With two votes, River Forest officials created a much-anticipated but larger than expected ad hoc Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group at the April 26 virtual village board meeting.

The first vote, which passed 5-0, amended a resolution originally approved in February by adding a third co-chairperson and establishing the size of the committee at 43. Trustee Patty Henek did not attend the meeting. The size of the group was left open when the resolution was approved in February. 

The second vote confirmed the appointments of the 43 members, all but one of those who submitted applications, and two of the three co-chairs. Village President Cathy Adduci said 44 applications were received but one resident withdrew. As was agreed in February, Trustee Erika Bachner and Lisa Scheiner, acting village administrator, were appointed co-chairs.

The appointments were approved 4-0 with Bachner abstaining because she was on the list of appointees, and Trustee Bob O’Connell abstaining because a family member is among the appointees. Henek’s absence and the abstentions of Bachner and O’Connell required Adduci to cast a rare vote. 

Although Bachner advocated appointing one of the residents to the third co-chair position, Adduci proposed that newly elected Trustee Ken Johnson fill the position. In her explanation, Adduci cited the situation with the Deer Management Ad Hoc Committee, in which Cargie and Henek were appointed co-chairs but Henek withdrew after one meeting. 

She also stressed the need for the terms of the trustees appointed to not be coterminous to prevent the results of an election from eliminating the two at the same time. Johnson was elected earlier this month and will take his seat at the May 10 meeting.

Cargie, O’Connell and Trustee Respicio Vazquez supported having the third co-chair be a trustee.

Bachner said she was “humbled” by the number of applicants.

“At the heart of it, this group will be involved in making sure we get closer to more people gaining access to resources, looking at where power lies and where it can be shifted when needed,” she said. “This group of people is rising to the moment and to the challenge.

“This is something I’ve been interested in since I ran for trustee. This really fills me with pride. I’m really excited about this.”

Bachner thanked Trustee Katie Brennan for her efforts to create the advisory group.

“This was her initial idea in June,” she said. “She has worked with me endlessly over the course of the last year to create the vision for this.”

Adduci agreed, referring to Brennan as “an instrumental piece” of the advisory group’s development.

Brennan, in turn, thanked Adduci and Bachner.

“This has been my goal since June that this advisory group get up and going,” she said. “It is a much larger group than was anticipated initially and I think larger than any other commission or committee that we’ve had, including the deer committee.

“I have confidence that everybody will be aiming at the same goal. I also have confidence in Erika’s ability to lead this. It’s going to be challenging but we’ve got good leadership.”

O’Connell said he had some initial concerns about the size of the group.

“When I first heard 43, I said, ‘Wow!’” he said, but predicted that a group that size “will move more quickly.”

Vazquez said he thinks having 43 members will allow for more subcommittees to work on specific issues.

“I’m really excited and happy that we have 43 people interested in serving on this group,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”

Adduci acknowledged the amount of work ahead but said she is “psyched about it.”

The advisory group is charged with developing a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative for the village to be presented to the village president and board of trustees. 

The internal initiative was introduced last September, along with an external component, and discussed at multiple village board meetings until consensus was reached in February.

The advisory group’s goals include hiring a consultant to assess village operations and designing a work plan to address diversity, equity and inclusion.

The external component, a partnership with Dominican University in River Forest, is moving forward, following adoption in October. The goal of the mutually beneficial partnership is to assist the village in becoming a community where there is a commitment to a culture of equity and inclusion and help the university expand its Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation efforts.

Equity advisory group members

River Forest Trustee Erika Bachner and Lisa Schiener, acting village administrator, are two of the three co-chairs of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Ad Hoc Advisory Group. Newly elected Trustee Ken Johnson is expected to be appointed as the third co-chair after he joins the board May 10. 

Residents appointed to the committee include Dwetri Addy, Guillermo Arauz, Stacey Austin, Tina Baird, David Bonner, Tim Brandhorst, Laurel Burkett, Mindy Credi, Alexandra DeSorbo-Quinn, Renee Duba-Clancy, James Norman, Holly Economos, Chuck Foster, Doug Garcia-Luce, Cecilia Graham, John Grant, Jessica Hartshorn, Anja Herrman, Jessica Iverson, Kirk Johnson, Stephanie Kang, Megan Keskitalo, Farzad Khaledan, Kent Kirk, Brett Kreisman, Susan Lucci, Susan Macaulay, Rosey McAdams, Claudia Moreno, Robert Navarro, Nancy Nicolas, Sharon Oates, Christina Papirnik, Teresa Peavy, Roshni Ray, Anthony Riley, Abigail Rogers, Cindy Shea, Liz Simon and Dorota Szerszenowicz-Olweny, Richard Schumacher, Glen Weissenberger and Sun-Hee Yoon. 

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