John Edgar Mihelic

Below are candidate-submitted answers to a biographical survey Riverside-Brookfield Landmark sent out to all candidates running in this year’s elections.

Age: 35

Previous political experience:

Applied for democratic candidate – lieutenant governor when the party forced out Scott Lee Cohen; volunteered for the Lozano and Jesus Garcia campaigns in Chicago. Applied to fill empty seat on Brookfield Library Board in summer of 2016. 

Previous community experience:

Canvassing Chair with PAC supporting new library in Brookfield 2016


Director of Finance, Community Support Services, Brookfield


West Virginia University, BA English.

Kansas State University, Graduate work in English.

Concordia University, River Forest, MBA

Do you support building a new library? If no, why not? If so, what does the board need to do to make that a reality? Does it involve different outreach, revising the design? When should the library board seek another referendum?

Working for the referendum, I supported the building of a new library. The ultimate issue is that there is not enough space, and that lack of space has not gone away just because the referendum was narrowly defeated. 

We need to go back to the people and make our case again, but it is harder to have gone forth once and then go back and ask for the same thing. I have heard it explained both “if at you first don’t succeed, try try again” and “the definition of insanity is to do the same thing and expect different results.” So, we as a board have to refigure how to approach the need for a new building in light of having lost.

When I was interviewing for the empty seat last summer, I specifically asked about contingencies if the referendum lost – but none were volunteered to me at the time. Therefore, I believe that we need to go back to the community with a slightly scaled back plan. Show that we can listen to what the community said but also sell the idea and need for a new building.

I think we need to go back next year with a new ask. The library can grow its reserve and strategize and show the community that the board is concerned about being stewards of the village’s funds and its trust.

What is the role of a library in the 21st century? What kind of programming and services should a library offer; what should it not offer? Is the library meeting its mission now? Why or why not?

When a lot of people think of the library, they imagine it is just books. But the library as it evolves towards the next century is more than just books. The library is the center of the community in terms of knowledge and self-improvement and one of the main contacts that you can have with the community as a whole.

The idea of the library at the center of the community is why the issue of space is so important. If you have ever been at the library when any kind of class or event is going on, you see just how crowded the library is. The people and the books are squeezed. If you see the library as only about books, then this is not an issue for you. But I believe that the library can scale classes and resources in a way that anyone member of the community would have trouble doing. It is investing in our future so that we can have reading groups and classes on your 401k. It works in concert with the schools but extends them so that it is about a lifetime of self-improvement and learning.

The current staff works admirably within the restraints they have, but there is so much more potential in the people we have but are limited by space. 

If a referendum is not approved within the time period allowed by the village, what then? What is the way forward if it does not involve a new facility? Is there a way to make the existing facility more usable? 

The status quo is unsupportable. The building is aging and maintenance costs will continue to increase. The current board already examined ways to maximize the usage of the current building. As far as I know, upgrading the building as is was not possible in a way that ultimately didn’t cost more money than an entirely new building. 

If it doesn’t pass in time, then the reserves will be spent on maintenance and interest rates will go up as well as the cost of living and materials, and then the amount of library you could buy with the same amount of money will go down. It is not an enviable position to be in. Then we’re down the road asking for more and the new building is an emergency because the old one is falling apart. 

What other issues are important to you as a library board candidate? How would you advocate for them as a board member?

Everyone involved in this election was either on the board or was on the volunteer group working towards the building of a new library. I would not have volunteered my time if I did not think that having a new library would be beneficial to the community.

The problem for all of us is that the referendum for building a new library lost. We can try to mollify ourselves and our supporters with whatever words we want, but there is an honest truth. Either we did not do enough to sell our vision or we over-promised that vision. The positive effects of a library are both subjective and quantifiable, but precision is difficult since we’re projecting into the future. 

This unknowable future is why the library is so important to me though. The building we didn’t approve is one that was open and flexible in a way that the current one is not. Space is limited and programs are closed. Our vision was broad and open. 

The library as we know it will always be the center of learning. It is not just books but a place for everyone to communicate and learn and grow. Ultimately the library is a community resource. No matter what happens it will serve the people of Brookfield.

Ultimately the goal is continued good governance of the library and ensuring the people of Brookfield the best library and services with the resources we have. I hope that when we ask the citizens again for a new building, we will be able to make the case. I want to be part of that and believe I can play a role in the success of the Village and its investments.