By Anna Lothson
Candidates running in each of the contested races filled out questionnaires for Wednesday Journal to share why they are running, what their goals are and what challenges they see facing their respective boards.
Below is a summary of answers. Uncontested races, which are not included, include Oak Park village trustee and clerk, the Oak Park and River Forest park district boards, and Oak Park District 97 school board. For more about the candidates, visit OakPark.com/elections.
Oak Park library board: Five people, four spots
Matt Baron: 44, an 18-year Oak Park resident
Why running: "I have an enormous amount of respect for the role that the library plays for a wide spectrum of people who come through its doors — at the Main Library and the two branch locations, Maze and Dole. … That commitment to being a valuable resource for Oak Park residents and guests appears to be as vibrant as ever."
Other village involvement: Pleasant District Association board of directors, president of a 20-unit condominium association.
Future vision for OP library: "It's serving the various segments of our population against a backdrop of rapid technological change. As an example, some people want heightened access to the latest in high-tech devices, such as the Nook. Others prefer to stick with the hardcover books they grew up with. The library needs to balance the varying desires and sensibilities of our diverse residents."
Win Fox: 66, a 6-year Oak Park resident
Why running: "I'm running now because the time is right for me to do it. In 2007, I traded my 30-year career as a librarian in Maryland to come to Oak Park to help my daughter when her twins were babies. I loved being a librarian and was not ready to retire."
Future vision for OP library: Right now, Envision Oak Park is developing a long-range Comprehensive Plan for Oak Park and I expect the results of this process will have an impact on the library. I don't have my own plan for the future of the library. … Part of [former executive director Dee Brennan's message] relates to the digital divide I addressed earlier; other parts relate to space issues, noise issues, programming priorities and collection and building priorities. As long as we have thoughtful leadership and community support, our excellent library will grow and change with the times."
Matt Fruth: 34, lifelong Oak Park resident, current board member
Why running: "I strongly believe in the importance of the public library in our society. I am very proud of the work that I have been a part of. … I feel that I bring a different perspective than the rest of the board as I am significantly younger than the others serving."
Future vision for OP library: "I see the library continuing to grow into its position as the cultural heart of Oak Park, providing access to books, music, movies, and art to all of our citizens. We have a responsibility to foster literacy, collaboration, innovation, and personal development across all age groups. Working with our partners, both public and private, we can help ensure that Oak Park is a vibrant and aware community."
Doug Kittredge: 57, a 2 ½-year Oak Park resident
Why running: "I frankly love the library. … While I am old enough to love to have books around me, I also have a Nook and enjoy the flexibility that provides me. I would like to be part of helping keep the library relevant to the wide range of needs from Oak Park residents."
Future vision for OP library: "The only answer I have is very broad — the future needs to be relevant to the needs of the community. If I get the opportunity to serve on the board, I want to spend my own time to explore some marketing concepts to attempt to understand what the different customer (both current users and non-users) segments are and what their needs are. As in business, only by understanding the variety of needs of different groups can you hope to find the best balance of services."
Bruce Samuels: 69, a 41-year Oak Park resident, current board member running to "assist this wonderful institution."
Other village involvement: Library board: 2009-present; village trustee candidate, 1985, 1992, 2003; Citizen Involvement Commission; Public Arts Advisory Commission, Citizens for Appropriate Transportation; Citizens for Community Conversation; West Side Greens.
Biggest issue the library faces today: "Meeting the demands of its role as a community center."
Future vision for OP library: "A place where the community can find resources that serves reading and social needs."
River Forest Trustee: Five people, three spots
Note: Kevin Hanley is on the ballot but has announced he will drop out if elected
Tom Cargie: 51, a 12-year River Forest resident
Goals for the next four years: "My first goal would be to promote more citizen input in village decision making. While I think the current board has generally done a fine job over the past four years, I also think that its mistakes stem mostly from a reluctance to actively solicit community input.
"My next goal would be to cut back on village spending to the extent possible. This involves both a sensible review of all sorts of village expenses but also an aggressive effort to combine as many personnel functions across all of the taxing bodies through the use of intergovernmental agreements.
"My third goal would be to diversify the village's revenue streams. … I propose that the village petition the Illinois legislature to permit all non-home-rule entities to enact all revenue measures via a referendum that a home-rule entity can impose by ordinance. If that measure is approved, we can then go to referendum on a number of revenue-enhancing measures to broaden our tax base.
"Lastly, we must, of course, promote commercial development in River Forest."
Roma Colwell-Steinke: 51, a 15-yearRiver Forest resident
Challenges for the next four years: Financial security, economic development, infrastructure.
Goals for the next four years: "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.
"Sponsoring comprehensive cost-saving green initiatives within the village by working with local green/environmental organizations to take steps toward making River Forest a more ecologically-friendly community. For a start, promote village-wide recycling.
"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."
