DECATUR — Shelith Hansbro, programs warden at Taylorville Correctional Center, announced her bid Tuesday for city council in next year's local elections alongside outgoing Councilwoman Dana Ray, who endorsed her.
"I've been talking to (Hansbro) for some years, trying to get her to consider running for city council, and this year I was successful," Ray said at a press conference for Hansbro at the Decatur Civic Center. "I didn't really have to convince her (this time), she has a servant's heart."
Hansbro, who until May was the warden of the Decatur Correctional Center, is the fourth non-incumbent to say publicly that she would run for city council in the April 2019 election.
Ray announced in August she will step down at the end of her term after nine years on the city council. Councilwoman Lisa Gregory has said she will run for re-election, while Councilman Bill Faber said he will wait until after the November midterm elections to make his decision about whether to seek another four-year term.
Hansbro, a native of Chicago, has made Decatur home for 25 years.
"One thing that impressed me about Decatur was you could reach out and touch elected officials at the local, state and even national (levels)," Hansbro said. "I fell in love with this community."
The newly-minted candidate said she wants to focus on issues that affect everyone, including economic development, affordable housing and crime reduction.
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"Those are things that all of us are connected by, because we want high quality of life in our community," Hansbro said.
Hansbro is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois Springfield, where she received a master's degree in public administration. She has spent most of her career in the public sector, including eight years as warden of the Decatur women's prison. The facility on East Mound Road is one of eight in the country to offer a nursery program that allows incarcerated mothers to raise their infants while serving their sentences.
Hansbro said her experience in public service and community involvement on a number of nonprofit and charity boards in Decatur gives a her a strong background to serve on the council.
"I know how the legislative season operates, I know the different levels of government and how to work with them," she said.
Others who have announced their candidacy are Marty Watkins, founder of the "Walk in My Shoes" campaign, which donates shoes to Decatur students; Rodney Walker, CEO of SkyWalker International Sports Complex and the Eisenhower High School varsity boys basketball coach; and Shavon Francis, an accountant at Archer Daniels Midland Co.
It's unclear how many residents will file the documentation of the 115 voter signatures needed to appear on the ballot for municipal elections next year, but at least 17 people have taken out the required paperwork, according to the city clerk.
In the mayoral race, incumbent Julie Moore Wolfe announced in August she will run for re-election. In September, marketing executive Kara Demirjian Huss and Jacob Jenkins, chairman of the Greater Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce, announced they planned to seek the seat.
To force a primary for mayor, at least five candidates must file petitions to appear on the ballot; for city council, there must be at least 13 candidates. Decatur's municipal elections are nonpartisan. If there is a primary consolidated election in Decatur, it will be held Feb. 26.
The consolidated election for mayor and city council will be April 2.
Contact Tom Lisi at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @tommylisi