The Riverside Community Caucus, which convenes every two years to interview and slate candidates for local municipal elections, apparently liked what it has seen the past four years and has chosen Village President Ben Sells to head a slate of candidates for the April 4, 2017 Consolidated Election.
Sells is looking to win a second term as village president after serving six years as a village trustee. The caucus also chose incumbent Trustee Doug Pollock for one of three trustee seats up for election. He will be joined on the slate by Elizabeth Peters and Wendell Jisa.
Caucus Chairman John Mathews said the group interviewed a total of eight candidates for the three trustee positions. Trustees Patricia Collins and Ellen Hamilton, who chose not to run for second terms in office, were not interviewed by the caucus.
Asked why the caucus chose Peters and Jisa, Mathews said that both came across very well during their interviews.
“They have really good ideas and a sense of where this village needs to go,” Mathews said. “Both Liz and Wendell have an idea about the historic context of the village, but know what the village needs for the future.”
According to Mathews, the board’s focus in recent years on economic development was of particular interest to members of the caucus.
“Economic development was significant this year,” said Mathews. “In the last cycle infrastructure, especially the downtown infrastructure, was very important. This year, we’re seeing some of the results.”
Sells said that as he reflected on his statement of candidacy from four years ago, he had identified restoring the natural beauty of the village, economic development and downtown infrastructure as keys.
“We’ve had a lot of success on all three points,” Sells said. “Economic development seems to be taking hold and we have some momentum with LaBarra, Sawmilly and Safehouse Brewing.”
In the next four years, said Sells, the community will begin to tackle what to do with the so-called Youth Center building just east of the main fire station on Riverside Road.
“That conversation needs to be had in earnest now,” Sells said. “We’re spending a lot of money each year putting Band-Aids on that building. There will be a community-wide conversation about what we want for that location.”
Sells said that the board will continue to try to obtain grant funding to improve the streetscape on East Quincy Street in the downtown area after being turned down this year for an Illinois Transportation Enhancement Program (ITEP) grant.
Pollock said he wanted the board to build on the economic development gains seen in the past year.
“It’s been a high priority for the board and will continue to be,” said Pollock, a city planner who is the community development director for the village of Burr Ridge and has served in the past on the Riverside Plan Commission.
“We’ve done a lot to send the message to the business community that we’re open for business and that the village is willing to partner to keep existing businesses successful,” Pollock added. “Economic development isn’t a project, it’s more of a program. You’re never finished with it.”
Peters, an attorney with a background in industrial engineering, also comes with a strong interest in local economic development issues. She’s chairwoman of the Riverside Economic Development Commission and led the first phase of a marketing study that the commission will continue in 2017.
Jisa, a seventh generation Riverside resident whose family traces its roots back to two of the founders of the Riverside Improvement Company, is the CEO of a computer software company and in the recent past has been active in addressing public safety matters, particularly traffic issues along Barrypoint and Fairbank roads.
Now that the slating is complete, the candidates are expected to form a new political committee, called Riverside 2017, and campaign as a team.
So far, no other candidates have announced they’re running for office in the spring of 2017. Nominating petitions must be filed between Dec. 12 and 19 in order for candidate to appear on the ballot next spring.