I've been visiting each of the City of Beloit's 46 parks over the last several months as I have prepared for leaving home.
As I was walking down College Street and on to the flagstone path at Horace White Park it struck me that many generations of Beloiters had walked this very route. I felt a connection to those who had walked it and thought of those early Beloiters who each contributed money to erect the college's first building. The city and the college were founded by abolitionists who wanted equal access to education, and Beloit's residents, rich and poor all contributed what they could to its cost.
I think it's important to note that while wealthy benefactors have had a hand in Beloit's development by providing important financial resources for capital and infrastructure, the people of Beloit have always rallied together to make things happen and it's that spirit of generosity, community and concern for the welfare and success of all residents that makes Beloit special. Beautiful spaces are important, but without strong, vibrant, healthy neighborhoods and thriving people, only those who are well off or visiting from out of town have the luxury of enjoying those wonderful spaces and reaping the rewards.
As City Councilors, our responsibility is to represent the people and ensure that we keep the safety and welfare of the residents as our highest charge. Corporate investment is greatly appreciated and certainly helps to promote Beloit's economic vitality, but corporate interests should never take precedence or hold higher say over the regular people of Beloit - to those who actually pay their taxes and live here.
Beloit's progress should not be attributed solely to a handful of well to do, wealthy saviors. Rather, it has been a collaborative, community-wide effort that must continue to recognize and include all of our City's stakeholders to realize long-term success.
I am proud to be one resident who has played a small part in making Beloit a special place, along with folks like Jasmine Carbajal, Ms. Lulla Bee Ray, Norvain Pleasant, Steve Howland, Erick Williams, Carmella Hyde, Mark Smith, Megan Miller. The list could go on and on. I am confident in Beloit's shared leadership and community capacity to continue moving us forward.
No matter where I roam, I will always be proud to call Beloit home.
(Sheila De Forest, who recently resigned her position on the Beloit City Council to accommodate a move, delivered these remarks as a closing statement on Aug. 21, 2017.)