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NORTHBROOK, IL — Ahead of the April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Northbrook Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot.
Six candidates are vying for three four-year trustee seats on the Northbrook Village Board on Election Day. They are incumbents Muriel J. Collison and Daniel H. Pepoon, and challengers Robert Burns, Joy Ebhomielen, Christopher Lay and Ana Mendez McGuinnes. Current Trustee Kathryn L. Ciesla is running for Village President, leaving her seat up for grabs, with Sandra E. Frum set to retire. She will be challenged by Eugene Marks for president.
Ciesla, Collison, Ebhomielen and Pepoon have received the backing of the Northbrook Caucus of 2021. Burns, Lay, Marks and McGuinnes are being endorsed by United4Northbrook.
Northbrook Patch is publishing all responses submitted by candidates verbatim.
Kathryn L. Ciesla
Age (as of Election Day)
Town/City of Residence
Village board or city council
Party Affiliation (if a partisan race)
Northbrook Caucus of 2021 Party
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
Northwestern University – Chicago, Illinois – Certificate, School of Continuing Studies, Divorce Mediation (2012)
The University of Illinois – Champaign – Urbana, Illinois – Certificate, Leadership Academy, Office of Public Leadership, Institute of Government and Public Affairs (2010-2011)
Harvard University Law School – Cambridge, Massachusetts – Certificate, Program on Negotiation for Senior Executives (2007)
The John Marshall Law School – Chicago, Illinois – Juris Doctor, Honors: National Dean’s List, The John Marshall Law School Dean’s List (1996)
The College of Saint Benedict – St. Joseph, Minnesota – Bachelor of Arts (1993)
Honors/Accomplishments: Service and Scholarship Award, Dean’s List, Honors Program, The Forum (Honors Debate Society – Faculty Nomination Required to Participate), The Independent (College Newspaper), Editor (1992-1993), Features Editor (1992), Staff Writer (1989-1991)
CIESLA | BEELER, LLC – Northfield, Illinois, Equity Partner/Attorney
State of Illinois Bar (1997)
Northern District of Illinois Federal Bar (1997)
United States Supreme Court Bar (2005)
United States Tax Court (2007)
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (2009)
Representation of Minor Children
Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois (2012-present)
Circuit Court of Lake County, Illinois (2013-present)
Guardian ad Litem (2012-present)
Child Representative (2012-present)
Parenting Coordinator (2014-present)
Presiding Judge of the Domestic Relations Division (Cook County) –
Programming Committee for Child Representative/Guardian ad Litem
Super Lawyers (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
AVVO Client’s Choice Award (2014, 2016, 2018)
American Institute of Family Law Attorneys – 10 Best in Client Satisfaction (2019,2020)
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
The Village of Northbrook – Northbrook, Illinois
Village Trustee (Elected Terms: 2009-2013, 2013-2017, 2017-2021)
Northbrook Caucus Endorsed (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)
Administration and Finance Committee, Member (2009-2017), Chair (2017-present)
Joint Review Board – Tax Increment Financing District, Chair (2017-present)
Ad Hoc Labor Relations Committee, Chair (2017-present)
Ad Hoc Facilities Committee, Member (2016-present)
Communications and Legislation Committee, Chair (2009-2017)
Planning and Zoning Committee, Member (2017-2019)
Community and Sustainability Committee, Member (2011-2019)
Ad Hoc Economic Development Committee, Member (2011-2017)
Quality of Life Committee, Member (2009-2011)
Northwest Municipal Conference – Legislative Committee, Member (2016-present)
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
Continuity of Leadership. With effective leadership we can navigate through all the challenges ahead.
Most immediately, the Village Board must continue to move through the pandemic, from providing information to residents, advocating for our stakeholders, and supporting our economy to hiring the only person we as a Board supervises, a Village Manager. Village Manager Rich Nahrstadt is retiring after 10+ years as Village Manager as are some senior department heads. Village President Sandy Frum is retiring after 25+ years of service to the community.
Any transition provides opportunities. I am the most seasoned Village Trustee and I have the experience to lead the Board and guide the Board in the search for our new Village Manager and the transition in leadership for staff and at the Board level.
Northbrook has excellent staff, strong reputation and solid financials. For years we have managed well, even through difficult times, like the Covid pandemic and the 2009 recession. The key to our success has been strong leadership, like we have seen from President Frum and Manager Nahrstadt.
