Karen Roothaan: Candidate Profile

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (Green)

  • Karen Roothaan, running for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

    Karen Roothaan, running for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

Updated 10/20/2016 10:20 AM

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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.

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City: Chicago

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Twitter: Candidate did not respond.

Facebook: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought:

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District

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Age: 63

Family: Daughter Nishi and Partner Laurie Livermore

Occupation: Teacher

Education: BA Mathematics, University of Chicago

MS Mathematics, Brown University

Civic involvement: Trees R Beautiful - Urban Forestry project

Alliance for the Southeast: Coalition for Community Benefits

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

Questions & Answers

The board continues to be dominated by officials from Chicago as opposed to the suburbs. Do you support reforming the way the board is elected to ensure more balanced representation?


The role of board members is described as part time, yet the salary associated with it is more than most people make in their full-time job. Is the salary appropriate? Why or why not?

If the Commissioners took their jobs more seriously they could work at it full time, as I will do if elected. There are multiple challenges faced by the District and in my opinion anyone asking to serve in a leadership position should be treating these challenges seriously.

If you are an incumbent, what has your attendance been for board meetings? IF you are a challenger, have you attended any meetings? How many?

I have attended meetings but do not know how many - at least ten over the past six years. (This is a conservative estimate)

How do you rate the MWRD on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them, why they are important and how you would accomplish them.

I would rate them as barely adequate. I will illustrate with an example: over the past few years the MWRD has been distributing biosolids (treated sewage sludge) to schools and community gardens. I raised concerns about the safety of the product, citing results from a national EPA survey dated 2009. Commissioner Kari Steele took me aside after the meeting, promising to get me newer and more specific results. It took her three weeks to get me a half page of results, and when I asked for specifics such as sampling procedures and frequency, she never responded. I am still waiting.


Please list any elected office you've ever run for and what the result of that election was. Have you ever been appointed to fill an unexpired term?

I have never held public office.

What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?

I would like to see the MWRD unbundle contracts so that smaller businesses can bid on jobs they have the capacity for. I believe this will improve minority access to these contracts and potentially save taxpayers money.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Susan Sadlowski Garza

What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?

To tell the truth

If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?

I would listen more to my inner voice.

What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?

Mathematics taught me to ask questions and think for myself.

If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don't expect everything to work out right the first time.