Candidates for Bolingbrook trustee, clerk answer questions

Update: Due to a production errorSheldon L. Watts’s response was left out of the March 30 print edition of the Bolingbrook Bugle. The Bugle regrets and apologizes for the error. His entire response to the questionnaire along with the responses from all Bolingbrook board candidates as well as the candidates for village clerk appear below.

TRUSTEES

Candidates running for trustee and village clerk positions were given a 300-word limit to answer the following questions

Incumbent Maria Zarate; Bolingbrook First Party slate

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

Upon completing my first term as Village Trustee, I pride myself on ensuring that all residents are represented. I have enjoyed every second of serving the residents of Bolingbrook, hearing their concerns, and helping to guide a better future for our children and grandchildren. My background includes working in the past for the State of Illinois Representative in the 4th District, serving on the Bolingbrook Civic & Cultural Affairs Committee. My past experience prepared me well for the current position but I have also learned a great deal since coming on the Board. My current work on the Public Services Committee and the Public Safety Committee has allowed me to become a better person and public servant. I look forward to continue assisting the programs and services that help our residents.

What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee?

As Village Trustee, I feel one of the most important aspects of the position is listening to residents. As a public servant, it is important for me to ensure the success of our residents, local organizations, and businesses. I will continue to help translate ideas into manageable policies, ensuring the opinions and thoughts of each individual resident is heard. Constituent service will continue to remain a top priority, as demonstrated by our open-door policy and contact information available on our Village website.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

Bolingbrook is surrounded by several older communities who have been dealing with this phenomenon for decades. Our strategy is to maintain strong relationships with the Chamber of Commerce, Developers, and Commercial and Retail entities so that we can proactively work to minimize vacancies and redevelopment needs. As a result our collaborative approach, we have had success in businesses and residents choose Bolingbrook over other communities. Stability in leadership is critical to our success.

Incumbent Michael Lawler (Bolingbrook First Party)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

I believe that the residents of Bolingbrook deserve leadership which puts service above self as well as diverse talents from its public officials. All of us put Bolingbrook and its residents first. Our reward is seeing successful individuals or events. Whether it is a Boy Scout earning their Eagle Scout or a community organization celebrating a successful event, all of us benefit. Regarding my background and skills, my experience in the hospitality and IT service industries allow me to contribute to developing policy and making decisions on services and programs which benefit the residents and businesses of Bolingbrook.

What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee?

As a Village Trustee, we are provided the opportunity to interact with residents, businesses, community organizations, and Village staff to understand the needs of each constituency. We are then able to develop policies and programs which enable all of them to have a positive experience or success in their ongoing initiatives. Our sole purpose is to enable success. Seeing that success come to life is likely the most fulfilling aspect of being a public official.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

Redevelopment is an interesting term. We are a community 51 years young. We are surrounded by communities in existence between 100-150 years. Bolingbrook is not unlike their surrounding and much older communities. Our housing market is extremely stable after the downturn experience in the recent past. The Commercial and Retail is experiencing similar behaviors as many other communities. Our strategy of strong relationships with the Chamber of Commerce, Developers, and Commercial and Retail entities allow us to deliver a much better occupancy rate than surrounding communities.

Incumbent Sheldon L. Watts (Bolingbrook First Party)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

I am running for election because of a strong desire to serve my community. I believe the seed for giving back and serving the community was planted in me as a young child watching my parents balance their home life and professional careers, while also tirelessly dedicating themselves to their church, the youth they encountered, and their community at large. It is my desire to personally make a difference as it relates to ensuring that Bolingbrook continues to grow, evolve and remain a great place to live, work, shop and raise a family. My past community service experience which includes being an elected DuPage Township Trustee, Zoning Board of Appeals Commissioner and avid volunteer with various nonprofits, provide me with a solid understanding of the needs of the community. My formal education which includes a B.A., M.B.A., and my current enrollment in a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership program… along with my professional career experiences which include Business Operations Management and Global Contractual Compliance Management, provide me with the critical eye for detail and in-depth understanding of matters related to managing large organizations.

What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee?