I am ready to continue that tradition of strong leadership. I have worked closely with staff, including Manager Nahrstadt and I have been mentored by President Frum. I am prepared. I am ready.
The key for our community’s continued success and seamless transition is to elect proven and trusted leaders who reflect the values of our Village. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue to serve.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
I believe that Black Lives Matter and I proudly participated in the 2020 Northbrook Black Lives Matter peaceful protest initiated by Lauren McGinnes, then a Glenbrook North High School Senior. I learned by listening that it’s not enough if I’m not racist; I’ve got to be anti-racist. I’ve got to call out racism and bias and create a culture of diversity and equality. The march was the perfect example of what communities can do if they respect each other and value civility.
One of the most challenging issues I’ve faced is being able to stand together with black friends and neighbors near and far, while supporting those conscientious and mindful police officers whose reputations are being tarnished by the behaviors of the small percentage of officers who abuse their positions of service to our communities. It seems widely misinterpreted that supporting good police officers is inconsistent with being outraged and intolerant of police brutality and racially motivated violence against black people. I don’t hold that position.
My opponent and his supporters have made this an issue in this campaign suggesting that if I support the Black Lives Matter movement and equality, I somehow stand against our own police officers. This is preposterous, and frankly, has no basis in fact. Northbrook and I can do both at the same time, we can stand with our friends and neighbors of color and support and respect our police officers. People who can’t make this distinction have no place holding a leadership role in our community.
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
I am pleased about what we have done, but there’s certainly more we can do. Measuring success when it comes to defeating racial bias is difficult, if not impossible. Bias tends to hide.
I remain very proud that there have been no allegations of racial discrimination or bias in any of our Village Departments, including our police department for my entire term as a trustee (12 years). I am pleased that we initiated training to address racial bias across all departments.
I want to keep moving in the same direction and talk about topics that may be hard to address. By talking about racial equality, we bring the subject into the light, and hopefully take big steps forward. I would like to work with local organizations, such as RAIN (Racial Awareness in the North Shore) to promote programming and messages that educate and help us all be better.
What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?
As the daughter of a former District 28 science teacher, I can assure members of the community that I believe in science, and support mask mandates. I suspect as the vaccine rolls out local mask mandates will be useful, as states will be able to better target regional hot spots, rather than taking a one size fits all approach.
I am disappointed that battling Covid has become a political football when it’s a medical issue. I don’t think it’s in the Village’s interest to substitute my judgment for that of scientists and doctors who study the virus and make recommendations to stop its spread. I look at New Zealand, while it is a country considerably smaller that the US, a timely and cohesive national response rid the country of the virus. While most of the world is still suffering and people are dying, children in New Zealand are in school, people are back at work, concerts and public gatherings can proceed. I’m disappointed we couldn’t all unite around that cause.
Despite the lack of unity of the response, we must as a community support our businesses. Business is essential to our local economy, but more than that, our local businesses are an integral piece of the culture of our town. I am proud that we as a Board set aside $250,000 for the Northbrook Strong business grant program and provided PPE and sanitizer to our businesses so they could reopen during the pandemic. Further, the Village Manager’s office just expanded two existing positions, one position in the Manager’s office will be a dedicated liaison to the business community and the other will be located in the Development & Planning Services Department working on bringing businesses to our community. We will need to maintain a continuing dialogue with our businesses, especially our Chamber of Commerce so we can be agile and adapt quickly when there is an opportunity to help.
What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?
Vaccine distribution is slow and obviously we are at a point where the supply cannot satisfy the demand. I am particularly concerned about our seniors and any population of people who don’t have the ability to schedule their own appointments. While my own parents are computer savvy, I helped them navigate the challenges to finding vaccine availability.
On a local level, we are continuing to offer support and options to the State and the County. We offered the Grainger building to the state as a vaccine distribution site although the County has not accepted that offer. Further, the Village has been diligently working with neighboring municipalities on efforts to get vaccines to employees and members of the public, including seniors at Crestwood Place. Those efforts are ongoing.
Something I believe we can do long term is investigate whether we should join with other local communities to form a health department. Because we don’t have a health department, we rely upon the Cook County Health Department to acquire and distribute vaccines. If we had our own health department, we would be able to obtain our own vaccine supply and make our own distribution plan.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I have unparalleled experience. I have strong knowledge of the Village’s fiscal and operational needs with 12 years on the Village Board. I chair the Joint Review Board – Tax Increment Financing District and the Ad Hoc Labor Relations Committee. I have a solid understanding of the culture of the Village.
