Have you ever felt so strongly about something that waiting, seems like a mistake? That is what Gillian Alicea was feeling this summer when she decided to launch a write-in campaign for the Borough Council’s 6th Ward.
I first learned of Gillian’s campaign through a Facebook post of a friend. Outside of the endorsement I didn’t know anything about the candidate, but I was curious what would possess her to take on such a difficult challenge? (Write in candidates can win, just ask Senator Lisa Murkowski. It’s just not easy.)
So, I reached out.
After skipping the primaries due to a lot news (new marriage, new business), Gillian said once things settled she still had a nagging feeling.
“Ultimately, I realized that I could not wait four years to run,” she said
Below, Gillian makes a proper introduction and shares what she wants for the borough and why you should take the time to fill in the bubble next to the “write in” line and write Gillian Alicea next to it.
Interview with West Chester Ward 6 Candidate: Gillian Alicea
What prompted your decision to run?
West Chester is in a period of growth and transition that is causing a lot of anxiety among residents. I have spent close to four years pushing back against overdevelopment in Chester County as a founding member of Neighbors For Crebilly. I fully believe that national builders are threatening our entire community for personal gain at the expense of taxpayers.
In addition to a pressing environmental crisis, we are about to make some substantial economic decisions in the next few years that will impact our fiscal responsibility within the borough for years to come. With degrees in Economics and Psychology, I have a scientific and statistical background that helps me research and analyze options before making decisions. With that in mind, I understand that not everything can be captured by numbers alone, and that the community voice has a significant place in that decision-making process. I want to ensure that our ward is actively informed by their council representative so they can voice their questions and concerns.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? What unique perspective do you bring to the office?
I grew up right outside of the borough, but attended Unionville High School. For college, I attended Creighton University on an academic scholarship where I graduated Cum Laude. During my studies, I had the unique opportunity to take an economics course in Cochabamba, Bolivia while also studying at a Spanish immersion institute. After graduation, I completed an internship with a nonprofit organization monitoring impact and ROI of grant funding in Ollantaytambo, Peru. At the time, I thought I wanted to pursue a career in international economic development. However, working with women on the ground in another country taught me that real change happens when community members work together and advocate for the policies that best fit their culture and values. After this change in personal philosophy, I returned to Chester County and started advocating for the environmental needs of our community by founding Neighbors for Crebilly with a group of like-minded, dedicated citizens.
There are a lot of issues on the minds of West Chester voters – access to low income housing, environmental inaction, chemical contamination, water quality, parking, tax increases, retail development and job growth, the list goes on. In your opinion, what is the top concern facing the borough right now?
In my opinion, the top concern facing the borough right now is sustainability in our future growth, both economically and environmentally. There will be some significant development projects likely to come before the council in the next four-year term that will have serious impact on our southeastern section of the borough, where Goose Creek runs through. Many people may or may not realize that the continued upstream development in Chester County will have downstream effects on us in the borough, affecting our stormwater management infrastructure, drinking water quality, and quality of our local ecosystem. We need people on Borough Council who know what to focus on when plans are submitted, so we can work with developers to create plans that minimize negative impact and will be sure to add to the community.
What would you say would be your top three priorities as a Borough Council member?
My top three priorities are:
- preserving the historic architecture that make West Chester unique while the town continues growing,
- adapting to environmental changes, and
- fostering a better relationship with our university in town.
Our architecture is a huge part of what keeps West Chester unique; we will need to invest in our infrastructure to adapt to increased flooding and unpredictable weather patterns in a fiscally responsible way; we need to develop better relationships with West Chester University. Our borough council has undervalued the wealth of knowledge sitting at our doorstep in the University and currently only view it as a cost. I want to build that relationship to mutually benefit our town and students that need experience in their respective fields.
You would represent the 6th district which includes much of the downtown as well as residential areas made up of both renters and homeowners. How would you balance priorities or do you see a common theme that unites all these groups?
The sixth ward is a great mix of renters and homeowners, but I do not believe they have different priorities in reality. We all want to maximize the amount of shared services that come from our tax dollars, and we should all work towards efficiency in the use of those dollars to ensure that we have a sustainable future.
Whether you rent or own a home in the sixth ward, you chose to live here for the common values that we all love – the access to amazing local businesses, beautiful historic architecture, well-maintained green spaces, and safe community in which you can trust your neighbors.
You have one-hour to kill in West Chester – what do you do?
Thank you Gillian!
Next week, she will face off against West Chester Borough Councilman Bernie Flynn, who is seeking his second term. Bernie is a former basketball referee who has during his time as Borough Councilman, supported the 44 West plaza plan project, voted to ban plastic bags, supported the introduction of late night rideshare spots and championed a dog park.