My goal as Village Trustee is to continue to be a voice for the community and to work on behalf of the community to ensure that the Village operates in an efficient and effective manner while always listening to the needs of the community with an open mind. I will always be an advocate for open, honest and consistent dialogue and communication internally with staff and my colleagues, as well as externally with the residents of our great community.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

Over the years, Mayor Claar and the Village Boards have worked aggressively to bring new housing options, retail, office, and industrial development to Bolingbrook. The current strategy involves maintaining this development growth, while also identifying and addressing any existing areas of need. This involves proactively working hand and hand with the Chamber of Commerce, Developers, and Commercial and Retail entities to establish synergies and leverage resources to benefit the on-going evolution of Bolingbrook.

Challenger Robert Jaskiewicz (Bolingbrook United)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?
I have been involved in the Village in a variety of ways since we moved here in June of 1995. From coaching youth sports to serving on numerous boards and committees with the goal of making Bolingbrook a great place to live, work and play.
I currently serve on the Bolingbrook Chamber Board of Directors and I’m President of the Bolingbrook Rotary Club. Recently I was on the Amita Hospital Foundation Board of Directors and the Bolingbrook Police Pension Board.
I’m running because I’m concerned about our $300 million plus in debt with a deteriorating credit rating causing our interest levels on this debt to rise making it more difficult to to pay down or off.
I’m also bothered by the fact that the current group of trustees is just a rubber stamp for the Mayor, and have stopped representing ALL our residents effectively. My role on the board will be to represent and be the voice for our residents.
What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee?
I will push hard for the formation of an Economic Development Commission with the mission of finding suitable replacements for lost businesses to fill the empty commercial buildings within the village. Also will work hard to to pass a budget that takes the debt payment into consideration.
What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?
Economic Development Commission as mentioned above. We need to start attracting businesses that are not impacted negatively by the online retail trades. Brick and Mortar stores are not competing well against the Amazon’s of the world. We need to seek out other types of businesses to fill these slots.

Challenger Terri Ransom (Bolingbrook United)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

It’s time for change. I decided to throw my hat into the ring because I love Bolingbrook, I didn’t like the direction in which it was headed, and I want to try to do something about it.

I have served in various leadership roles in a variety of organizations, including president of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., West Suburban Chicago Chapter, and treasurer for the Bolingbrook Panthers Sports Club. I have written grants to fund the technology program at a local day care center, and I have been instrumental in starting scholarships for high school seniors.  I have a technology background, and I currently work in the field of Information Security. The experience I have gained through these and many other activities and positions of leadership makes me uniquely qualified to serve as Trustee.

 What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee?

As Trustee, I want to encourage growth and opportunity for every family, business, and neighborhood in Bolingbrook; tackle the debt and rising property taxes; stop politicians from profiting at the residents’ expense; and restore the public’s trust in our Village government. I am an advocate for immediate transparency and accountability of village government. Rather than being a “rubber-stamp” for the administration, I support an approach that consists of investigation, questioning, and pursuit of innovative, practical solutions.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

In tackling any redevelopment tasks, the Board should begin with identifying needs and possible solutions, and then provide opportunities for Bolingbrook residents to provide feedback. For any proposal with which we proceed, we should first develop a project plan that would include a timeline, tasks and resources, and then seek funding to avoid placing a heavy burden on the taxpayers. The project plan would include collaboration with key stakeholders to structure and organize project work teams, establish target milestones, develop well-defined budgets, and track work against the project schedule.

Challenger Mary Helen Reyna (Bolingbrook United)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

It’s time for change. It’s time for leadership that reflects, and more importantly, respects and understands our diverse community. We may have different views but we must always respect each other and the voice of the people. We have to get involved, get informed, get active in our community. As a 9-year resident and business owner in Bolingbrook, I have had the opportunity to serve on local boards and learn about Bolingbrook and its residents. As an attorney and mediator, I could serve the Village well in finding compromise where necessary to serve all of our residents. I am open to listening more and talking less to learn what our residents require and desire from their local government.

What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee?

We need a more open policy. One that is inviting and accessible to everyone. One that inspires our residents to pursue new ideas and share different viewpoints. I speak to opposing parties on any given day. I am a fluent Spanish-speaker and regularly engage in discussions regarding civics and other residents’ concerns.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

Redeveloping Bolingbrook economically requires addressing our $3,000,000 debt. We could cut down on wasteful spending and look for other streams of income but we also need to reach out to all property owners about working together to fill vacant property and ridding the Village of eyesores.

