Opinion: Newly elected representatives do not represent Naperville


City of Naperville Twitter account (@NapervilleIL)

New Naperville Mayor Scott Wehrli (middle) and members of the Naperville City Council at their swearing-in on Sunday April 30.

Nolan Shen, Community Editor

We talk about diversity a lot in this town. We always hear about the importance of a “variety of perspectives” and “different experiences.” 

Yet, for as much as we talk about it, Naperville’s local government has little to show for it. 

On April 4, the county of DuPage held municipal elections for a variety of local elected positions. In our community, this included the Mayor, the City Council of Naperville, the Park District Board of Commissioners and the Naperville 203 Board of Education. 

Numerous candidates of color ran. Two of the three candidates for mayor were people of color. It seemed as though we had the opportunity for real diversity and representation.

Not one candidate of color won their race on election night.

It’s incredibly disappointing to see this kind of result. Our government is supposed to represent us. Yes, white government officials can advocate for citizens of other races and ethnicities, but the experience of a white Naperville resident is distinctly different from that of an Asian, Black, or Latino resident. A white city council member or school board member will never truly be able to understand the perspective of a resident of another race.

I know that the overwhelming majority of this city is white. However, we are not 100% white. We’ve made great strides in the diversity of our residents. In elementary and junior high school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only Asian or mixed-race student in my classes. Conversely, in my time at Central, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the diversity of our students. When I walk the halls of Central, I see people of all kinds of backgrounds, each with their own unique experiences and stories. These students are Naperville. The diversity of our school is the diversity of our city. And it should be the diversity of our government.

Around a quarter of Naperville residents are people of color. Is it too much to ask for at least one or two representatives of color in our government? We have a strong and growing population of Asian, Black, and Latino residents, so let’s get some representation in government. 

In a time when race is such a hot topic in politics and our community, when teaching about race has become controversial and when people face hate just because of the country where they were born, we can’t let the narrative of race be controlled by white representatives. Our mayor and city council are extremely influential in the inner workings of Naperville. They deal with important issues of race regularly. If our government deals with these issues of diversity and representation, then we need the voices of people of color in our government.

Naperville voters: Let’s make change. The winners of this April’s election do not reflect Naperville’s residents, and it’s time we have representation for people of color in our town. The next time you go to the polls, please, remember the tens of thousands of Asians, Latinos, and Black people who you share Naperville with.