Lake Zurich mayor adds youth to advisory boards
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Lake Zurich Mayor Thomas Poynton says his appointments of a teenager and a recent college graduate to advisory boards are part of an effort to bring enthusiasm and fresh ideas to village government.
Jonathan Hert, 18, has become one of seven members on the village's park and recreation advisory board. Matthew Gilbert, 24, now occupies one of eight plan commission seats.
Poynton gained village board ratification for the appointments of Hert and Gilbert, which was necessary for them to become official. He said the village board doesn't want "the usual political appointees" and is trying to match residents' skills with what's needed in village government.
"In both cases, Jonathan and Matt, my hope is to infuse both advisory boards with enthusiasm, the voice of youth and new ideas," Poynton said Tuesday. "Putting both of these young men on village advisory boards is a great way to get younger people involved with local government. This is a steppingstone to engage younger people in the workings of village government."
Hert is a 2013 Lake Zurich High School graduate now attending College of Lake County and holding two jobs. He attended his first park and recreation advisory board meeting Aug. 13, with an agenda that included topics such as reciprocal agreements for program fees with neighboring towns.
Providing input on an panel is nothing new for Hert. He cut his teeth starting in eighth grade as a member of a Lake Zurich Unit District 95 Educational Foundation project advisory group that included the superintendent, teachers, parents and others who came up with ideas to benefit students and faculty.
Hert said residents in his age range are not that involved with the village's park system. He said he hopes to provide a viewpoint and ideas that help the parks better connect with teenagers and young adults.
"What if we have Wi-Fi in the parks?" Hert said when asked about one of his ideas. "This way, people can lounge with their Kindles and iPads."
Poynton said he found Hert has a sense of what potential young users want from the park and recreation department. He said he also was impressed when he learned about Hert's civic-mindedness from the teen's parents.
"He couldn't wait to vote and get involved," Poynton said.
Gilbert's solid resume led to his appointment to the plan commission, which issues recommendations on various projects to the village board, Poynton said. Gilbert, a junior architect for Valerio Dewalt Train Associates in Chicago, most recently attended Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at University of Michigan, where he received a master's degree this year.
Gilbert said it's important to have the perspective of younger appointees on Lake Zurich's boards and commissions. He said the plan commission stood out as a place where his knowledge as an architectural professional could be useful.
"These groups all have a say in policies that affect the future of our village," the 2007 Lake Zurich High grad said, "and younger people have a great stake in that long-term future. We shouldn't hesitate to be more hands-on and forward-thinking about shaping the future of the places we live. I also think it's great to combine my knowledge and background with that of the more experienced members of the commission."
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