Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.
Profession: President, CMA Associates, Inc. Vice President and General Manager, Unisys Corporation retired.
Years lived in River Forest: 15 years. I intend to live here another 15 years and more.
Spouse and Children: Separated. Jenna, 17 years old Junior at Fenwick HS.
Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?
Yes, I have 6 years of local political experience. I was the Village of River Forest's Clerk from 2007-2009; and, in 2009 I was elected to the Village Board of Trustee for a 4-year term.
Why are you running for this office?
I will bring a lifetime of successful executive leadership and management skills, 6 years of local political experience, and 20 plus years of civic and community service to our local government so that we can continue the progress we have made over the last 4 years. In order to successfully lead a 6 member Board of Trustees, nearly $23 million operating budget with 75 full time employees, I believe experience and qualifications matter! The Village is often faced with difficult decisions to ensure the well being of our community. I intend to utilize my extensive executive experience to work collaboratively with other elected officials in River Forest, while working on a regional basis to make our region a better place to live, work and raise a family.
What do you think are the three biggest challenges facing the Village in the next four years?
Our first challenge will be to continue to balance our general fund budget each fiscal year. Although the Village Board has done a good job of balancing our general fund budget in prior years and anticipates a balanced general fund budget for FY 13/14, and FY 14/15; however, our Village, like many organizations, will be faced with escalating expenses that could adversely impact our FY 15/16 budget – we need to act proactively to curb these expenses so we can maintain a balanced general fund budget.
The second challenge facing River Forest is to find ways to be less reliant on property taxes to balance our general fund budget. I would look at the expense and revenue side of our operating budget. On expenses, I would seek ways to cut cost through more collaboration with units of government inside our borders and outside of River Forest. For example, I would ask the Board and administration to continue to look at common and shared services to lower our cost on purchases and overtime such as gas purchases, ground keeping and snow plowing services, and common and shared equipment such as street sweepers, fire trucks, etc. to lower our cost on equipment purchases and on going maintenance. On a longer-range basis, I would initiate a meeting with our surrounding community leadership to discuss the possibility of a Fire District to provide fire protection to our collective citizenry. If the City of Chicago can have one fire department protecting 3M people, certainly we can try to have one Fire District protecting 150,000-200,000 residents. Isn't it worth the conversation!
On the revenue side, we must continue to seek ways to diversify our revenue. As a Board, we have made progress on economic development and I believe we can continue the progress with a more laser like focus especially with the economy improving. I would ask the Board to consider creating an Economic Commission, made up of volunteers from the community, that would focus on strategically implementing our Corridor Study by identifying specific areas, in priority; and if needed, possible assistance which the Board should consider. The Commission would work collaboratively with the Oak Park/River Forest Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Committee of the Board, and the administration to promote economic development. In order to be less reliant on existing property taxes, the Village must increase our business sales tax and add new appropriate property on the tax rolls.
The third challenge is for our Village to continue to be an effective and efficient government. First, although we have many taxing bodies in River Forest, I believe we can all learn from discussion and collaboration with each other. And therefore, I would lead an initiative to establish a leadership summit whereby the leaders of the River Forest Taxing Bodies (President of the Park District, School Board 90 and 200, Library Board, Township Supervisor) meet bi-monthly and discuss ideas to collaborate and perhaps consolidate administrative services that will drive an effective and efficient government for our taxpayer. Second, I will ask our Board and administration to look at our current Board and Commission structure and seek ways to streamline (consolidation of potential overlapping Boards), be more open and transparent (on line application process), and effective (term limits). Third, I would initiate a meeting with the two University leaders to discuss ways to continue to provide police and fire services to the university employees and students, while not draining the resources from our taxpayer.
What skills/talents do you have that would enable you to deal with those challenges?
I believe to lead this Village; the President will need to posses through years of learned experiences at least 4 major skills. Through my 32 years of executive leadership, I have developed and learned these skills extremely well.
First, solving complex problems through a consensus driven approach. During my career, I have solved complex client and organizational problems. I have been responsible for hundreds of people in an organization and dealt with and solved many complex issues using consensus driven approaches. This is perhaps one of the most important skills for an effective leader. The biggest challenge with problem solving is not just solving the problems we know of today, but being able to anticipate problems, such as projected revenue shortfalls 2-4 years in the future, and deal with unexpected problems effectively. If the leader is not skilled in this area and abdicates or ignores the responsibility, the problems will go unsolved creating a crippling environment and possibly causing a crisis.
Second, negotiating contracts. I have extensive experience in negotiating large complex contracts. I have experience negotiating contracts in excess of $100 million. In the Village, we have several complex contracts we negotiate from union contracts, to business contracts to intergovernmental contracts. If not negotiated correctly, the Village is at risk of loosing significant money.
Third, having financial acumen and understanding operational budgets. I have an MBA in Finance and have over 25 years of operational and financial experience. As the Vice President and General Manager for Unisys Corporation, I managed a $500M gross operating P/L while managing over several hundred employees. I understand the difference between a balance sheet and an income statement. As part of my 6 years on the Village Board, I understand government finance and how our separate funds are structured and the basis of budgeting.
Fourth, working with others. While this skill might seem easy, it is often extremely hard to implement and can be misunderstood. My entire career while working at Unisys, I have worked with others across divisions, regions, functions, companies, and partners. Knowing when to listen and seek input is an important skill needed to be an effective leader.
If elected, what are three goals that you have for the next four years?
First, keep our community safe for our residents and children. Second, run an effective, efficient, and transparent government. Third, stabilize property taxes and maintain financial stability.
If you are running as part of a slate of candidates, why? If not, why not?
The Village of River Forest does not have a caucus that chooses candidates based on certain criteria. A slate in River Forest is a group of people who come together to help each other get elected. The residents will vet the individual candidates and they will choose those who are best qualified and experienced for the position they are seeking. Our residents typically are not interested in being told who to vote for. Therefore, I am running as an independent so that the residents can choose the best candidate for President. As President, I am interested in an effective government and creative minded individuals, therefore, my pledge is, whichever three Trustees the residents choose from the five candidates, I will work collaboratively, and use a consensus driven approach, to lead our Village.