Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
City: West Chicago
Family: Married to David Williams; no children,
Occupation: Owner: Peaceful Heart Therapies and Shannon Burns, Small Business Training and Consulting
Education: Doctorate: Adult Education (Ed.D); Masters in Business Administration (MBA); Bachelor of Arts (Social Work, Community Education); Certified Woodland Steward and Wetland Management (Morton Arboretum); Midwest Ecological Prescription Burn Certificate (Chicago Wilderness).
Civic involvement: Natural Resources Volunteer: Morton Arboretum, Conservation Foundation and Wayne Conservancy; Water Collector: Sierra Club River Monitoring Program; Member: Sierra Club, Wheaton League of Women Voters (past Board member), American Association of University Women, Conservation Foundation.
Elected offices held: Commissioner, Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, District 6.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Outline two initiatives you have to improve the forest preserve district.
In addition to ongoing mission-based initiatives of strategic land purchase, stormwater mitigation and natural resource restoration, two initiatives for my second term are 1. Increase public involvement through innovative volunteer opportunities, improved technology platforms, and prompt response to public concerns, and 2. Completion of a district-wide master plan to guide restoration efforts, trail development and budgeted spending. These initiatives address key challenges faced by the district in the coming years: Cost effective creation of programs and services that respond to public needs while maintaining focus on natural resources management. My 2014 Annual Report outlines my future goals for the district.
What role should be the forest preserve district play in preserving historic buildings on its land?
The Forest Preserve Districtâ€™s mission of land preservation and natural resource restoration must be our first priority. I support use of district expertise to assist communities in saving historic buildings but I am not in favor of the district taking responsibility for restoration or management of historic buildings. Consultation to community groups seeking grant funding for historic restoration is one example of assistance the district could provide. Partnerships between the district and community groups to preserve historic sites work well. Such partnerships may be the solution to balancing the districtâ€™s focus on land management with community interest in historic preservation.
Are you satisfied with how the district responded to complaints from volunteers about the treatment of horses at the Danada Equestrian Center? Why or why not? Does more need to be done?
I am satisfied that horses at the Center are cared for and in good condition. Staff and volunteers now participate in formal training to ensure consistency in horse handling. Riding lessons have resumed without incident. New management is in place, communication has improved and a certified vet-technician is on staff. Of course, more needs to be done, both to maintain progress and to continue improvement. Additional communication initiatives with volunteers, revision of horse adoption policies, and development of new programs to provide equine access to the non-riding community are a few examples of what more can be done.
Do you think forest preserve members should receive pensions? Why or why not? If elected, will you accept a pension?
This question cannot be answered simply. It's not wrong to accept a benefit that is already in place. However, commissioners should not receive a pension simply for being elected; benefits should be earned by doing the job for which they were elected, and then by staying in office for the required number of years in order to qualify for a benefit. Outcry against elected official pensions is â€" partially - due to public disillusionment with elected officials. Locally, the solution is to elect officials that are qualified, regardless of political party affiliation. I did not take a pension when elected.
The forest preserve district has been approached by several agencies looking to use its land for other purposes. Describe your position on such requests and if it is ever appropriate to develop forest preserve land for non-forest preserve activities.
I agree with state law that prohibits sale or lease of forest preserve land to private entities. The district exists to protect land from these types of requests and my job is to uphold the districtâ€™s mission. In extreme circumstances, I would entertain seeking approval from the state for limited use of small portions of district land by private agencies but only on a case-by-case basis. A situation involving environmental safety, for example, would be worthy of consideration. Construction of a parking lot would not be an appropriate reason to seek an exception to state law.
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
I continue to oppose construction of a maintenance facility at Mack road, but recognize that the district is in critical need of new facilities. The board, in good conscience, must move forward with planning for this project. My hope is that the district will conduct legitimate due diligence, including exploration of alternative sites, before proceeding. A dedicated handicap trail system, centrally located, is needed. The district could maximize basic restoration efforts by developing pilot programs to explore greater empowerment of volunteers. I continue to support increased interaction with the public as a means of determining services and spending priorities.
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Pope Francis for putting people above doctrine, for his unwavering moral compass, and for the dignity he sees in all life.
What's the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Leave people and places a little better than you found them.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
Becoming a public servant sooner.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Biology. Understanding the inter-connectedness â€" and the inter-dependency - of systems changed the way I relate to people and to our environment.
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kindness and respect are the greatest gifts you can give. Kindness and respect are also the greatest obligation we have toward each other. No exceptions.