Roma Colwell-Steinke

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Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Wednesday Journal sent out to all candidates running in this year's elections.

Age: 51

Profession: Equity and Future Derivative Trader

Years lived in River Forest: 15

Spouse, if applicable/children and ages: Spouse: Brian Steinke, Children: Lauren 19, Sarah 17 and Kayla 15

Have you ever run for or served in a local political office before? If so, when and which office?

The last four years it has been my honor to serve on the River Forest Village Board as the Village Clerk. What I've learned in those four years has been immense. Municipalities, like River Forest, are complex and I believe it takes at least a year of observing, listening and questioning to understand all the moving parts that go into running our village. With this valuable experience I am the only trustee candidate ready to lead on my first day.

Why are you running for this office?

Fifteen years ago, my husband Brian and I made a conscious decision to raise our girls in River Forest. Our daughters Lauren, Sarah and Kayla are happy, civic minded; well educated young women with an exciting future ahead of them. We feel our neighbors; our schools, our friends and our community have enriched our lives. Running for office and dedicating my time to the village is a way of giving back to a community that has given my family a safe and inviting place to call home.

What do you think are the three biggest challenges facing the village in the next four years?

  1. Financial Security: Our budget is in good shape for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. But starting in 2015 the Village is facing harder financial issues. It is imperative that the Village Board begins securing new revenues now and a starting point is filling the vacancies at the Town Center.
  2. Economic Development: In the last few years River Forest has moved in the right direction in terms of welcoming and supporting new business and it's important that this remains a top priority. It is crucial that through economic development that we grow our tax base to help relieve the burden on our taxpayers. Developing the Hines property will be a top priority along with moving forward on the blighted property on the corner of Lathrop and Lake. As a trustee I will advocate for the board to create an Economic Development Commission. River Forest has so many talented smart residents and I believe their input could make a huge difference in guiding our village forward.
  3. Infrastructure: The new sewer system for residents in the North/East corner of River Forest is imperative. The board will have to determine which of the three options on the table to invest in by weighing the cost along with what is the most optimal solution. It's vitally important that the residents have input in this decision.

What skills/talents do you have that would enable you to deal with those challenges?

With all the challenges facing River Forest my proven effectiveness as a leader will benefit for the board. I've served in many leadership roles, in the community and in business, in the capacity of both a problem solver and a relationships builder. I've always been someone that quickly grasp complex situations and has a knack for turning them into manageable tasks. In my various leadership roles I have worked with people of all different backgrounds and temperaments and have effectively brought groups with different agendas together to accomplish goals that benefit all involved. An example of this was my involvement in OPRF Citizen Council/IMPACT-parent-action-committee. This organization started as drug and alcohol awareness campaign with the goal to educate and engage our community on issues facing our youth. Our group was not the first to attempt this but we were certainly the most successful with wide support from both River Forest and Oak Park communities. One of our accomplishments was presenting a compelling well thought out reason for the school board to consider closing the campus and making structural safety and security changes to the high school. We were successful. Our work and dedication was recognized when we were selected Villager of the Year.

If elected, what are three goals that you have for the next four years?

  1. Advocate for a pro-business environment in our village. I will present to the board a recommendation to create an Economic Development Commission comprised of business leaders who live in our village. This commission will be charged to change the way the village deals with businesses, in an effort to streamline the process and make our village more attractive for business.
  2. Sponsoring comprehensive cost saving green initiatives within the village by working with local Green/Environmental organization to take steps toward making River Forest a more ecologically friendly community. For a start promote village wide recycling.
  3. Change the culture of the village boardroom by creating an atmosphere that embraces public input and collaboration on all issues that come before the Village Board.

If you are running as part of a slate of candidates, why? If not, why not?

I'm running as an independent. Like many residents I choose to live and raise my family in River Forest, and of course many factors went into that decision. But what I've discovered over the years is that River Forest is a village that continues to evolve into a community that is not only rich in tradition but is also enriched by new families and residents that have ventured to move here. These new residents come from all corners of Illinois, the US and the World; and their cultural traditions, experiences, talent and perspective have brought vibrancy to our village. As an independent I will represent everyone's voice.

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