In the wake of an unsuccessful referendum to build a new library, five candidates — three incumbents and two leaders of the campaign committee that supported the referendum — are running for the four seats on the Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees that are up in the April election. 

Michelle Svendsen, who was appointed to the board last year to fill a vacancy, is unopposed running for a two-year term to complete the term of the trustee, Tina Louise Happ, she replaced.

Four candidates, including incumbents Carol Kissane and Adam Burghgraef along with campaign committee members Jeanne McTeague and J. Edgar Mihelic, are running for the three seats on the board that have four-year terms.

Incumbent Lisa Knasiak is stepping down after serving two terms on the library board.

Kissane, 70, is one of the longest serving library board members ever in the state of Illinois. She has served on the library board since 1981.

“I’m not done with what I want to do,” Kissane said of her decision to run for another term. “I like being on the library board. I’m an advocate. I love it. I enjoy it.”

In 2012 Kissane was named the Trustee of the Year by the Illinois Library Association. She says that she has missed just three regular library board meetings in her nearly 37 years on the library board.

Kissane says that she believes her experience on the board is an advantage.

Burghgraef, an architect, was appointed to the board in 2015 to replace former board member Judith Sweet, who left the board for health reasons. 

“I’ve just got adjusted to everything,” Burghgraef said. “I’m just looking forward to just keep helping the community and the library itself.”

McTeague was the co-chairwoman of Residents Championing Our New Library, the campaign committee supporting the referendum. While in that role she said she began thinking of perhaps serving on the library board. When Knasiak decided not to run for another term, McTeague was encouraged to run for a seat on the board.

“When a position became available, a few of the people at the library suggested that maybe I would think about running and the bug was there, so I decided to put my hat in the ring,” McTeague said.

McTeague has a financial background and has worked recently as a financial planner.

“I’m not a librarian and I’m not a teacher, but I do have a business background and the board likes diversity,” McTeague said.

Mihelic, 35, has lived in Brookfield for three years. He is the finance director for Community Support Services, a Brookfield-based nonprofit agency that supports individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Last year, Mihelic applied to fill the vacancy on the library board created when Happ left the board.

Mihelic has an MBA from Concordia University and a master’s degree in English from Kansas State University.

“I have a background in both literature and business,” Mihelic said.

Mihelic served as the canvassing chairman for Residents Championing Our New Library.

“We lost a good opportunity to add more space, add a better place for the community,” Mihelic said. “Why I’m running is to try and get that done.”

Mihelic, who also is a prolific reviewer on the shopping website (with more than 1,000 reviews written), said that the library board may have to tweak its plans and consider how to win more support in a future referendum.

Trustees to go on ‘listening tour’

The Brookfield Public Library Board of Trustees has decided that April is too soon to try again to pass a referendum to build a new library, but that it’s not too soon to hear from residents about the subject.

“I think we have to regroup and see what we have to do to convince the voters,” said longtime library Trustee Carol Kissane.

To that end, beginning in March trustees will embark on a “listening tour” to engage with the community in a discussion about the library and its future.

“They’re going to have discussions with residents and stakeholders in the community to understand the community’s feelings about the ballot question,” said Library Director Kimberly Coughran.

Times and places of the listening tour have yet to be announced, but will be announced in the March/April library newsletter.

After April, the next possible date for a referendum is the March primary of 2018. The village of Brookfield’s approval of plans for a new library is valid until March 2021.

In November 2016, a proposal to sell $10.3 million in bonds to build a new library across the street from the existing building was defeated by 494 votes — 52.66 percent of voters opposed the referendum while 47.34 percent of voters voted in favor of building a new library.

Bob Skolnik