Friday, February 24, 2017

Belvidere mayor challenged by son of former mayor, city treasurer




Posted Feb 24, 2017 at 9:00 AM Updated at 4:27 PM


By Susan Vela
Staff writer

BELVIDERE — Ric Brereton is challenging Mayor Mike Chamberlain, the man who replaced his father as the city's top elected official.

They have worked together under the same roof for about four years. Brereton is the city treasurer, as well as an office manager and a licensed insurance agent at Brereton Inc.

Chamberlain is finishing his first four-year term managing about 130 city employees and an annual budget of approximately $18 million.

Whoever wins the Republican primary on Tuesday becomes mayor on May 1. There are no Democratic or independent candidates.

Both are committed to the city of approximately 26,000 residents. The future looks promising, they agree, because of developments that include Fiat Chrysler's retooling for new Jeep Cherokee lines.


Their approaches are similar but distinct, shaped by their own personal backgrounds.

Brereton's father, Fred, was one of Belvidere's longest serving mayors, serving for 16 years.

"That's why I got involved in local government in the first place," said the younger Brereton. "With that kind of experience, I realized how important it was to be involved."

Ric Brereton has served several years as president of the Boone County Republican Club. He's also been heavily involved in civic activities.

Brereton has helped organize Belvidere's National Day of Prayer and Heritage Days Annual Community Patriotic Worship Service.

"But most of all, I'm proud of building positive relationships with fellow citizens, community leaders and local financial institutions in my position as city treasurer," he said.

If elected, he'd try to improve City Hall's outreach to the community. He'd like local cable Channel 20 to have more extensive programming. He envisions news about local businesses, organizations, newly elected officials and others who make the city run.

He'd also want a "comprehensive examination" of the city's codes and policies in order to create a more business-friendly environment.

Belvidere, he said, has untapped potential.

He has pursued academic studies in Arizona at Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and Scottsdale Community College. He has a certificate in audio production.

Chamberlain represented Ward 3 as an alderman for seven years before he declared plans to run for mayor in 2012. He then promised to be the most visible and accessible leader in Belvidere's history.

Chamberlain said that with collaboration of City Council, city departments and other agencies, priority projects such as Irene Road, Columbia Avenue and the refurbished downtown streetscape were completed. The city has balanced its budget for four years and instituted no new taxes, nor did it have any sewer and water rate increases, Chamberlain said.

The $1 million makeover of State Street downtown included new paving, storm sewers and stamped concrete from Logan Avenue to Appleton Road.

The city has paid for projects such as Columbia Avenue and the downtown streetscape by saving money, rather than borrowing and paying interest.

Also, he said the city's new website is more community friendly and new technologies have made the city more efficient.

"I am sure that new methods of communication with the community will evolve as new technologies become mainstream," he said. "But they must be manageable and appropriate to the function of government, and its serious mandate to serve the people ethically and with consideration for all."

If reelected, he'd try to build on successes from the past four years. He said he'd continue nurturing a business-friendly environment built on a climate of "yes" and "can do."

He'd also emphasize working together. Chamberlain's ad hoc diversity committee recently began meeting to strengthen ties between its community members.

He wants to continue increasing property values by attracting more businesses to the region. Chamberlain recently helped select Pamela Lopez-Fettes as the new executive director of Growth Dimensions, the local entity committed to sparking economic development throughout the region.

By his calculation, the community is due up to 2,200 new jobs, mainly because of Chrysler's new Jeep Cherokee lines.

"Building and maintaining a skilled workforce through diversified education is key," he said. "There are always threats to success but by keeping focused on our goals, empowering our citizens through inclusiveness and good old-fashioned neighborly concern, we will persevere."

Chamberlain is a graduate of the Illinois Municipal League Leadership Enhancement and Development (L.E.A.D.) program, and a graduate of its leadership forum. Because of his involvement in those programs, Chamberlain co-authored a 2009 leadership symposium for University of Illinois Office of Public Leadership.

Susan Vela: 815-987-1392;; @susanve

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