Among the members of the LGBT community who prevailed during the April 7 elections around Illinois was Scott Hall, 37—who actually won some time earlier when he found out he was running unopposed for the 1st Ward Alderman seat in downstate Jacksonville ( located in Morgan County ) . Windy City Times talked with Hall about Jacksonville and his plans once he is sworn in April 27.
Windy City Times: Could you tell me about Jacksonville? What is the LGBT presence there like?
Scott Hall: Jacksonville is about 30 miles west of Springfield. The presence of the LGBT community is very scarce. I would say there's a lot more than what people realize, but it's a very closeted city. Growing up in a rural area 30 miles from here, I understand the mindset; you're under a lot of pressure in a highly religious community, so as you're growing up the expectations are that you graduate high school, you find a wife, you have kids—you live your life that way. So those who are homosexual tend to stay in the closet.
But when my partner [ Joel Tinsley ] and I moved here about two and a half years ago, we were a little concerned about what life would be like for us; there was no question we were going to be "out"—that's how we live. But we did discuss how we would approach negative things; however, much to our surprise, Jacksonville has welcomed us and we're very active in the community. He's the choir director in our church, and I've been very involved in civic activities since I've been here. Not one time have we had a comment that we've heard. Jacksonville has been very open to us.
We have older friends who tell stories about how things weren't as easy when they were growing up. But Joel and I haven't had one single problem since moving here.
WCT: Some people feel that Downstate cities are very conservative.
SH: Right. We were actually here a year and half before we discovered that one of the churches here in town is open and affirming ( a United Church of Christ ) , so that's been a haven for us.
Jacksonville has always been a progressive city. Going back to slavery times, Jacksonville had a big population of abolitionists, so it's always had a progressive mindset. There were a few stops in the Underground Railroad here. So it's progressive, but it's still rural so there is a conservative mindset, too—but it hasn't reared its head at us.
WCT: What was your platform when you ran?
SH: My biggest platform was active leadership, and active leadership is being out in the community, expending your resources. I felt we had an alderman who had the job just because it was a status symbol or something like that. I wanted the people to know who I am [ and ] what I stand for—which includes keeping the lines of communications open.
WCT: And you ran unopposed.
SH: Yes. When I picked up my petition to run, there was another candidate who picked up the packet to fill out. I announced in June of last year [ about running ] , and I thought I was going to have opposition. In December, I filed and, lo and behold, a week passed and she did not file. For a good six months I thought I would have competition—and then it turned out I didn't.
WCT: How did you react when you realized you had no competition?
SH: I was very excited by the very fact of running; I had so much support. But at first I was a little disappointed I didn't have opposition. [ Laughs ] There's that competitive side of me. But there was also a sense of relief that I wouldn't have to expend the financial means necessary to run.
WCT: So if no one had run, what would've happened?
SH: We actually have that situation in Ward 2. The new mayor will appoint someone.
WCT: Are you going to push for LGBT rights?
SH: Definitely. One thing I've said all along is that I want to update our nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation. Our current policy currently [ includes ] age, sex and the other basics from 10 or 15 years ago, but it has a little qualifier at the end that mentions anything state law mandates—and state law includes sexual orientation [ and gender identity ] in its policy. Still, it's important for me to see it in writing in our city's policy. Hopefully, that'll be done within the first six months.
WCT: And you'll be leaving your position [ as director of budget and decision support at Passavant Area Hospital ] ...
SH: Oh, no. This is a part-time position. Aldermen here in Jacksonville are part-time. [ Laughs ] I will maintain my hospital job.
Read more about Scott Hall at www.jaxward1.com .