Local business owners start sign campaign to oust WIU president Thomas

**Editor's note: this article incorrectly said the university is preparing for the Discover Western program this weekend. It is in fact preparing for a series of Summer Orientation and Registration events beginning June 4. The Voice apologizes for the error.

MACOMB — As Western Illinois University prepares for its Summer Orientation and Registration events beginning June 4, a group of local business owners have initiated a sign campaign calling for the WIU Board of Trustees to fire President Jack Thomas.
Photos of signs outside area businesses began appearing on social media Wednesday. Perhaps the most visible was the sign on the marquee of The Forum, which reads, “Fire Jack” on the first line and “Support WIU” just below.
However, other signs have been appearing as well. One wooden sign at an unknown location reading, “Fire Jack Thomas Support WIU” in purple, spray painted stencil lettering was posted on Facebook by The Forum co-owner Roger Ward. Another, yellow sign outside of the old Farm King building on E. Jackson Street reads simply, “Fire Jack.”
The Voice contacted Ward by email about the marquee sign. He gave the following remarks:
“We put the marquee message up for the weekend to show our support for a community wide effort underway to to find leadership at wiu equal to the quality of programs, faculty and staff that make up our incredible university, something we feel has been lacking for a while. We need Springfield to see this message and allow our (board of trustees) to bring about a change that will be the last ingredient in, what otherwise, is a 1st class educational experience. Monday's msg will be changed to welcome the WIU class of '23 visiting next week.”
Ward said he is currently out of town with partners Matt and Tim Kipling, “getting ready for Fishing for Freedom tournament out of Quincy.”
Ward’s wife Lisa Ward, also the owner of Magnolia’s, confirmed the signs are part of a larger campaign by local businesses.
“Everybody’s doing it that I know of,” she said. She also said one business is having 300 signs printed.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to turn this community around,” she said.
When asked which businesses were participating in the campaign, she declined, and suggested other, non-business owners might feel more comfortable sharing their remarks. She also said most businesses participating were waiting until the Discover Western event had concluded.
The Voice attempted to reach Rick Severs of Farm King for comment, but did not receive a response by press time. The university was also contacted for comment. The university administration responded with the following statement:
"Increasing enrollment and retaining students are critical to the success of the City of Macomb and Western Illinois University. Again, we ask that everyone join together to focus on the future of our University and our communities."

Reach Michelle Langhout by email at mlanghout@mcdonoughvoice.com