April 17, 2021 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

Cunningham wants to help Homer grow

Ray Cunningham feels he has unfinished business. 

Cunningham is running for reelection as Homer’s mayor on April 6. 

“I am running for reelection to finish the work that the village board and I have been working on for the past three years,” he said.  “Experience and accomplishments matter in our village government. We need continuity in our efforts to grow Homer.”

Cunningham said the village is in the middle of several important projects that will determine the future of the village. 

Those include maintaining the village’s water system.

“The greatest challenge facing towns in central Illinois today is water,” he said.  “Water quality, supply and aging water infrastructure are challenges towns face today. Other towns have sold their systems to private companies reaping a short-term benefit only to straddle their customers with a doubling or tripling of rates. We are fortunate that since 1998 the village invested in wells and a new water tower, but we must maintain what we have.”

Cunningham said the 80-year-old pipes and outdated water plant are costly to maintain. 

“We are considering several improvements to the system and exploring ways to finance those improvements,” he said. 

Cunningham said another motivation to run are the village employees he gets the pleasure of working with. 

“Their dedication and professionalism in devotion to our village has motivated me to want to lead,” he said. “Our village board has also risen to the challenges and I am proud to work with them.”

Cunningham said he has numerous goals for his second term as mayor-including paving the way for more residential housing in Homer. 

“This has been an issue for years and we have begun to incentivize building on lots cleared by the village,” he said.  “We also communicate with local realtors to make sure anyone who has a desire to build in our community can build.

Another goal is increasing the number of business in the village

“Our Tax Increment Financing district has not only provided funding for distressed properties but has allowed us to incentivize locating businesses,” he said. 

Cunningham said Homer is getting two new businesses this year and the process for getting them to town took years. 

“Without the support and assistance of the village board these two projects would not have come about,” he said. 

Negotiations for RJD Machining go back about three years as they were seeking a site for relocation, Cunningham said. “In 2013 Sammy Goad and I discussed his will and what the village would do with it. He asked me what I thought, and I mentioned obtaining land for business and homes, specifically the 13-acre parcel adjacent to the village hall. He thought that was a great idea. The parcel came on the market and I worked with the landowner to secure it for the town. This was taken to the village board and approved. With that parcel we were able to attract RJD machining. I worked with the firm, our attorneys and the village board to move this project into the construction phase. We continue to seek other businesses to locate in Homer.”

The Dollar General Project took a bit longer—20 years when the Community Development Board desiring to see a variety store come to Homer. 

“With the loss of the Homer Country Market, I worked with Dollar General on a site location but one on Route 49 could not be secured of sufficient size,” he said. “Dollar General worked with a local landowner to secure a parcel and the village board and I then immediately began the work to make this happen.”

Long term goals include improving roads and improving existing infrastructure.

Cunningham said he believes that is the role of a mayor—being an advocate for Homer and working to bring economic development opportunities to the village. 

“The mayor needs to seek and respond to opportunities,” he said. “The mayor also carries out what the village board decides. While I may not agree with a decision, these are decisions carried out by the representatives of the village of Homer and I will carry their initiatives forward regardless of my personal views. I also represent Homer to other governmental bodies.”
Cunningham said his former jobs helped prepare him for his role as mayor.

He directed a number of programs at three universities which included the management of budgets and personnel. 

“As I look back, my experiences on the village board from 2007 to 2013 gave me insight into the workings of Homer’s government,” he said. “Prior to that I was head of the Homer Community Development Board. Directing Homer’s Sesquicentennial in 2005 was also instructive. As author of Homer’s history and president of the Homer Historical Society I have gained a real understanding and respect for those who built our community.”

Cunningham balances his job as mayor with his work as an archivist and records manager.  Currently, he is imaging the back issues of the Broadlands News. He is also  a photographer and travel overseas to capture glimpses of life abroad.  

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