Tom Dwyer Jr.: 34, a 28-year River Forest resident
Why running: "In conversations with John Rigas and Mike Gibbs, I decided this was something I wanted to be a part of and it also puts me in a position to help make decisions that will enhance the financial stability of our community. I decided this was something I wanted to be a part of and it is also puts me in a position to help make decisions that will enhance the financial stability of our community. … I am running as part of the Pride in River Forest [slate] with Mike Gibbs, Lissa Druss Christman, and Kevin Hanley [who has since dropped out though he remains on the ballot] because we have the same priorities, which are to maintain or enhance the financial stability of our community."
Challenges for the next four years: "Police and fire pension funding, sewer maintenance, and potential commercial development projects."
Goals for the next four years: "My goal is to either maintain or enhance the financial stability of our community to the best of my abilities."
Lissa Druss Christman: 44, a 20-year River Forest resident
Why running: "I am running for River Forest trustee because I believe my professional history in communications and public affairs is a valuable asset for an effective local government. I grew up in River Forest and I want to do what I can to make sure my daughter benefits from a strong village and grows up in an environment like I did."
Challenges for the next four years: "The three biggest challenges facing our village are many of the same issues towns like ours across the country are facing: We must be extremely fiscally smart, do more with less and maintain our high standard of public offerings for our residents."
Goals for the next four years: "My primary goals would be to look for new revenue streams for our village, help to maintain financial stability and improve communications in the village."
River Forest D90 school board: Five people, four spots
Roman Ebert: 39, born and raised in River Forest, moved back as an adult.
Biggest challenges facing the district the next four years: "With the Common Core standards changing, this is going to require a lot of work from our teachers and administrators to be able to keep our curricula up to date and relevant to the new exams and new standards. We need to provide enough support to our teachers so that they are successful in implementing the changes."
Four-year goals: "Leave the district a better place than when I was first elected, continue to be a responsible steward of our community's money and be responsible with our expenditures, continue to keep communication between the board and the community open and clear and improve on the communication between the village and the district."
Anne Gottlieb: 40, a 9-year River Forest resident
Biggest challenges facing the district the next four years: "Maintaining fiscal responsibility. There are potentially big changes happening at the state level in terms of the education budget, and it could greatly impact districts across the state. We want to make sure that we are financially able to maintain our high level of staff and resources for our schools. Integrate technology appropriately so that our students are prepared for the future. Education and technology have always had a push-pull relationship. Work toward a new strategic plan."
Four-year goals: "Maintain fiscal responsibility; ensure that students are prepared for high school and beyond: Common Core standards are being implemented at the school level. Our district prides itself on extremely high levels of achievement and this requires always knowing what expectations lie ahead for our students so that they can meet and even exceed those expectations; and ensure equity and access to all students."
David Latham: 52, an 18-year River Forest resident
Biggest challenges facing the district the next four years: "Parents/testing: The biggest challenge I see schools facing today is parents. Without parental support and involvement, no school can consistently produce well-educated kids. Finances: Spending every dollar effectively and finding low- or no-cost ways to improve our schools is essential. Differentiation: We need to develop programs that provide the best education possible to each child, depending on their needs and abilities."
Four-year goals: A fully integrated, one-on-one iPad/computer program at all appropriate grade levels, true differentiation, and an attitude of fiscal responsibility that continues to question the true effectiveness of every dollar we spend."
Patrick Meyer: 52, a 12-year River Forest resident
Biggest challenges facing the district the next four years: "Financial challenges: We need to make sure we continue to strike the right balance between furthering our educational mission, being stewards of taxpayer dollars, and addressing other financial obligations that the district must meet. Common Core: As we adopt this new standard curriculum, we need to do so with eyes wide open, to make sure that we remain true to our educational mission. Teacher evaluations: Again, we need to make sure we are striking the right balance between new state requirements around teacher evaluations and accountability, and the furtherance of our educational mission."
Four-year goals: Provide a safe environment where we never lose sight of our mission; never forget our fiduciary obligation to all River Forest stakeholders, whether they have children in D90 schools or not; as we implement the new core curriculum and teacher evaluation requirements over the next couple of years, we do so in a way that is consistent with our values and mission.
Teresa Peavy: 46, an 18-year River Forest resident
Biggest challenges facing the district the next four years: "New Curriculum: District 90 is preparing to implement the Common Core State Standards Initiative. This will be a challenge to the school board to ensure teachers have the right tools and parents have accurate information so students can learn. Successful Students: While implementing this new curriculum, the school board needs to make certain that the district is living up to its mission. Fiscal Responsibility: All of this must be done while maintaining a balance between an outstanding school district and fiscal responsibility."
Four-year goals: Ensure children have access to high-quality educational programming and technology; facilities that meet the needs of the staff, students and the community, all while maintaining a strong commitment to fiscal integrity; promote understanding among all stakeholders through open communication and active community involvement; retain the high-performing staff currently in place that foster individual student achievement and, when necessary, recruit and develop new staff to do the same.
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