Julie Renehan: Candidate Profile

DuPage County board District 3 (Democrat)

Updated 2/13/2018 12:00 PM
  • Julie Renehan, running for DuPage County board District 3

    Julie Renehan, running for DuPage County board District 3

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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: Hinsdale

Website: www.JulieRenehan.com

Twitter: @RenehanD3

Facebook: Julie Renehan for DuPage County Board

Office sought:

DuPage County board District 3

Age: 49

Family: Husband, Dan

Children Sarah (22), Will (21) and Caroline (17)

Dog Chester. Sarah graduated SMU this spring, Will is a Junior at Vanderbilt University and Caroline is a senior at Hinsdale Central and deciding where to go to college next fall.

We live not far from where my husband grew up in Hinsdale, with his 4 siblings and parents. He runs a business in Willowbrook.

My father worked for Chrysler and he with my mother, sister and myself moved about every 2 years as he was promoted nationally. I went to high school in Kingwood, Texas and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Vanderbilt University, B.A. in English Literature and French Language and Literature

Washington University in St. Louis, J.D.

Certified Professional in Human Resources (SHRM)

Civic involvement: ABA Veterans Claims Assistance Network

Pro Bono Network volunteer attorney and Board member providing legal assistance to low income individuals on projects including DACA, Divorce, Incarcerated Women's Project and Illinois Legal Answers Online

Jr. League of Kane & DuPage County Board, Parliamentarian & State Public Affairs Chair

Hinsdale Jr. Women's Club

Miles for Melanoma fundraiser

Pi Beta Phi fraternity alumni

Vanderbilt University college interviewer

Hinsdale Village Caucus Selection Committee

District 181 PTO

Election Judge

Voting Registrar

Precinct Committeeman

Elected offices held: No elected offices in government.

In non-profits Current Board member, former Divorce Project Chair, DuPage adhoc committee with Pro Bono Network,

Board member, Parliamentarian and State Public Affairs Chair-Jr. League of Kane & DuPage County.

Many committee chair positions with Hinsdale Jr. Women's Club, PTO.

Vice President Mental of Pi Beta Phi fraternity, Vanderbilt University,

Editor Washington University Law School Environmental Law Journal

Questions & Answers

Why are you running for this office, whether for re-election or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?

I am running for County Board as an evolution of my commitment to community and public service. After volunteering, from PTO to Girl Scout cookie mom, to voting registrar to lobbying representative in a women's organization, to various committee chairs to Precinct Committeeman, I took service to another level using my legal degree to provide pro bono legal aid to low income individuals via the Pro Bono Network and Veterans' Claim Assistance Network. I have tested the waters of service and have much more to offer to my community. We are in desperate need of finding creative solutions to County issues and in need of hearing from different points of view. In addition to the obvious diversity I bring to the table as a woman and a Democrat, I bring a focus on the issue of how do we serve the needs of our least fortunate residents-seniors, veterans, mentally ill, opioid addicted-when the County budget is increasingly squeezed? I am motivated to drill down into the budget, how contracts are awarded, the County no bid policy, Board pay and benefits and more to find County dollars that provide real service to our residents. The other part of the equation in servicing resident needs is increasing revenue to help fund initiatives and I am committed to a vigorous push to bring businesses and sales to our County to do so. I am not a "go-along" with County policy as a stepping stone to higher office. We can do better.

What is your stance on county board members' pay? Too high, too low, just right? Would you propose any changes?

The $52,103.00 DuPage County Board compensation exceeds that of some nearby counties: Lake $43,018, Will $23,000 but Cook pays $85,000- all with benefits. The job is Òpart timeÓ but vital to the state's second largest county -requiring significant decision-making skills, negotiating abilities and time attending county events outside of Board meetings.

During my Daily Herald interview, I was asked if I would cut my own pay. I said it was Òto be determinedÓ upon holding the job, but let me be clear. I have no issue proposing that all members reduce their pay and a 3-5% reduction is reasonable. The work, integrity and budgetary savings I intend to bring to the Board will prove beneficial to the County and I will more than earn the salary provided. As a pro bono attorney, I work hard for others with no compensation.

Per changes,the Board should prohibit all part time elected officials from participating in the already stressed pension system. Second, car allowances and insurance benefits should be discontinued. Third, I was surprised to see the County has a policy regarding when the Board can rent a private air carrier. I would cut this perk. Lastly, in an effort for Board members to earn their pay, the Board should cut lobbying expenditures and have the Board perform this duty. Unfortunately, for too long, our County has been run more as a private corporation that offers executive benefits instead of a public entity run by and for the benefit of its residents.

With DuPage County's budget being squeezed by the state funding reductions, what initiatives would you support to increase revenue and/or save money?

