Get To Know Paul Serwatka
Choosing & Becoming Decatur
The Serwatka family first discovered Decatur in the spring of 2017. Having researched many different states, looking for a place that shared their core values and principles, it didn't take long before Alabama made it's way to the forefront, and they set a course to see it for themselves.
Exploring Northern Alabama, the Serwatka family found themselves quite enchanted - not just with the beauty of Alabama itself, but, even more so, with the people.
It was in southwest Decatur, where Paul and his wife, Robin, will both tell you, that it was in talking & interacting with the people, that they knew they were where they wanted to be.
This, was where they wanted to raise their four young children... This, was where they wanted to build their future... This, was home!
"We spent an entire weekend with the warmest, most gracious and kind-hearted people... We wanted THEM to be our neighbors!"
As fate would have it, there was a FOR SALE sign just up the road.
"It was in our price range, and it had everything we were looking for!"
So, they called the Realtor. "We hadn't even looked at any other homes. But, we just knew this place was special... We really wanted to be a part of this community."
As divine providence would have it, on that very day, they bought the first, and only, home they looked at, in the Lake Chula Vista section of Southwest Decatur, and moved in three weeks later.
The Serwatka Family - Paul, Robin & Children - 2018
The Serwatka Family Home in Southwest Decatur
The Serwatka Family - Paul, Robin & Children - 2015
Paul and Robin have four young children, ranging in age from 4 to 10 years old. They are avid homeschoolers, and while Robin primarily plays the role of their instructor, Paul is typically the "adjunct instructor" and, as he likes to joke, "principle and disciplinarian", when necessary.
Developing a Work Ethic
The middle of three children in a middle-class, blue collar family, Paul was born, in 1968, and raised in the outskirts of Chicago - his father a Police Officer and mother, a home-maker. During his school years, Paul worked his summers, as a landscaper, and at age 19, he began a formal 4-year carpenter apprenticeship, to become a journeyman carpenter.
Working his way up from hauling lumber & nailing decks, to framing walls, cutting stairs & roofs and every facet in between - Paul developed a tremendous work ethic, severely calloused hands, and a sincere empathy for working class families.
See Paul's Pledge to "Pay it Forward" as Mayor for Decatur
On the "PLEDGE & PROMISE page
Paying it Forward
Weeks before Paul’s 21st birthday, his father met an untimely death at age 47. The loss of his father led to great hardship for his family including severe financial difficulties and their home going into foreclosure.
“One day, just weeks before the scheduled foreclosure sale, we received a knock on the door. At the door were two deacons from our church who asked to come in. They said they were made aware of our situation by another church member and asked my mother to gather up our mortgage statements.”
“They calculated how much was needed to bring our mortgage current and save our home from foreclosure. They, then, pulled out a checkbook and wrote out a check to my mother for that amount."
"I remember my mother telling them she couldn’t accept the check because she didn’t expect she would ever be able to pay it back - To which they replied “This is a gift. We don’t expect you to pay it back.”
Paul has always remembered that moment and has since been devoted to “paying it forward” whenever the opportunity arises.
Entrepreneur / Businessman
Paul’s carpentry skills eventually paved the way for the birth of his entrepreneurial spirit, as he left the “security of employment" to become his own boss.
His new venture began, building garages & decks and renovating homes - eventually leading to Paul's purchasing dilapidated houses and apartment buildings to renovate for rental investment or re-sale.
Over time, Paul acquired a portfolio of 3 to 10-unit apartment buildings, as well as single-family rental homes, and continues to purchase and renovate homes.
Along the way, Paul also went on to obtain his real estate agent license, then broker’s license, and later his qualifying broker's license – forming his own real estate brokerage firm in 1999.
Butrick Place Apartments - 10-Unit Rental Property
Badge Ceremony with Mayor Daley and Fire Commissioner
Training The Next Generation of Firefighters
Paul's First Engine Company E-54 - Chicago's Englewood Dist.
Fulfilling a Childhood Dream
Growing up, Paul never missed an episode of the television show “EMERGENCY!” He found watching as Firefighters Roy Desoto and Johnny Gage put themselves in harm’s way to save the lives of others, to be both intriguing and inspiring. This inspiration, along with the heroic stories he was told by his firefighter/uncle - Paul would tell anyone who asked, he was going to be a firefighter when he grew up.
At age 26, amid a quite successful carpentry/real estate endeavor, Paul enrolled in an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course to become a state certified EMT. He found emergency medicine to be exhilarating. Paul went on to enroll in Paramedic school to become a state-certified Paramedic. He then enrolled in fire science courses and began participating in numerous municipal civil servant exams in pursuit of a career as a Firefighter/Paramedic.
Paul's childhood dream was first realized when he was selected to become a full-time, career Firefighter/Paramedic for the city of Waukegan, IL.
