Naperville mayoral candidate Richard “Rocky” Caylor thinks the city’s strength is its people. And he says he wants to be a mayor of the people.
Caylor is a logistics company owner whose business is based in Joliet; a Marine veteran proud of his service; a philanthropist responsible for donations to food pantries and collections for faraway storm victims; and a husband, father and grandfather.
He’s not a lifelong Naperville resident, the owner of a business in town or someone with any political experience or aspirations past the mayor’s position he seeks in the April 2 election against incumbent Mayor Steve Chirico.
But Caylor, 62, says his background will allow him to be a mayor who provides respectful leadership and gives residents a voice.
“People know that my decisions will be fair. There is nothing that will drive my decisions that will benefit me financially,” Caylor says. “I’m wanting to do this late in life and be mayor because it’s nonpartisan. I have a practical approach, and we can get so much more done.”
Among the many things Caylor takes seriously about his mayoral bid is what the position actually entails. The definition of the council/manager form of government, which Naperville follows, is his guide.
“The mayor’s position is not a position of power,” he says. “It’s a position of support and service in this form of government.”
Adhering to the council/manager philosophy has served the city well for generations, Caylor says, especially during the tenure of the late Mayor George Pradel, when Naperville experienced a prolonged period of growth.
It wasn’t so much the vision of one person that advanced Naperville into a place with a “beautiful” Riverwalk, a bustling downtown, strong schools and desirable neighborhoods, Caylor says. Instead, the collective wisdom of the people has propelled Naperville forward.
“You need somebody that knows how to listen to all the people, because they know it best,” Caylor says “We need to get back to a council that’s elected by the people to put policy in place and let the city manager run the city.”
The city also needs to preserve what it is and what it has — now that there are no longer so many cornfields to turn into the neighborhoods and shopping centers of the future, Caylor says.
The development arena is where Caylor says his experience in logistics will come in handy. While working for UPS, CDM Logistics and his own company, Cadence Premier Logistics, Caylor says he learned how to get communities involved with large corporate projects, making sure there is buy-in before anything is done to affect an area.
“The perception is there’s too many developments being talked about in small groups and then later unveiled to the public. It does go that way, and that’s going to change,” Caylor says. “No more private little meetings and then big projects unveiled, because now we have residents who are like, ‘What about us?'”
Caylor is on the board for the Will County Center for Economic Development and a member of a coalition created last year to push for improvements on I-80. He says these roles help him understand transportation grants the city could seek and the need to consider infrastructure in redevelopment projects.
“I’m very well versed on, if we need to do something, how can we pull in funds,” he says.
Leading by serving
Public service for Caylor began after he completed high school in the Indianapolis area, when he enlisted in the Marines. He served six years active duty, eventually joining the prestigious Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., also known by its street location, “8th and I.”
He followed his grandfather, an Army veteran from World War I, and his father, who served in the Navy, into military service, hoping to save money for college and serve the next generation.
In the basement of the cozy ranch he shares with his wife of 25 years, Naperville North High School graduate and flight attendant Carey Caylor, he has a room dedicated to his time in the military. And he hasn’t let his focus on service wane since moving on to civilian life.
The people who know Caylor well know the causes closest to his heart: providing food for clients of Loaves & Fishes Community Services, mentoring students and supporting homeless veterans. He’s also used his logistics business to help lead donation drives for victims of natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence, which hit the coast of the Carolinas last September.
“That’s my focus,” he says. “How do we give back.”
Ideas for change
If Caylor becomes mayor, there are a few priorities he says he would address right away.
Aiming to counteract the problem of young workers moving away from Naperville, Caylor says he would establish a young residents commission. The group, he says, would be composed of people in their mid-20s to mid-30s, and it would serve in an advisory role to the city council, similar to the function of the city’s senior task force.
Caylor also says he would help seniors by looking to provide them some relief from garbage fees, which increased sharply in 2016 as the city looked to reduce debt and build back reserves.
Charging seniors a reduced fee would come as part of a review Caylor would like to complete of taxes and fees charged across city functions.
And it would come as Caylor aims to be the “champion” of the city, listening to positions of the people and working with the council to set policy accordingly. Such a residents-first mindset of respect is what he says he offers.
“You have someone with a history of building teams; someone with a history of understanding how to grow; someone who has the network for strategic development,” Caylor says. “I know I can bring people in to help us.”