Rauner's state budget strains County resources with a $3 million reduction due to the RTA administrative fee increase and funding shorts. To increase revenue, I support initiatives to build and strengthen DuPage County businesses which bring in our number one source of revenue- sales tax. DuPage has a highly educated workforce, strong schools and provides a high quality of life

however, we have seen businesses like McDonald's corporation lured to other counties or out of state. We must work with private entities and determine their needs-whether they be tax or regulatory in nature- in order to keep business here

we cannot afford to lose their economic contribution to sales and property tax income and the overall strength of our business community. I also support a tobacco tax to fund environmentally friendly county works. Raising property tax is not the answer at this time.

To save money, I support vetting County contracts in a more objective way for cost savings and improved fairness. I support fewer no bid contracts. There should not be an easy way to sidestep contract vetting. Contracts are currently awarded according to a system where the winner is the most highly ranked based on a set of subjective criteria. There is little explanation for the criteria and no delineation of a cost benefits analysis. I support reducing the $400,000 spent annually lobbying by at least half. Reduce Board members benefits and continue consolidation of county departments and committees. Examine township expenses and identify further consolidation.

What are your thoughts about the county's Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency Initiative? What role should DuPage play in efforts to streamline and consolidate local government?

The Accountability, Consolidation and Transparency initiative sounds impressive-but it is another case of the Board overselling its' efforts. While the referendum to consolidate the Election Commission with the County Clerk's Office is being touted as a possibly huge accomplishment in 2018, the fact is that is has been on the table as a watchdog issue for many years and the cost savings may take awhile to matriculate due to the complexities of combining governmental units. So maybe it's time to hold the applause. The Accountability and Transparency portions of this initiative hold up even worse. Patronage remains a problem in DuPage County and those concerns will continue as long as no bid contracts and the subjective criteria for bid awards continue. Bipartisanship beyond the Board level is not a real possibility given that almost all of the appointments to committees are Republican. There is a certain irony that the Board had to create (not "consolidate") a group on this issue and most people have no idea it exists (not "transparent" or "accountable").

To streamline and consolidate government,the County Board should limit its proliferation of committees and paid members and consider a reduction in the number of Board members per District to 2. An examination of the township level of government, which takes 1.65% of County funds, is overdue to determine whether we are getting enough value out of this layer of government, or is it duplicative. Activating Board members as lobbyists would decrease County spending on advocacy.

What initiatives, if any, do you have in mind for your specific county board district?

I am fortunate to have Argonne lab as part of District 3. As the first national research institute in the United States and a leader in energy research and development, I would spearhead an initiative to bring more technology based entitities near the lab to participate in and take advantage of the the lab's outreach to private corporations, small business and government. Argonne is located in an ÒIllinois Technology and Research CorridorÓ but this could be amplified as a "Silicon Valley of Illinois"- attracting hotels, restaurants and ancillary tech businesses to the area--bringing revenue and competitive advantage to DuPage economy. All signs point to STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) as the key to global business advantage and nowhere in DuPage County is there more opportunity to underscore this than in and around Argonne.

With McDonald's relocation to Chicago, the District has a responsibility to find a business leader to fill the economic hole. Technically, the McDonald's campus is not District 3 but a large number of employees live and spend their tax dollars in 3. I would activate this search effort aggressively.

According the DuPage County Regional Superintendent of Schools, 35 percent of DuPage County students are living in a low income situation and many are homeless. I would initiate a survey to determine which needs, supplemental to school, are not being met for these children and determine how the County can assist.

I have lived in District 3 for 17 years and would be proud to strengthen its representation.

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

Setting an agenda that puts the health and safety of our residents at the forefront is of utmost importance to me-creative as it may prove given shrinking budgets. Poverty is a real issue in DuPage and has been increasing, even as our population slightly decreases. The Regional superintendent of Schools recently stated that 35 percent of DuPage students are low income. On the Pro Bono Network Board, I work to increase outreach in DuPage to provide more legal aid to low income individuals. Providing for the needs of our low income community is expensive but vital as the County is usually a last resort for those individuals. I prioritize cutting the fat in our budgets so we may afford services to support these residents. When we help others, we strengthen our community.

Cuts will be required given weakened budgetary forecasts,but we should not compromise health and safety when other cuts can be made first. For example, the DuPage County Sheriff's Office will lose 16 full time Deputies (whose service supports over 900,000 residents) under County Board vote. With an opioid crisis that saw a 53% increase in heroin-related deaths from 2015-16, this is not the right decision. That makes 16 fewer deputies carrying Narcan to reverse drug overdoses. I would eliminate a lobbyist before a sheriff.

It is important to have County appointees from both parties and both sexes. Democrats and women are sorely underrepresented in the county bureaucracy (and the Board). I advocate a change in the status quo.

Please name one current leader who most inspires you.

Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, inspires me for her tireless work on affordable child care- a pivotal family, community and national issue.

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

When we help others in need, we strengthen the community for all- whether it be voting, giving blood, volunteering time or talent.

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

There was a trip I wanted to go on with both of my parents but didn't get to do when my Dad passed away.

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

French. It wasn't my best subject but it showed me how to enjoy "the learning" not just getting the grade. I even majored in college.

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

Keep on going

it's never too late. The United States champions reinvention and the underdog. Get back on the horse and go for your goal.