Municipal elections are happening April 2nd, and there are a variety of local positions up for grabs. We came up with some questions for candidates in several of these races, and will be publishing their answers over the course of the next couple of weeks as they respond. Smile Politely doesn’t generally endorse local candidates, and these interviews are not endorsements. Hopefully, they will provide you readers with some insight into the importance of local races, and help you develop a sense of which candidates share your values. We’ve reached out to those running for Champaign and Urbana school boards and park districts, Champaign City Council, Mayor of Champaign, and Parkland Board of Trustees.

You will have the opportunity to vote for two people for Parkland Board of Trustees, each for six year terms. The Parkland Board helps "provide local control and direction for the college" according to their website.

Jonathan Westfield is an incumbent running for another term on the board.

Smile Politely: What have you accomplished as a Parkland Board member? Why should community members vote to keep you in that position?

Jonathan Westfield: As a recent appointee to the Board (October 2017) I have spent my first year becoming familiar with my role as a board member. As a member of the Board of Trustees, accomplishments are measured by the actions of the entire Board and not just one member. 

With that said, during my tenure as a Trustee, I would support and lobby for changes to be made to the Higher Education Act and how Pell Grants are awarded. It should be changed to allow students in financial need to be able to cost-effectively increase their skills and earning potential by being able to enroll in short term programs (less than 16 hours) that lead to good jobs.

I believe that a person should make the most informed decision when it comes to voting and vote for the candidate that most aligns with their beliefs and understandings. Those that are looking to see growth and development of workforce and entrepreneurial programs alongside traditional degree granting courses I welcome their support.

SP: What are the three biggest challenges facing Parkland College right now?

Westfield: 

  • Serving as the bridge for high school seniors looking to make the transition to postsecondary education by expanding its use of dual-credit classes to help address declining enrollment (national trend)
  • Strengthening its workforce development partnerships
  • Increasing its online education marketing presence in order to enhance its services to attract and retain students.

SP: How does Parkland prepare for the future as the student body becomes more diverse, as technology advances, etc?

Westfield: The best way Parkland can continue to prepare for the future is by doing what it has done for the last 50 years, being innovative and adaptive to the needs of its diverse student body. Being able to offer not only traditional degreed fields of study, but also the development and implementation of new career program degrees/certificate, ranging from the Parkland Entrepreneurial Network (PEN) specifically Cobra Venture and Pathway program, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) certification, Precision Ag program (the only community college program in the state) to its workforce development training in healthcare, manufacturing, technicians, construction and other specialized areas.

SP: How do you incentivize area students to seek out Parkland College as a viable option for post high school study?

Westfield: As community college, Parkland can do what traditional four-year colleges and universities are unable to, take the student in consideration and better work with them so that they can accomplish their goals at half of the cost. Whether it be to pursue a four-year degree, get specialized training for a middle-skill level career or just to take a class on a particular area of interest. Parkland works at the pace of its students. 

SP: What priority do you place on community aspect of this community college: Community Education and Business Training, College for Kids, the Planetarium? The Theater?

Westfield: They are a high priority. Many times these very community centered programs are the first real exposure that many residents of District 505 have to Parkland and can serve as the catalyst for them to become more involved with what the College has to offer in other areas.

Top photo by Sam Logan