Scott Willis is convinced he has the vision and leadership experience to lead the City of Westfield in the future.
Willis, a Westfield City Council member, officially announced Aug. 25 at the Pacers Athletic Center in Westfield that he will seek the Republican nomination for mayor in 2023. Fellow Republican City Councilman Jake Gilbert, who is also the varsity football coach at Westfield High School, previously announced his intention to run in January.
Mayor Andy Cook, who became the city’s first mayor in 2008, said he had no comment when asked about whether he intends to seek a fifth term.
But Willis, who was elected to the council in 2019, said he has talked to thousands of residents, business owners and stakeholders about the future of the city.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that we are experiencing amazing growth right now,” Willis said. “We’re the fastest-growing city in Indiana. This is a great place to raise a family. Very slowly we are building a personality. I think we’re primed to become a world-class city that others want to emulate.”
However, Willis said if the city is to get to the next level, there is work to do.
“What do we want Westfield to be?” Willis said. “How can we best serve our residents in the future? My vision is simple. I want to create a world-class city, a place where you can raise your children, send them off to college and return home to raise their (children). I don’t believe we have that yet in Westfield.”
Willis said several things have to be accomplished, noting that the city has to invest in housing that attracts future generations.
“We have to diversify our tax bases as a way to keep taxes lower for decades to come,” Willis said. “We have to invest in world-class amenities. We have to create infrastructure and a trail system that connects our residents together.”
Willis said he knows there are residents who want to stop the growth.
“There is part of me that understands that,” he said. “When I moved to Westfield, it was a very small town and that was attractive to me at that time. However, in my opinion, you can’t stop the growth.”
Willis said data from across the U.S. shows that in the last decade, there has been a massive demographic shift toward urban areas.
“In Westfield, we’ve seen a 36 percent increase in population over the last 10 years,” he said. “Look no further than Fishers or Zionsville when you refuse to look at what is happening around you. We have to be proactive. Let’s invest in our community and prepare it for future generations.”
Willis said he believes that starts with creating a vibrant downtown area.
“We need a downtown that is walkable, and where families want to go to have fun,” he said.
Willis said a trolley system that connects visitors from the fields to the village also would reduce traffic along Ind. 32.
“Everything we do if I’m mayor will be unique to Westfield,” Willis said. “We’ll improve our connectivity of residents without diminishing our culture. We can be a world-class city, even grow and still maintain our small-town charm. I firmly believe that.”
To diversify the tax base, Willis said the city needs to attract quality companies that are aligned with the city’s vision.
“We can’t keep taxes low if those things don’t happen,” he said. “Our pipeline is dry. We have nothing in our commercial pipeline.”
Another focus for Willis is public safety, who said the city is behind as far as resources, personnel and fire stations.
“When you compare Westfield with 50,000 people to other cities in Hamilton County when they were a similar size, you will see very quickly how far we have to go to catch up,” Willis said. “In a (situation) where seconds matter, it can be the difference between life and death. We must invest in our police and fire and make sure they have the resources necessary to protect and care for our residents.”
Willis, an 18-year Westfield resident, served 30 years in the Marines before retiring March 1 as a colonel in the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve.
Willis also said experience matters.
“Westfield needs a mayor who is qualified for the job and brings decades of experience in leading large groups, in managing sizable budgets, and someone who is a strategic thinker with a vision,” Willis said. “Someone that will ask the tough questions, reach out to the experts and has a vision.”
His wife, Stacey, joked it taken her 20 years to admit it but her husband is nearly always right.
“He has a way of seeing the reaction to every action,” Stacey said. “Where most of us are making decisions on the individual and emotional impact, it has on us, he’s able to strategically look at all sides of it. He’s not afraid to express how he feels about it even when it’s an unpopular decision. His strategic thinking is how he built a successful recruiting company, it’s how he led 1,200 Marines in war time and in peace time and it’s how he’s managed $100 million government budget. He’s held dozens of leadership positions in the past 30 years.”