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Interview with Alderman Stephanie Kifowit
Stephanie Kifowit is an amazing person. Not only is she Alderman of the 3rd Ward in Aurora, Illinois, she is a Marine, candidate for Mayor and a Mom. She graduated high school from Wheaton Central in 1989, and then joined the United States Marine Corps. After being “honorably discharged” in 1994, she attended Northern Illinois University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. She finished her Master of Public Administration degree in 2004 also from Northern Illinois University. Mrs. Kifowit has two children who both attend school locally in District 131. She is also a member of the American Legion, the United States Marine Corps League, American Society of Public Administrators, and a life-member of the Woman Marine Association.
How long have you been Alderman of the 3rd Ward in Aurora?
I was first elected in April 2003 by only 16 votes; and then I was re-elected in April 2007 with over 1,000 votes. It just shows that every vote does count.
Do you think being in the Marine Corps gave you any advantage when it came to leadership and responsibility?
Absolutely! Sometimes I thank the Lord with giving me the desire to join right after high school because I do not know where I'd be without the training and leadership I learned in the Marine Corps. You also learn a lot about people from different backgrounds and different areas in the US. We learn our leadership traits and skills and we learn pride in doing a job well done. I was able to get money from being in the Marine Corps to go to college and complete my Masters degree. I am truly blessed by my experiences (both good and bad) that I had in the Marine Corps.
What made you want to become Alderman of your ward?
I wanted to have a part in making the East side a place that people spoke good things about and I was tired of hearing only negative things. I wanted to make a difference in the neighborhoods so that they are safer and better for kids and families. This is my true calling in what I am supposed to do with my life, which is fight for a better City that we all live in.
If you don't mind me asking, how much does the Alderman position make a year?
This year we make $15,500 a year plus $75 per meeting.
Were you required to take any classes or anything to be prepared for the role of Alderman?
No, there is no requirement to be an alderman. You only have to be elected. However, the people of the Third ward are lucky because I am the only alderman who actually went to college with a degree in government. I went to Northern Illinois University and I have a BS in Political Science and a Master of Public Administration degree. No other alderman or the Mayor has that type of degree.
I hear you are running for Mayor in the upcoming election, what is that like?
It is exciting and stressful. It is a shame that elections are more about how much money someone has in the bank then what is in the person's heart and if they are a good person for the job. My family does not have a lot of money so it is stressful in trying to raise a large amount of money. It is exciting because I get to meet so many wonderful people and hear how they would like to make Aurora better. I am always happy to have people helping me with my campaign, and that is fun too. That is what I think the city has not done, and that is listened to the people and what they want for their City. I have always worked hard to meet with the people and listen to what they have to say, because that is what is important.
Being the Alderman, you get to see a lot of different people and things. What has been the most interesting aspect of being the Alderman and running for Mayor?
Everyone that I meet has a different story, or upbringing or vision for Aurora. The amount of different people is what I love about Aurora. I like that there are people from all different types of the world. Everyone I have met are (sic) always nice and kind and that is the most interesting.
Well, I know your story has inspired me to want to be an Alderman, but how do you think you have inspired others to follow their dreams?
I hope that people see how hard I work and realize that it is not impossible if you work hard and do the right thing. So many times, people in politics do bad things, and I think that is wrong. There has never been a female Mayor and I think that achieving my dream will inspire people that someone from the East side, who does not have a lot of money, can work hard and succeed. That is what I hope people will be inspired by. However, I can't do it alone, I need the help of a lot of people to succeed and that is the key. You can't be successful alone, but together we can do great things!