Two local women are running for elected office for the first time, in a story being echoed in races across the country. Jessica Vealitzek, of Hawthorn Woods, and Maria Peterson, of North Barrington, are each vying for a seat on the Lake County Board.
"Now's the time," said Vealitzek, who is running in District 10. "Some of the same dysfunction that has people concerned at the national level is happening at the local level. Regular people have to stay involved to make a difference."
Vealitzek is an author and co-founder of a healthcare startup to help those, like her, diagnosed with a genetic risk of cancer. Vealitzek was diagnosed in 2014 and underwent preventive surgeries. A native of Arlington Heights, she worked as a legislative aide in the Minnesota Senate for several years before moving back to Illinois with her husband and two children.
Peterson, a retired attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor, now runs her own fitness company. She has served on several boards, including the Citizens Utility Board. But like Vealitzek, this is her first run for public office.
"I have always delved deeply into learning the subject at hand so that I can learn both sides of the issue and advocate for a favorable outcome," said Peterson, running in District 17. "I am thrilled I can bring my advocacy skills to the table."
Their districts lie next to each other, separated mostly by Route 12.
"We've gotten to know each other because of our campaigns," said Peterson. "The camaraderie is wonderful."
State Senator Melinda Bush (D-Grayslake) -- who runs Lake County Democratic Women to help Democratic female candidates like Peterson and Vealitzek -- is excited about their candidacy. "Women are 52% of the population but roughly 23% of our elected officials. We are under-represented in government across the board," said Bush. "I'm very happy Ms. Vealitzek and Ms. Peterson are stepping up to the plate."
Both Peterson and Vealitzek say sustainability will be a centerpiece of their platforms, as well as rectifying what they see as government mismanagement. "Lake County is facing significant problems right now, as far as millions of mismanaged taxpayer dollars," said Vealitzek. "But we're also facing significant opportunities. Lake County is uniquely positioned to become a powerhouse of green jobs in recycling, renewable energy, and local food production."
"We must think in terms of sustainable land use and water preservation," said Peterson. "The bottom line is, I love Lake County. I want to be proactive to conserve Lake County for this generation and the generations to come through smart and strategic planning."
Neither candidate faces a primary opponent. The general election is November 6th.