Hoffman Estates candidates talk leadership, accomplishments
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While the four candidates for Hoffman Estates trustee agree that the village has been going in the right direction, at least one candidate says her "new blood" will bring new ideas to the table.
Incumbents Jackie Green and Karen Mills are being challenged by two newcomers, Gayle Vandenbergh and Michael Gaeta, for three open seats on the village board.
Vandenbergh, 61, is a marketing and office operations manager for W-T Engineering, Inc. in Hoffman Estates. She is a newcomer to village politics, but has been heavily involved in local civic organizations and nonprofits since moving to the area in 1985.
"I do believe that the village has been running very well. I do believe that the present trustees have been moving it to greatness," she said, adding that she is friends with the other candidates. "I do think that new blood always brings new ideas."
Vandenbergh said she has learned to work as a team in various circumstances, from serving on the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce board and the Schaumburg-Hoffman Estates Rotary board to her current position as vice president for Friends of HE Parks. She described herself as "assertive" and said she does her homework with all the boards and organizations she serves on.
Vandenbergh noted that years ago, under her leadership, the Hoffman Estates High School booster club raised enough money to put lights on the school's football field. They were installed the year after she was president, but she worked on the project from the beginning.
"That was a major accomplishment," she said, adding that the funds were raised through a connection she had at work and with the cooperation of the entire booster club board.
Gaeta, 75, has a long career in the food industry, and currently is the owner and distributor for two Seattle Sutton Healthy Eating locations.
During his time working for gourmet poultry manufacturer Regal Foods, he helped the company expand from being a regional business to a national one.
"I became president of the company when the owners stepped down," he said, adding that the company was family-owned.
Gaeta and Vandenbergh live in Haverford Place, a 55-and-older community on the west end of the village. Gaeta said he started the community's homeowners association soon after moving in about eight years ago, and believes he can bring that type of leadership to the board.
"Someone has to start, and I'm the type of an individual that if I see chaos, I will step in to do something. As far as telling people what to do, I will advise you, I can show you how to do it," he said.
"Dictating, micromanagement, I never believed in that," he added. "Let people delegate. I would delegate to them to be doing different things."
Gaeta added that he served as president of the Illinois chapter of the Food Service Executives Association for two years. When he started, he said, the association was on the decline and had less than 10 members. During his tenure, he brought membership up to more than 120 members.
Green, 73, said she also started volunteering with local organizations soon after moving to Hoffman Estates about 35 years ago.
"People look to me, especially at my church ... they look at me to lead them," she said, referring to her work in various ministries at St. Hubert Church.
During her eight years as trustee, Green said she has found that there isn't always one person on the village board who takes the lead.
"On the board, I don't think any one of us are genuine leaders because we work as a team; we all are together leading," she said.
Green said she showed leadership when she supported the village taking ownership of the Sears Centre while serving on the zoning board of appeals.
"Together we made that decision, but I pretty much agreed with it," she said.
Green also has been a member of the Fourth of July commission for 29 years and has served as chairwoman since the celebration changed locations last year to the Sears Centre. She stood her ground on the decision to move it to the arena.
"We knew there would be problems, and there were quite a few problems, and we're just going to take those problems and figure them out and make them better," she said.
Mills, 62, is running for her sixth term as trustee. She moved to Hoffman Estates in 1978 and worked her way up from president of the homeowners cooperative preschool at her townhouse complex to her current position as property manager for the 680 townhouses.
"It's been a gradual increase in responsibilities over the last 30 years," she said.
Mills said she took on leadership roles there and at the village because she has always had the mentality that if you have a problem, you get involved and become part of the solution.
Mills was chairwoman of the village's plan commission in the 1980s when Sears Holdings Corp. decided to move into Hoffman Estates. She was appointed to the village board in 1992 and said since then she has become, at times, "a calming force for the board."
"I try to look at both sides of a question and that's what I feel has to be done," she said. "You need to look at all the sides of it and take as much of an approach as you can to bring everyone together."
In the early 2000s, Mills said she took on the responsibility of getting other board members on board when the village was working out a boundary agreement with South Barrington.
"I approached the other trustees and said look, we need to put differences aside — this is the best thing for our village," she said. "I was very proud of that moment."
• To see complete coverage of all the suburban races, including candidate profiles, endorsements and news analysis, go to www.dailyherald.com/news/politics/election/.
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