we will have to be very cautious over the next few years.

TSPR: Outside of some of the topics we’ve discussed already, is there something in particular you want to accomplish in your first year?

Coker: We have some tough times here in Macomb. In the last two years I’ve learned a lot about city governance. My goal is to plan where we’re headed in the next year. I’m aware of some of the challenges we have. We will get through them. But I think the biggest thing is how we plan our future and start achieving those things.

TSPR: What is your vision for Macomb?

Coker: My vision is that we just continue to be a nice place to be. Growing up I probably never imagined I would come back here. A lot of young people say that. But it’s a great place to raise a family. Crime is low. It’s a wonderful place to be and as you get older you understand that. So getting people to remember that is important. It’s a great place to be and we’ll get through these problems that we have and come out the other side and be stronger for it.

TSPR:  There’s some talk of perhaps trying to market Macomb as a good place to retire to. Are you thinking along those lines?

Coker: That’s an initiative that started a few months ago. There is a senior livability committee. I haven’t been involved in that discussion much yet. I think that’s one area that we can market with the baby boomer generation because there will be a lot of retirees in the next few decades.  So I think that’s a good opportunity for the city.