Meet the Freshmen: Sen. Willie Preston

With so many new members of the General Assembly this spring, we thought we should take some time to introduce you to some of the new faces in Springfield.

Willie Preston grew up on the streets of Englewood. He lived each day in what he calls “street conflict.”

He credits access to a career in the building trades as a path that took him to “a different way of living.”

Now as a freshman in the Senate, replacing longtime Sen. Jacqueline Collins, Preston says he’s focused on building opportunities to help reduce violence and blight on the south side.

“If we have more [opportunity,] we will see better people produced in the community,” Preston said. “We need to make sure that we build people. You build them up by giving them purpose. Nothing beyond their family and faith gives people purpose more than having a job, having a career that helps define who they are.”

Now, Sen. Willie Preston (D-Chicago), who turns 38 Wednesday, lives in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood on Chicago’s south side with his wife and six children. His district stretches from the Chicago Skyway to the east to suburban Hickory Hills and Justice to the west.

He ran for the House in 2018, losing a primary challenge to Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago). But when Collins chose not to seek another term in the Senate, Preston wanted his chance to make a difference for struggling communities.

“I wanted to get in and work to stymie some of the violent crime,” he said. “We want to create opportunities in communities where a lot of this violence is occurring. If we create economic opportunity, that will build up a different citizenry and people will have alternatives to a lifestyle that seduces them into a life of crime.”

Preston says he doesn’t believe government can completely solve crime, cultural, or economic issues, but it can play a role in helping raise up neighborhoods impacted by crime and blight.

“I’m not naïve enough to believe that the government has a role to play in every aspect of our life. I’m not a believer that the government is wholly responsible for everything that we do,” he said. “Opportunities [like workforce development] are life changing. Those are the solutions where government can step in and be helpful.”

He cited investments in helping people break into the building trades, small business startup loans, and access to capital for small businesses to help build up their communities instead of tearing them down. He also suggests more financial education in schools.

“A lot of these issues can be met and faced head on, but they have to be addressed with economic policies that will help reduce violent crime,” he said.

Ino Saves New

via rk2’s favorite articles on Inoreader

January 31, 2023 at 08:32PM

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