Two candidates have announced their plans to run for River Forest president in the April 2021 election. Current President Cathy Adduci and Trustee Patty Henek both intend to be on the ballot in the spring.
For Adduci, it would mean a third term as president, and she points to her experience and expertise as her strengths.
“I’m skilled at being the village president,” said Adduci in an interview with Wednesday Journal last week. “We’re in a better place than we were eight years ago. I have a track record that proves it.”
Adduci pointed to positive changes she’s made for why she would be a good fit for a third term in office, and cites her desire to see racial equity in the village as one of the driving forces behind her decision to run.
River Forest residents wanted more transparency, said Adduci, adding that she provided it, in part through the creation of five new committees and commissions.
She also said collaboration between taxing bodies during her tenure has provided better communication between District 90 schools, the library, village hall and other groups. Communication with residents has been improved through a village-wide calendar with events for all bodies listed, and a regular e-newsletter provides the village with updates.
Adduci said she has also made village board meetings more accessible to the public, providing audio, video and streaming capabilities for at least two years, and village government is active on social media.
“We have tried and been successful in getting information out to the community,” Adduci said. “We want to engage as many residents in as many activities as possible.”
She noted her decision-making abilities in leading the village.
“I think the role of village president is not only vision and setting strategy, but in making decisions,” Adduci said. “We do it in a consensus way. I believe there’s only one, maybe two times, where I had to break a tie. And I find that significant … because decisions are often unanimous or a super-majority.”
But what clinched her decision to run for a third term was the COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest spurred by the George Floyd murder.
“I thought, there’s still some things we need to do,” said Adduci. “We need someone experienced right now. I feel like I need to stay on to continue the progress.”
“River Forest,” said Adduci, “wants progress and civility.”
As for those who question a third term, she replies, “River Forest residents can determine that,” Adduci said. “Right now, it’s not too many.”
She mentioned infrastructure projects, such as the north side stormwater management system, as progress made under her watch. And, she said, the financial situation of the village is strong, with a balanced budget for at least 10 years. Despite COVID-19 threatening revenue, “We never stole from our rainy-day reserve,” said Adduci.
Plans for a third term include continuing to grow the capital fund and looking at the sewer project on Keystone, as well as revitalization of Madison Street through TIF funds.
Adduci plans to continue the relationship the village of River Forest has built with Maywood, a partnership suggested by Trustee Miguel Jones after the recent racial hate crime incident at the Jewel on Lake Street.
“We’re so excited to collaborate with a community we should have been collaborating with for a long time,” Adduci said.
She attended more than one Black Lives Matter demonstration locally and said there’s not been pushback from residents on her antiracist stance, though she acknowledges a silent minority might be out there.
“It’s an important issue around the world and to our community,” said Adduci. “People in River Forest want justice and everyone to be treated well.” She added that one of the reasons she wants to run again is so that “racially, we can make it better.”
Policing is another matter she wants to address, including looking at how to “bring the right people to the door” when 911 is called. She’s working on a correspondence program with the police, in collaboration with Thrive Counseling Center in Oak Park, so that when police go on crisis-intervention calls, social workers will show up as well.
“We’re still Mayberry, but Mayberry in the 21st century,” Adduci said.
Henek is throwing her hat into the race too. In 2015, she ran for the board but lost by a small margin, then ran again in 2017 and won, the highest vote-getter in that election for village trustee.
She has thought about running for president since she was voted onto the board in 2017.
“It’s a position I feel ready to hold. I’ve demonstrated leadership, and many residents have expressed to me that they would like to see me in this role,” Henek said in an interview with Wednesday Journal on July 20. With her family’s full support, she would focus on the position as “a full-time job.”
Processes in village government and systemic racism are two issues Henek discussed at length; the need to address both was a driving force behind her decision to run for president.
Like Adduci, she brought up what happened at the Jewel. “What the Jewel incident showed us is that we still have a ways to go,” Henek said. “I think we’re at a point in time where maybe we need a fresh look at things, a fresh perspective, on how we can really move that needle even further.
“It has been a fabulous community over the past 20 years that I’ve lived here, but I’m well aware of the disparity between our neighboring communities.”
Governance and process is something Henek wants to streamline for the village. Sometimes, she said, decisions or agenda items are rushed and trustees and residents don’t have enough time to review meeting minutes or agenda packets ahead of time.
Often the voice of dissent on this board, Henek said she believes there’s more support for her ideas than appears at the board table.
“We’re a small community with a lot of overlapping friends,” Henek said, “so it’s hard for people to always go out on that limb.”
Recently asked why garnering support of trustees would be easier as president, she said people want proper engagement and a deep dive into issues, which hasn’t always been part of decision-making in the village.
“We are basically guided toward ‘we should be ready to vote.’ That sort of thing wouldn’t happen under President Patty,” said Henek. “I would be sure that we had the time between meetings.”
Henek also wants to see better evaluation of potential infrastructure projects, given finite resources, her concern being that priority is perhaps at times given to north-side projects without enough data points to properly make those decisions.
She believes in the three basic tenets Adduci often talks about that guide decision making: Does it address safety? Does it address stabilizing property taxes? Does it address improving our property values?
But Henek would add a fourth question to always keep in mind: “Where do our policies come in with regard to systemic racism?”