White hair. Black dog. Hard to miss. Even harder to pin down. Unless it’s Saturday, you’re at Starbucks, and you’ve got a beef. Then he’s all ears. And so’s Bailey, Winnetka’s First Dog.
One recent Saturday, we had questions but no beef, so we had to wait our turn. After dispensing with the usual “What’s your finest hour?” ("Stormwater MOU") and “What’s your biggest fear?” ("Stormwater") we dove deep.
What keeps you up at night?
“Our residents and their need - and right - to know how we’re spending their money. Things like stormwater and TIF are very complex issues, and they don’t fit in a soundbite. So I go to neighborhood coffees, meet residents at Starbucks and Peet's, and look for more ways to help them understand the issues that affect them.”
How do you see the role of the Village President and how's it different from your former role as Trustee?
“As a Trustee, your job is to respond to what’s in front of you. The President sets the agenda and guides the discussion, so it's now my job to make sure that what’s put in front of the Trustees accurately and completely represents the vision I have for this Village (and I have one!) while addressing the day-to-day issues that keep our Village running as smoothly and efficiently as it does.”
Strengths and weaknesses? (Sorry, we had to ask...)
“Thanks. They're one and the same. Passion. I love this job.I just have to make sure my passion for the work doesn’t overwhelm the need for patience while others get up to speed.”
How's that working for you?
This job's "dirty little secret?"
"The amount of time and effort that goes into intergovernmental issues. There is a spotlight on our community. The stormwater negotiations were just one example. I spend a surprising amount of time representing our Village to the regional, county, and neighboring municipalities. There's much more work than what you see on Tuesday nights."
Any models for how to do this job? And while we're at it, the past president you most admire and why. (We're so curious!)
“Gwen Trindle. Because she stayed in the conversation long after her service at Village Hall ended. And she's still at it!"”
The Village Board is only one of Winnetka’s taxing bodies, and although a lot of residents think the Village Council runs the show, it doesn’t. How do you coordinate with Parks, Library, and Schools to make Winnetka work?
“Thanks to the efforts of [New Trier Board President] Greg Robitaille, the presidents of the four boards now meet quarterly to discuss the various issues we’re working on, how they impact one another and how we can work together to avoid redundancy in efforts and resources.”
Quality of life. Why do you think people want to live here? What do you think is special about Winnetka?
"Winnetka has a lot to offer - the lakefront, the Village's walk-ability and sense of history. But it's the people who make it truly a special place - people who I believe want to live here because they recognize the importance of a good education and a comforting lifestyle."
With the spotlight about to be aimed on the Downtown Master Plan, should Winnetka be competing for new residents? If so, how?
“We have to. Affluent, high-performing young families are exiting the city. They used to move here by default, but now they have more choices. In addition to all of our natural attributes, our residents have invested significantly in their properties with the expectation of a reasonable return on that investment. To capture these young families and the energy, commitment and resources they bring to a community, we will have to do more to create an environment that is reflective and supportive of the value of our real estate and our community at large. A vibrant downtown is a huge part of that equation.”
Do you believe in “no new taxes,” and if so what are your thoughts about how to keep Winnetka running?
“I’m not an ideologue. I certainly believe in levying the money we need to provide for the services we expect and deserve. This includes seeking out all the financial resources available to us - from all external revenue sources - to minimize the demand on our residents.”
Reserves are a perennial - and controversial - issue in municipal budgeting. Your thoughts?
“Our Triple A rating is everything. The reserve threshold to maintain that rating is somewhat of a moving target. It’s my policy to follow the advice of our financial advisers who monitor those markets, and maintain our superior rating.”
What’s the most overlooked issue facing Winnetka today?
“Lack of viable housing options for empty-nesters who want to stay in the community.”
"We're working on it."
The ideal resident...?
“Somebody who takes the time to understand the issues and participate regardless of their position.”
Finally, please ask me...?
“How can I participate?”
Because Things Don’t Fit in Soundbites…
Sign Up – for the Village emails…
Show Up –
- At the Village Council meetings. Check out the calendar. If you can't make them, check out the videos.
- At Starbucks – just about any Saturday morning.
- At Peet's on select Saturdays. Cwoffee twawk with the Village Trustees.
Read Up – Council Meetings have great agenda packets. Pretty much primers on the stuff Trustees use to get up to speed. Know what they know when they know it.
And if you’ve still got questions…
Dial Up – Remember that “How can I participate?” thing? Operators (AKA, President Rintz et al) are standing by. Don’t be a stranger!
You have one more day to complete your Caucus Survey. Talk about not being a stranger! This is your once-a-year chance to let 'em know how you feel. Do it! (And pat yourself on the back for helping to make our Village the best it can be!)