MOLINE, Ill. — Just four years after Moline gained its first female mayor, this year's election sees two women on the ticket, and both have big plans for the future of Moline.
Incumbent Stephanie Acri is a small business owner who remembers her historic win, back in 2017.
"It makes me kind of sad that it was only four years ago that we had our first female mayor. So I have mixed feelings about it," she remarked. "It's not my mission to be the first mayor that's female. It's my mission to not be the last mayor that's female."
This time around, she welcomes the challenge from her opponent, saying that having choice is always better for the voters, and has allowed her time to talk about her priorities with the people of Moline.
At the top of that priority list, is the development around the new I-74 bridge.
"The last four years have really been about preparing for this next phase in Moline's history," said Acri. "The I-74 bridge demolition has been top of mind for a long time for us. We wanted to make sure we were positioned as best we could to take advantage of that opportunity and I think we are."
Mayor Acri is keeping an open mind when it comes to the area's future development. She says the city has invited the Urban Land Institute to Moline in April.
"They'll be getting a sense of what direction the community wants to go," she explained. The group will return again in the summer to finish collecting data, and then help consult on what could be done with the area.
"I think it's an important step in creating our vision of a river-tech corridor," she said. "I see some kind of joint development there that would be public/private or enhancing the technology in Moline."
Her opponent, Sangeetha Rayapati, also sees the area surrounding the bridge as an opportunity for the city, but she wants to see more of a branding on Moline's healthy lifestyle.
"We have so many access points with the river and all our trails and the beautiful parks that appeal to all generations," said Rayapati. "When people can see that, then they make commitments to staying here."
Rayapati has been a music professor at Augustana College for nearly two decades, and serves as the the current school board president of the Moline-Coal Valley School District. To her, the most important issue facing the city's residents stems from a high turnover rate at City Hall.
"Stability is key to making progress," she told News 8. It's that philosophy, learnt from years on the school board, that inspired her to run for mayor.
Rayapati is referencing the high number of city officials that have left over the last few years - some to retirement, others to promotions, and some unexplained.
The city has been without an economic developer or city administrator for quite some time. That, says Rayapati, is instability, which makes Moline less appealing to investors.
"The way these government entities are set up is to have elected officials providing vision and staying in their roles of guidance, while empowering the paid professionals to do the work of management," she said. "That's where I think things have gotten really blurred."
She also wants to create a stronger dialogue between the people of Moline and their local government.
"Community engagement is just as important as detailed budget work, because you can’t know your community if you’re not reaching back to find out what they’re thinking; where they think we’re serving them well; and where they think we could use some improvements," she noted. "So as a leader, I’m happy to open myself up to critique or open the organization up to critique because I think that’s the only way we move forward and really meet the needs of the individuals that have tied themselves to our town."
But Acri doesn't see it as instability.
"I think there's healthy turnover for organizations and I think we've come out of our turnover in a really strong way," she said.
News 8 will be hosting a live Q&A with both candidates on GMQC at 11 on Thursday, March 25. You can enter any questions you might have for them, here: