By Chris Wachowiak
Maurice West might have been a name you recently saw on a yard sign, and before a few months ago, you may never have heard his name — but that all changed the day he decided to go out and take on a giant challenge to become alderman of Rockford’s Third Ward.
Now, this challenge came at multiple levels. Not only was he in the running between two of the strongest candidates for alderman, but Maurice had never put himself out there on such a personal level before. In the past, Maurice was scared of failure. He was scared to take risks, because he knew there were safer options.
Maurice was raised in Rockford in a religious family. His father is a local minister, and his mother was a stay-at-home mom — until recently, when she decided to go back to college.
Maurice is 27 years old with a younger 22-year-old brother, Mark, who is a professional actor-turned campaign manager. Maurice has a master’s degree in industrial/organizational psychology, which he puts to use through the state helping people as a career counselor for the dislocated worker program. For the past three years, he’s found great rewards in helping people find new jobs by retraining people or helping them get into schools like Rock Valley College.
Maurice found himself a “safe job,” where he knew there would be work. He also wanted to be in a field where he could help people, and in return, feel fulfilled by helping people.
Maurice moved downtown to Haight Village and began walking to work at the SupplyCore building on Main Street. This is where Maurice said he discovered the “potential” of downtown with the shops, stores and entertainment. It was on these walks to work that he started to ask how he could help empower his community and see it thrive.
Maurice is a firm believer that talk is cheap. He is sick of hearing that to become successful, you need to leave Rockford and that Rockford has nothing to offer. In the process of looking to create more opportunities for Rockford, Maurice discovered new friends and new strengths. Further, while running for alderman, he also built relationships with outgoing Ald. Doug Mark and incoming Ald. Thomas McNamara. He has also had a chance to meet and get to know the mayor.
Maurice now knows all the city council members and the city’s TIF districts, and is familiar with the mayor’s geopolicing plan, among other issues. Now that he is aware, there is no going back for Maurice — a fire has been lit.
Since losing the race for alderman, Maurice has won a new relationship with Pablo Korona. Rockford Housing Authority (RHA) is working on a program called “New Mix.” Pablo put Maurice in contact with Ron Clewer and the RHA growth opportunity with New Mix because “Maurice proved himself to be fearless in running for alderman, and it was found in his determination even when the odds were stacked against him to make a change,” Pablo said. “Maurice impressed me, and I felt it imperative to get him involved in New Mix, the Arts Economic Development Council conceived by the RHA,” Pablo added.
Maurice wishes his fellow 20-somethings would remove themselves from the Xbox, resist complacency, and begin to take risks and not be afraid of failure. Before this campaign, Maurice was afraid of failure and afraid of taking risks. It was through this process that he realized taking a risk created one of the most challenging and exciting adventures in growth and personal fulfillment he’s ever known, even though he didn’t win the race.
Had it not been for Maurice’s support system in family and friends, he would have never ventured out of his comfort zone and awoken a sleeping champion for our community. We, as a community, are better off with Maurice in the mix.
Chris Wachowiak is owner of Kryptonite Bar, 308 W. State St., No. 110, Rockford. Read his blog at http://ChrisWachowiak.com. Do you know a 20-something who is doing something unique? E-mail Chris at email@example.com.
From the May 1-7, 2013, issue