NORMAL — Ray Ropp isn't concerned about partisan battles on the Normal Township board.
"You hope at a local level that wouldn't be an issue," he said. "I think we can work together to improve the township."
His colleagues agree on that, but maybe not much else: Ropp will be the board's only Republican after three Democrats were elected this month.
Sally Pyne, a retired academic adviser at Illinois State University and Lincoln College who served on the McLean County Board, said she hopes to start conversations that may not have been possible under the previous board.
In addition to unseating three Republicans, the three new members are all women replacing men, and Arlene Hosea, a retired ISU Campus Dining Services director, will be the board's first black member.
“For so long in McLean County, it’s been older white Republican men who have held all these offices, and that isn’t what our county looks like," she said. "I’ve known Ray Ropp a long time, and our world views are a little different, but variety brings quality.
"You need to have a little difference of opinion to move things forward and think outside the box.”
Pyne said she ran without a specific agenda but hopes to sustain the senior Activity and Recreation Center and the township assistance program, which helps residents with basic needs like food and housing.
“The current board, the three members going off and Ray Ropp, did a heck of a job getting that (ARC) funded and open. Part of my role is to help it continue to be excellent,” she said.
Normal Township taxpayers now pay the same ARC user fee as residents from elsewhere. "We need to look at the fee structure and have a discussion about if you live in Normal Township, perhaps you should get a break on classes or something,” Pyne said.
For Hosea, the first step in representing the township is outreach.
“One of the things I hope that as a group we can talk about is how do we present ourselves to the community. ... "If the first question (residents) ask you is, 'What does the township do?' or 'What is a township?' then I know I need to get myself out there," she said. “We want input. We want feedback.”
That includes at meetings and online, Hosea said.
“I’d like to know why we meet at 8:15 in the morning on a Thursday. ... 8:15 in the morning doesn’t work for most of the people in the community,” she said.
"We as a township can spend some time looking at that web presence," she said. "Is it the most effective design? Is it robust? Is it user-friendly? That will help people know the services and why we exist."
Samantha Quigle, who owns personal training studio Positive Training and works six hours per week at the ARC, said she looks forward to helping that facility and learning more about other town services.
“My average client is 55 and older as well, so I’m obviously very passionate about that population,” she said. “What the township has done so far to make the ARC feel alive has been amazing."
ARC opened last year, replacing an older senior center and offering expanded services. "The center (idea) is (very) old, but they knew they could still do more, and they made it happen,” she said.
Quigle said she also looks forward to working with Township Supervisor Sarah Grammer, another Democratic woman who succeeds a Republican man.
Hosea, Pyne and Quigle agree with Ropp that the members leaving the board — Richard Phillips, Randy Schaab and Melvin Schultz — should be recognized.
"I hope the new members will be just as dedicated as they were," Ropp said.