I am proven. I initiated and advocated for changes to our budgeting process and financial initiatives, which reduced our costs and promoted long term planning. I have negotiated two economic downturns as a trustee and have been a part of making significant changes in expenditures and staffing to stay within budget. I have been part of the process of rewriting the Comprehensive Plan, developing a Storm Water Plan, Water System Plan, Bicycle Plan, and reviews of our Capital Improvement Plan.
I am a strong leader. I know how to listen, and I value hearing the opinions of others, even if they are different from my own. I am open to and excited by change and new ideas, but don’t favor “fixing” something that is working well. I am effective at framing discussions, facilitating dialogue, and moving projects forward to their conclusion. I am not afraid to do what is right, even though the path is hard. I believe in order and process and will work to lead the Village Board with dignity and civility.
I am respected. I am proud to say that I have earned the respect and endorsement of all my fellow Board members, including that of retiring Village President Sandy Frum. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with them as Village President. I have a familiarity with and the respect of Village staff across all departments. And most importantly, I have earned the trust of our stakeholders.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)
While Gene Marks isn’t my immediate predecessor, he held the office of Village President for one term from 2005-2009, as such I will answer this question looking back on Mr. Marks’ term as Village President.
With genuine respect to the author(s) of this question, the concept of “failure” seems too negative a term. In politics and in life, minds will differ, so as I answer this question, I will do so with the civility and respect Mr. Marks’ deserves because of his service to our community.
In Mr. Marks’ tenure as Village President, I believe that he made a poor decision by aligning with the developers of the Center of the North Shore project. The bankrupt development saw more than a dozen of the executives federally indicted for bank fraud and left a clear-cut 15+ acre parcel of land vacant for several years. This was a blight on our community.
He was unnecessarily dismissive of residents who disagreed with his views.
He inappropriately took credit for the Willow Festival development, even though former Village President Mark Damisch was responsible for that project.
He could not finish the redraft of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan.
Mr. Marks unilaterally changed his title to “Mayor,” rather than “Village President” and favored redefining the role of our Village President from that of a small-town community service-oriented position to that of a “big city” style politician. This was widely rejected by our community and as a result, lost his bid for reelection.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform
Other than what I’ve answered here, there are several issues which will/may face the Village Board in the upcoming years, they include:
Planning for large scale developments
Improving communications with stakeholders
I am committed to making certain that all of our community partners are consulted when it comes to large scale developments and I want to make certain that those developments are a benefit to our community.
I am committed to finalizing and funding our sustainability plan.
I am committed (and excited) to build on the success of the Friday Night Flights event and offer residents a greater opportunity to gather and enjoy what Northbrook has to offer.
I am committed to improving communication with our stakeholders. The more we hear from you the better we can respond to what is important to you.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
This question asks for me to list accomplishments; however, I must say that in all deference to Northbrook’s Village Board, I believe that we work on initiatives as a collaborative body. An idea may be generated by one, but after much work and discussion, the idea becomes greater because of the contributions of the Board, staff and the community. My philosophy has always been I am your neighbor volunteering my time to help Northbrook continue to be the great community that it is. It’s not about “me” it’s about “us” as a community.
As I reflect on my time as a trustee, I respond further by saying:
I am proud that we have maintained our AAA bond rating for 12 years.
I am proud that we maintained 40% reserves for 12 years despite navigating the recession of 2009 and the Covid pandemic.
I am proud of my role in expanding the way the Village communicates with people, from the website to Northbrook Notify to web and social media streaming of meetings to having a social media presence.
I am a proud supporter of the Providence Farm community.
I am proud of the work we did to update our Affordable Housing Policy, with an unprecedented amount of public input (14 public meetings).
I am proud that our Board supports hanging the Pride flag in June and promoting acceptance and inclusion.
I am proud that a community teen planned and executed a peaceful march to promote racial equality and justice with our Village and our police department.
I am proud that we have an alternative vehicle sticker which traditionally supports the 4th of July celebration and raises between $20,000-25,000 per year to help fund that event. I am proud that this year our alternative sticker donations exceed $70,000, and proceeds went directly to supporting social
service organizations that aid Northbrook residents, our police department and our fire department with issues such as domestic abuse, alcohol abuse, grief counseling, mental health issues and more.
I am proud that we were able to dedicate a portion of our ambulance fees to fund our emergency responder pension obligations.
I am proud that we as a Village gave out thousands of masks and bottles of hand sanitizer to the people of Northbrook at a time when our community needed the help. I am proud that Board members personally handed out masks with family members.