There are other ways to redevelop Bolingbrook that will benefit our community. One way is to do outreach to families with students I would look to work with a diverse task force so that together we can develop ideas on how to engage families. We need to support our parents so that they, in turn, can support their students in and out of the classroom.

VILLAGE CLERK

Incumbent Carol Penning (Bolingbrook First Party)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

I am running for Clerk because I love Bolingbrook. I enjoy being a public servant and serving the residents of Bolingbrook. I have worked at the Village Hall for almost 40 years. I started out as an administrative assistant (striving to master every task I was assigned) and was then promoted to Executive Secretary to the Mayor and Manager. In 1989, I was asked by friends and neighbors to run for public office and was elected Village Clerk. I am honored to be the longest serving Village Clerk in Bolingbrook’s history and a cheerful presence at Village Hall.   It is my goal to be an effective advocate ready to direct residents to the help they need.

What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of Village Clerk?

I offer years of experience, knowledge and have obtained contacts and resources through the years which will guide and assist residents in a more-timely manner. Graduated from a three-year Institute Training Program of the Municipal Clerks of Illinois and a Leadership Enhancement and   Development program; both sponsored by the University of Illinois. In addition, acquired certifications as a Registered and Certified Municipal Clerk. I have a passion for “Service to Others” and my every waking moment is devoted to the residents of Bolingbrook.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

Bolingbrook is a young community incorporated in 1965. It doesn’t have the blight that would need a redevelopment plan like in older communities. Mayor Claar and the Board have worked on many development projects that assists with improvements. One such project was fulfilling a need that the Beaconridge Association and residents has with lighting and roof improvements. In addition, the Board worked actively with apartment owners on improvements at Riverstone and the Promenade. Before McKenzie Falls apartments were developed it was an open field. The Board worked diligently to support a good project for seniors and the disabled at that location. The Board is dedicated to continue to build Bolingbrook’s tax base and economic opportunities by taking what exists, seeing how it is working and what can be done to help it work better.

Challenger Jamie Olson (Bolingbrook United)

Why are you running for election and what are your qualifications?

I am running for Village Clerk in order to increase transparency by publicizing Village information and educating and informing residents about all aspects of the Village including its governance, debt, and civic activities.

My education, finance knowledge and work experience qualify me for the position. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Iowa as well as a Juris Doctor from DePaul University College of Law. I am also an Illinois licensed attorney. I have managed the records of a government facility with over six hundred employees and am well versed in record creation and retention policies and procedures. I am very familiar with the Freedom of Information Act process, prohibitions concerning the release of information that contains personally identifiable information, and formal and informal methods of information discovery.

What do you feel you can do for the village in the position of trustee/clerk?

I hope to do the following once elected as the Village Clerk:

(A) The Village has certain obligations, legal and ethical, to publish information on salaries and benefits paid to its employees. More than two years have passed and some of the information has yet to be updated. Residents have a right to know where their taxpayer dollars are going, especially when it comes to paying public officials with those funds. I will make sure such information is easily accessible and keep it current.

(B) The Village Clerk is considered to be the “local election official” for the Village there is no logical reason why the Clerk does not serve as an early voting location. I intend to re-establish the convenience of early voting at Village Hall as it existed a few years ago.

(C) While the Village has information posted on its website, much of it is not easy to locate, I plan to make it searchable to make sure residents can find what they are looking for with less effort.

(D) I would like to see the calendar (that is on the homepage for the Village website) incorporate information regarding community organizations.

(E) By making sure residents are kept informed on Village business I am confident that we can increase the transparency within the Village.

What strategies would you use for redevelopment in Bolingbrook?

The Clerk is the keeper of records for the Village. If elected Clerk, I will be successful if I accomplish increased transparency and resident knowledge of Village expenditures, resolutions, policies and plans. I want Village information to be easily accessible and comprehensible to all residents.

In order to achieve this I am going to reach out to residents via a monthly newsletter, in which I inform them about things that have happened in Village Hall and throughout Bolingbrook and provide them with an update on the Village debt, budget and expenditures. This newsletter will be sent to residents via email and will also be available on the Village website

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