Ken Johnson

River Forest Village Trustee Candidate

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Biography

*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies

I am a proud father of two beautiful daughters, a loving husband, a cancer survivor, a diehard Wolverine, lawyer and small business owner, and a dedicated resident of River Forest for the past 15 years.  

Family First

Most of my experiences in life are guided by my family. My wife Amber and I have been fortunate to raise our two daughters in River Forest.  Our girls benefited from their experiences attending Willard Elementary and Roosevelt Middle School and were involved in many local sports and extracurricular activities.  

A Business Owner

I have been practicing law for over twenty-five years and opened my own firm in 2003.  I am the Managing Partner of one of the few minority-owned, multi-office law firms in the Midwest. The firm focuses primarily in Energy Regulatory Law with a focus on sustainability, Real Estate and Banking Litigation, and Immigration Law.  I hope to leverage my years of business and legal experience in the role of Village Trustee.

A dedicated River Forest resident.  

Over the last fifteen years, I have witnessed a community that thrives and works together for the better good of its residents. I am invested in making River Forest the kind of community that attracts diverse families and businesses for generations to come.  I have contributed to the River Forest community in the following ways:   

  • D90 2012-2014 School Board Caucus
  • River Forest Youth Soccer League: Board Member (2008-2017)
  • River Forest Girls Soccer: Head Coach (2008-2016)

My responsibility to others

I have always felt a personal responsibility to assist others in reaching their full potential. To this end, I’m active in the following organizations which serve the greater Chicago community: 

  • Link Unlimited Scholars, a non-profit that works with African American youth to close the opportunity gap by providing academic support, leadership development, mentors, and financial subsidies and scholarships.  For the past six years, I have personally mentored individual students and currently serve as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors 
  • Chicago United, a non-profit supporting racially diverse CEOs and executive level management that promotes diversity and inclusion while delivering best practices for diverse practitioners and building relationships among leaders who share common values.

Questionnaire

How will recent discussions on equity inside village hall affect your approach to hiring a new village administrator? 

There are many factors that should be considered as we look to hire a new Village administrator. Having lived in River Forest for over 15 years I have learned that there is no typical River Forest resident and therefore, we should look for candidates that not only possess strong communication, management and leadership skills, but one that also values diversity and inclusion. To achieve this, we must ensure a diverse slate of qualified candidates that can bring creative and innovative solutions to the most pressing needs of the Village.  Our current staff is highly effective therefore, we should look to bring on a leader that has complementary skills to maximize the impact of the administration office for our community. 

Why are you seeking this office and what qualifications do you have to serve in this capacity? 

My family and I have been fortunate to live in River Forest for over 15 years. I plan to leverage my years as an attorney and business owner to help with ongoing issues the Board is addressing on behalf of our community. I have direct experience as an entrepreneur, and I understand the issues that many of our small businesses are facing. I am vested in keeping River Forest an attractive option for businesses and families to thrive. This can be achieved by ongoing innovation, business development and collaborative community engagement. 

If elected as a Village Trustee, I will approach every challenge with a focus on TRANSPARENCY and INCLUSION that deliver RESULTS. I believe that community engagement begins with transparency; River Forest’s residents deserve to know how decisions are being made, how it will affect them, and that they have been given the opportunity for their voices to be heard. I will continue the work begun by the existing Board and build upon it to further the level of transparency between the Board and its constituents. I also believe strongly in diversity of thought. From my perspective, inclusion means intentional consideration of all views and ideas, even those that may be different than my own. Leveraging these views will enable our Village to increase its impact and benefit all residents. Finally, I am running to bring about results (or resolution). While no candidate can or should promise all things to everyone, I’m committed to being responsive, having follow-through and build a Village that is stronger and more vibrant than ever. 

Do you think there is a need to control the deer population in River Forest? If so, what measures would you support to do so? If not, how would you respond to those who have experienced property or foliage damage as a result of deer in the village?

I do feel there is a need to control the deer presence through stronger deterrence methods and am supportive of the data-based outcomes from the current committee that is tasked with identifying ways to reduce the impact deer have in the Village. This is an extremely complex issue with no completely right or wrong answer.  It will take a combination of initiatives to make an impact in a manner that is both humane and effective. 

River Forest has used piecemeal approaches to economic development projects, such as Lake and Lathrop, how would you improve the development process? 

Economic Development, if done right, can lead to tax savings and the development of businesses that are desired and of need in River Forest. I believe the economic committee is currently effective in its approach to growing River Forest’s development base. A great example is the assisted living center at Chicago and Harlem. Creating a multi-year pipeline of opportunities will allow us to continue to make River Forest a desirable place to live.

In a community best known for its affluent housing, what are the economic and social benefits of increasing affordable housing in River Forest?

I strongly believe that River Forest should continue to be a place that values community.  It should be a place that is accessible to anyone that wants to live and contribute.  Affordable housing is a key enabler to ensuring River Forest is a place where families can live for generations which can lead to a more vibrant community. This means creating housing that is accessible to young families that might be starting out to ensuring that seniors are able to age-in-place easily. This will lead to sustainable economic development as well. Affordable housing is a key enabler and is essential to a thriving community. 

If you are an incumbent, what accomplishments are you proud of most? If you have not served on the village board, what is the primary goal you would like to accomplish if elected?

If elected as Trustee, I want to continue to make River Forest one of the most desirable places to live in the Chicagoland area. My primary goal is to get more community engagement and to help bring long-term economic developments to River Forest. I wish to work closely with River Forest’s other taxing bodies to ensure maximum community growth through transparency and diverse thinking. I strongly believe we can accomplish more things together than apart. Given my business and legal experience I feel I can accomplish this by being a steward of this community and its residents.


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