I strongly endorse Patty Henek in the upcoming River Forest Village President election. Not just because of her capacity to handle the job, which she has demonstrated in myriad ways, but for her talents, which will mean a better River Forest for all of us. 

Much discussion has centered on the critical skills required for someone to be the “CEO” of River Forest. As with any CEO position in government and in business, it is critical that a village president have the operational knowledge of the organization’s mission and key success factors, the leadership chops to engage the board and committees to keep the organization fresh and growing, and the personnel skills to manage direct reports. 

In her decades-long Non-Governmental Organization experience and as a four-year village trustee, Patty has repeatedly displayed this skill set. She has demonstrated municipal leadership — with economic development, finances, zoning, public safety, planning, and communications. Her fluency with village issues is enviable and she has modeled a commitment to research, question and education on the issues facing our village. Her willingness to reach out to citizens beyond her own networks is far ahead of her peers.

Yet there are skills beyond just her community and board experience that argue for her selection. River Forest spends over $700,000/year on professional personnel to manage the operations of the village while implementing board policy. The most important skills for a CEO of any organization are those skills we most crave from our public and private leaders — enforcing values, communicating vision, and modeling integrity. 

Patty has the integrity that guides her actions, always putting community needs above her own aspirations. She took a courageous stand on behalf of the community during the Roosevelt Middle School issue and lost an election by 20 votes as a result. She uniquely sees the ways collaborative efforts yield stronger results. She leads by example, modeling inclusion and bridge-building, with some previous opponents now among her strongest supporters. 

Without any disrespect to current or past administrations, creating a successful future for River Forest is more than just doing what was done in the past. Picking a village president is more than just “whose turn” it is. We have all lived through the limits imposed on a global society for lack of values and inclusion. River Forest is by no means broken but using “it seems to be OK” as a threshold when planning for the future or casting a ballot is dangerous. The new challenges we will face are best met by new leadership, a fresh and collaborative vision and fidelity to the values we all hold dear. Why not bring fresh direction to our village?

To paraphrase a neighbor I deeply admire, for the love of River Forest, vote for Patty!

Mark Coe is 30-year resident and private sector CEO. He is also a former two-term Library Board trustee and past president, Service Club member and past president, and River Forest Tennis Club member and past president.

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