|Normal Mayor Chris Koos balances business with public office|
|Written by Renee Changnon, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Wednesday, 19 October 2011 21:49|
Becoming an elected official requires that a person be dedicated to local growth, as well as possessing the people skills required to work well with others. Balancing a career and the demanding time that public service requires may be too much for some.
In the Town of Normal, Mayor Chris Koos has proven that following your civic duty and remaining a business owner is very much possible. According to Koos, in the town of Normal, being the mayor may technically be a part-time job, but there is much more that goes with it.
“In a community like this, it’s what’s called a council management form of government. The mayor and the council members are considered part-time. I’ve always said this was a part-time job with full-time expectations because it really does require a lot of time,” said Koos.
In addition to being mayor of the Town of Normal, Koos is also the owner of Vitesse Cycle Shop and Often Running, retail specialty stores in Uptown Normal. According to Koos, his business skills have been great in assisting a smooth transition to the mayor’s office.
“I think my business perspective and small business experience definitely helps me be able to have a conversation with people when things aren’t going the way they want them to go,” Koos said.
Although some may question a business background in a political position, Koos said he believes his friendship with other like-minded officials has been a huge part of the growth seen today.
“I think the city manager, Mark Peterson, and I have a very close relationship in terms of city government. We think alike, we’re both very entrepreneurial, which has a lot to do with what’s happening with the … direction the community is going,” Koos said.
According to Koos, for the Town of Normal, the relationship shared with Illinois State University is very much embedded in the town’s history, as Normal was born out of the campus.
“ISU began in 1857 but Normal wasn’t founded as a community until 1865, so the little enclave was referred to as North Bloomington until Normal was founded,” Koos said.
Since the early days, both the university and town have made a partnership that helped foster growth, with the two working closely together. Koos explained although the mission of the two may be different, each is able to work well because of the other.
“We’re trying to raise our bar, raise our game, level with excellence, and ISU is too. They have a different mission than we have, but we’re both kind of working in the same direction so I think there’s a symbiotic relationship … we’re working together,” Koos said.
On a personal note, Koos explained his strong friendship with ISU President Al Bowman dates back to before either of them earned the titles they have today, as Koos even sold Bowman a bicycle from the shop he owns today.
This great relationship on a personal and professional note allows both the town of Normal and ISU to be as cohesive as they have become, Koos added.
“A lot of communities that have universities in them don’t have good relationships — it’s not uncommon,” Koos said. “We have a very good relationship. When [President Bowman] was on speech faculty at ISU, I sold he and Linda their first bikes here in the community.”
According to Koos, having the opportunity to work with and talk to student groups on campus has allowed this ISU alumni the chance to make an impact on today’s students.
“I’ve said this, I’ve been asked by student groups to talk and I always say, ‘this is your community for four, five or six years, and if you want to be involved and active in it, there are opportunities to do so,” Koos said.
According to Geoff Fruin, assistant city manager for the Town of Normal, although he will be leaving Normal to move soon, one thing he will miss is working with everyone in the office, including his office neighbor, Koos.
“It’s a pleasure to come to work because of the people that you work with, and obviously [with Koos and my] offices right next to each other, I’m going to miss that. Coming into work everyday and just knowing folks working alongside of me are as passionate and have a hard work ethic, and really want to see the community go to the next level; I think that’s what I’ll miss, just that kind of open type of atmosphere that [Koos] created in the office,” Fruin said.
At the end of the day, being mayor is something Koos enjoys, along with being able to say he’s something no other mayor is.
“I’m the only ‘Normal’ mayor in the United States,” he said.