*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
I am a 33-year resident of River Forest. My husband, Ed, and I raised our four children here, now ages 23-32. I served as Township Clerk for 3 years and was elected Township Supervisor in 2013. I am running for a third term as Supervisor in the April 6, 2021 election.
As the Township Supervisor, I wear many hats. As an elected official, I am responsible for the human services side of the Township and am a voting member of the Township Board of Trustees. Because the River Forest Township staff is small and part-time, I also serve as the Township’s administrator and its chief financial officer. I enjoy the challenge of balancing and fulfilling the multiple aspects of the Supervisor role.
My educational and professional backgrounds are in both government and business, which serve me well as Township Supervisor and in the multiple facets of the job. My passion for human services is inspired by my oldest daughter with autism and has led me to extensive volunteer work in the developmental disabilities’ arena. I also have experience in small non-profit management, which has been helpful to me in overseeing the Township’s grant funding process.
When not working at the Township, I enjoy family and friends, travel, reading, tennis and yoga.
How can the township increase awareness of its services?
River Forest Township has always done positive work in the provision of human services and Assessor services. However, several years ago, this work was done quietly; the Township “flew under the radar”.
Since becoming Supervisor eight years ago, I, along with our team, have worked hard to make the Township, and the value it provides, more visible and known to our residents. This has included outreach about new programs and services, increased presence at public events like the Memorial Day parade, Township partnerships with many community organizations, launch of many new programs and services, social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, network building with seniors and youth.
Do we have more to do to increase awareness of the Township and our programs and services? Absolutely. We can be louder! We need to re-do our website…we would like to publish our own online newsletter…we need to do another listening tour among those we serve…the list is endless. Continued awareness raising is one of our top priorities for the next four years.
What can you do to convince local government bodies to renew support of the Youth Interventionist Program? Do you believe that support be renewed?
In June 2020, nine River Forest and Oak Park taxing bodies renewed their support of the joint Township Youth Services’ Youth Interventionist Program (YIP) through a 2-year intergovernmental agreement.
Supporting taxing bodies include both Townships, both Park Districts, both Public Libraries, and School Districts 200, 97 and 90, most by unanimous vote. (Only the two Villages did not support the Youth Interventionist Program.)
We very much appreciate the renewed support of the nine taxing bodies, which followed significant efforts by both Townships to convince the taxing bodies that renewal was essential. These efforts included:
- Development of a new database, so that the YIP could provide more effective program data going forward;
- Restructuring of the Youth Interventionist staff to include more effective oversight and qualification requirements;
- Increased visibility of the Youth Interventionists in the community;
- Advocacy that the YIP is not “just a Township program”, but rather a community-wide program, related to the safety and well-being of our youth, wherever they are engaged;
- Personal outreach by Supervisor Carla Sloan in River Forest and OP Township staff in Oak Park with each taxing body regarding the YIP and the renewal.
The Townships believe that renewed support by all taxing bodies in June 2022 will be essential, as the Townships alone cannot fund a program of this scale. Only by pooling our collective resources can such a valuable community-wide program continue. The YIP’s receipt of the Lieutenant Governor’s “shared service best practice” award in 2018 is evidence of this premise.
The Townships’ efforts toward renewal in 2022 will be ongoing and will continue to include the 5 steps listed above. We hope to once again have the support of the two Villages as well.
Should discussion of merging Oak Park Township with village government be ended and why?
I was not aware that such discussion regarding Oak Park Township was still ongoing…but yes, this conversation should be ended.
Oak Park is most fortunate to have Oak Park Township funding and managing vital human services to Oak Park residents, specifically to seniors, youth, and those with mental health issues, developmental disabilities, and financial need. Oak Park Township serves many in need, while costing only 2.5% of a property tax bill; Oak Park Township is small, nimble and efficiently run.
It has become clear during the pandemic just how strong and effective Oak Park Township is. They have delivered thousands of meals to seniors; case managers have remained on call for their senior clients. The senior info and referral line has not stopped ringing. Youth interventionists (social workers) have also remained on call for youth and families. The General Assistance program has continued to serve its many clients. Funded mental health agencies have continued to deliver their services by telehealth means. The Assessor’s office has continued to handle thousands of appeals and inquiries. The list goes on and on. Suffice it to say, Oak Park Township has proven itself to be nimble and able to respond quickly during a time of great need.
River Forest Township enjoys a wonderful partnership with Oak Park Township, where we share in the administration and delivery of many services in a cost-effective way.
The value of our Townships is that they preserve tax levied dollars exclusively for human services. These funds protect our human services and cannot be diverted or used for other purposes. It is key to retain our Townships for this reason, among others.
I believe that the Village of Oak Park does an excellent job for the residents of Oak Park, delivering the services for which it is responsible. I do not believe, however, that they would be as strong, consistent, and effective at delivering human services, or even the Assessor’s services, as Oak Park Township.
By the way…I would make the same points about River Forest Township, with River Forest Township making up 1% of a property tax bill.
What service areas are in need of expansion?
Human services-related needs in River Forest continue to grow. Our senior population is increasing. Mental health issues grow in number and complexity. Residents face financial issues, particularly coming out of the pandemic. The lives of our youth have been upended by the pandemic. All human services areas need greater attention and focus.
In addition, River Forest property taxes are relatively high, in support of our strong schools and other services. Residents continue to rely heavily on the Township Assessor’s office for help with exemptions and appeals. Our Assessor’s office must continue its outreach and high level of service.
How do you plan to expand these areas and fund the expansion?
The need for services is increasing; yet the Township’s revenues are virtually flat. The Township levy increases by no more than the CPI, in order to minimize property tax increases.
Given flat revenue, the way in which the Township has successfully expanded programming is through collaboration and partnerships. This has been the hallmark of our success and innovation.
By combining resources with other taxing bodies and organizations, we have increased our offerings and “made the pie bigger”. In this way, the Township has been able to do a lot with a little.
An example of this is the new senior home repair program. By partnering with an outside agency to do home repairs for seniors (vs. hiring our own staff), and by partnering with Oak Park Township and the two Villages to fund the administration of the program, we will be able to offer a valuable program to our seniors which we couldn’t offer on our own.
Other examples: by combining funding and expertise with community partners, we have successfully launched The HUB, an online human services resource and closed loop referral system. We have implemented Support 4U, a 24/7 texting service for our middle and high school students, enabling them to reach licensed clinicians with mental health issues.
We must continue to be flexible and creative in seeking new partnerships and in evaluating and fine-tuning existing ones…in order to stretch our fixed dollars while meeting increased need.
What outcome do you wish to see for the remaking of the River Forest Community Center?
To be clear, there are no conversations about the remaking of the organization, the River Forest Community Center (RFCC). The RFCC is a successful not-for-profit organization which has operated in River Forest for over 40 years.
There have, however, been conversations about the feasibility of rebuilding and/or renovating the building called the River Forest Civic Center Authority (RFCCA) Building, located at 8020 Madison Street, which has as its lessees the River Forest Community Center, River Forest Township, Opportunity Knocks, and the D200 CITE Program.
Because the RFCCA Building is in the Madison Street TIF District, the Village of River Forest funded a feasibility study to look at the options and costs related to expanding the building to meet the potential needs of the current occupants as well as additional organizations in River Forest. The feasibility study has just been completed and the various stakeholders, including the RFCCA Board, the River Forest Township Board, the RFCC Board and the RF Park District Board, are reviewing the options presented by the study.