After nearly four years of service with the Waukegan Fire Dept, Paul earned his way to the top 5% of more than 30,000 applicants and was selected to join the ranks of the much larger, and much coveted, Chicago Fire Dept. As a Chicago Firefighter/Paramedic, Paul served in some of the most violent, most dangerous neighborhoods in the country and found himself challenged, daily, by the most dangerous situations he had faced in his life.
Then, after 12 years of service, Paul was seriously injured responding to a pin-in auto accident. Multiple surgeries and more than a year of rehabilitation left Paul with an irreparable spinal injury and a permanently detached bicep, forcing the untimely end of his career as well as his childhood dream.
From Government Watchdog to Mayor & Reformer
Paul has long been a voice, as well as a force, for holding government accountable. This is true, not just locally, but also county-wide, state-wide and even nationally. Paul has long been found attending, and speaking out at, City Council meetings, County Commission meetings, and state legislative sessions - and has even attended national hearings and forums in Washington D.C.
As founder of a number of Citizen Action and Government Watchdog groups, including; Voters In Action , the Lakewood Tax Fighter & Better Government Project and most recently, Decatur Watchdogs - Citizens For a Better Decatur, Paul has spent the better part of the last decade spearheading "better government" initiatives, exposing bad government, and holding local, county, and state governments accountable.
Paul has volunteered thousands of hours and thousands of personal dollars to help effect better government locally, and he continues to encourage residents to become engaged in local government affairs and to "call-to-action", local residents when necessary.
Anyone who knows Paul will tell you, without question, Paul is quite passionate about pursuing truth, transparency and accountability in government!
As a former City Councilman (also referred to as "Village Trustee"), Paul was often the sole voice of, and for, transparency and accountability and was well known to be relentless in exposing, calling attention, and putting an end, to the patronage, wasteful spending, secrecy, and otherwise hidden undertakings by his City Council (also referred to as "Village Board").
In 2016, while a City Councilman - and with opposition from the Mayor and entire City Council - Paul spent several months spear-heading a Tax-Payer Protection initiative to help curb what were some of the highest property taxes in the nation. Paul's historic, and incredibly successful, Property Tax Protection Referendum made many local headlines, having, for the first time ever, given local residents a formal say in their taxes and sending a message to other local governments - this success later came to earn statewide recognition (more on this below).
Paul's election as Mayor marked another historic moment for Lakewood, as residents showed up, in record numbers, to vote for Paul. Paul Serwatka received more votes than had ever been achieved by any elected official in Lakewood's history!
As Mayor (also referred to as Village President), Paul worked to uphold EVERY one of the many promises he made to residents. Upholding these promises, meant "breaking the mold" (as one statewide news outlet put it) of what Paul called the "municipal mindset." It also meant pioneering reforms including a quite literal transformation of the City Administration, Police Dept, and more.
Under Paul's leadership as Mayor, Lakewood went on to become a "Beacon of Encouraging Reforms throughout Illinois" - earning statewide recognition on several occasions and being touted as an example of "What Reform-Oriented Leadership Could Do for Illinois".
Be sure to visit our "TESTED AND PROVEN" page to learn much more, as Paul gives a more detailed & in depth account of his many experiences & accomplishments as Mayor, as well as the pioneered reforms that earned state-wide recognition on several occasions.
Resident Outreach - Keeping Residents Informed & Engaged
Training the Next Generation of Government Watchdogs
Speaking With Residents & Circulating Petitions for
Lakewood's Historic Property Tax Protection Referendum
Launching Councilman Campaign to Stop Tax Hikes
Talking Government, Law and Leadership
With Boy Scout Webelos Pack 158
Why I'm Running to be Mayor for Decatur
"It is important to me that residents understand that I am NOT running to be Mayor for Decatur, out of any political ambition.
I have no aspirations "to be Mayor." I do not seek power, prestige or pecuniary/monetary benefits, of any kind. I simply believe, as do many others, that Decatur is in real need of real, new, and better, leadership!
I believe we are in need of a true "Servant-Leader" that is willing, and able, to take stand for the residents of Decatur... Someone who will know and do what is right, rather than what is easy or "expected". Someone who will put the best interests of Decatur families first, over special interests and personal agendas... and someone who understands that "Leading" means "Serving" and setting an example that others may follow.
I truly believe, if you will take the time to learn more about me, my background, my unique experience in reforming government, as well as my unprecedented pledge to residents of Decatur, you will KNOW that I am earnest in my convictions, to honestly and diligently serve and represent ALL residents - just as our Mayor and City Council was, once-upon-a-time, intended to.
I am here for one reason only – to effect honest and accountable government for Decatur families, giving residents a voice, and setting an example of what our City Council was once intended to be.
I hope you will take a few moments to learn more about our effort, and how YOU can help.
Remember, the city, communities & neighborhoods we work to make better - will be our own!
For a Better Decatur,