I am proud that we offer textile recycling in Northbrook at no cost to our community.
And, finally, I am proud and honored to give our residents and businesses a voice in the direction of their community.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
So much of our success over the last 12 years has come from working together with other governmental bodies and neighboring communities. My term would be successful if we expanded our partnerships and outreach.
We can do this by working to develop new partnerships with our municipal partners and neighbors to reduce costs by sharing resources.
We can expand our services by maximizing our partnerships with local organizations that support our first responders.
We can work with community organizations to promote inclusion and sustainability.
We can expand outreach to local businesses by maximizing our partnership with the Chamber of Commerce.
There is a synergy to collaboration that can be measured in dollars and more.
Why should voters trust you?
I’ve proven myself trustworthy over my 12 years of service as a Village Trustee and I understand that to maintain that level of trust; I must continue to be open to listening to the opinions of all concerned, do my homework, and make informed decisions. I’ve got to continue to model transparency and the highest ethical standards and make certain that my fellow board members do the same.
I am a steward of our community, and I care very much that world class services are delivered to our stakeholders and I respect the responsibility of managing their tax dollars in a fiscally responsible manner. I have the background and experience to get the job done, citing my part in the success of moving the Village through two economic downturns, the recession of 2009 and the current Covid pandemic.
I am approachable and out in the community. I am involved with our schools, I volunteer with local organizations, I collaborate with our Chamber of Commerce, I speak to and meet with local groups, I shop local and support the community. I understand that I am a representative of the entire community, not just those with the loudest voices.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
I will continue to support that the Village take a fiscally conservative approach to spending. Over the last 12 years what we’ve done has worked. Our Village is in excellent financial shape while, we have a AAA bond rating, healthy fund balances, and 40% of our revenues held in reserves.
Over the next several years we need to look for innovate ways to carry us into the future. We need to continue exploring economic efficiencies and promoting the use of technologies to reduce personnel costs; engaging in partnerships with our municipal partners so that major expenses can be shared; exploring partnerships with business entities to promote initiatives like sustainability and community events; and exploring Federal, State and local funding/ grant opportunities for infrastructure projects. Thankfully the Village is financially sound and has proven it can weather economic difficulties most recently the Covid pandemic and the 2009 recession.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Growing up we had most dinners together as a family. As we talked about our days, sometimes my brother and I would talk about troublesome kids, those we would call “bullies” today. My dad would encourage us to look behind the actions or words and think about what might be going on in that kid’s world, mostly at home, but maybe at school. The lesson was to look deeper and to be empathetic, rather than immediately critical or positional.
I still use this skill today professionally and personally. It helps me go beyond the surface and problem solve. It encourages me to see all sides of a situation. Applied to the role of Village President, I can assure our stakeholders that I want to hear all what they have to say. I want to know where they are coming from. Only by digging deeper can we come to make the best decisions for our community.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I would like the voters to know why I want to be Village President.
Service. I was raised with the value that it is my responsibility to give back. Both my parents
modeled core values of financial and service-related giving. My work as a trustee and, hopefully as Village President, is aimed at giving of my time, insight and energy to the community I proudly call home.
Foster Dialogue. One of the most important qualities of leadership, in this case being a member of the Village Board, is to listen. While opinions won’t always be aligned, we are better when we listen to all perspectives, even if those are different from our own. I have always tried to give people a voice. As Village President the ability and desire to allow all voices a chance to be heard is essential.
My Family. As a family, my partner, my children and I value community service and advocacy. I want to continue to instill in my daughters that it is both their right and responsibility to become involved in areas outside of their immediate space and to act as stewards of their community, economy, and environment.
It’s Time to Do More. I have long respected and admired the many Northbrook residents who
have served our community. Even though we don’t always agree, I have great personal
affection for many of the people with whom I served on the Village Board; our common bond
was to pursue what we believed to be in the best interests of Northbrook. Taking all I learned from the Board members who came before me, now as the most senior trustee, and with the retirement of our Village President, I have decided to pursue the Caucus endorsement for the role of Village President. I strongly believe that with my education, experience, insight, temperament, and skill, I can and will effectively and honorably serve the Village of Northbrook as its President.
Lastly, let’s not forget that geoFence helps stop hackers from getting access to the sensitive documents that I use for my work. Now I can get even more gigs as a freelancer and – advertise that I have top security with even my home computer and that’s the the truth.