Zahra Suratwala: Candidate Profile
DuPage County board District 1 (Democrat)
Back to DuPage County board District 1
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.
Family: Husband, Taher Suratwala, Actuary
Son, Yusuf Suratwala, Age 10
Daughter, Nooriya Suratwala, Age 8
Occupation: Writer/Editor, and Professor of English at Elgin Community College
Education: Master of Arts in English, concentration in Comparative and Post-Colonial Literature, May 2003
Masters Qualifying Exam
Bachelor of Arts in English, graduated with Departmental Distinction, May 2000
Loyola University Honors Program
Civic involvement: Volunteer at Emerson Elementary School (my children's school):
1. Head Room Parent
2. Spearheaded and run the Junior Book Club Program
4. Parent Volunteer
Volunteer at my mosque:
1. Young women's organization, initiated several projects and programs including a Senior Citizen's Outreach, a Green initiative to reduce waste, and a Big Sister/Little Sister mentoring program.
2. Very involved in women's upliftment and outreach
3. Donate my writing skills to my community in various capacities
For more detailed information about the above, please visit https://zahrasuratwala.com/communityservice/
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
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 a seat on the DuPage County Board in District 1 because there needs to be more diverse representation at all levels of government. Of the 18 people on the County Board, 1 is a Democrat, 0 are minorities, and only 4 are women. As a mother, a woman, and a Muslim, I do not feel sufficiently represented, so I am standing up, sending a message, and setting an example. Doing my part to be part of the solution.
I don't have unlimited resources, but I do have kindness, empathy, common sense, and a lot of determination. These give me the ability to be an advocate and an ally. We deserve these qualities in our leaders. During the 2016 presidential campaign, President Obama urged his audience to become engaged- to grab a clipboard and some signatures and to run. We need more people to feel able to do this. I am standing up, and maybe that will inspire someone else to run as well. Maybe I am part of a snowball effect that will change the face of leadership by the time our kids take the reins.
What is your stance on county board members' pay? Too high, too low, just right? Would you propose any changes?
DuPage County Board members are being paid more than Board members in other counties. There are families and individuals in DuPage County whose needs are not being met, and if there is room in the budget, I would like to see this money being used to benefit those who need it.
With DuPage County's budget being squeezed by the state funding reductions, what initiatives would you support to increase revenue and/or save money?
There are many overlaps in local government in terms of roles and responsibilities
streamlining and simplifying local government would be a good start, so that taxpayers are not paying twice for the same things. Reducing the salaries of elected officials would be another effective way to save money.
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?
I think accountability, consolidation, and transparency are essential, and DuPage certainly needs to play a role in increasing them. I do not know if the ACT initiative has been effective yet, however. Having expenses available online for taxpayers to view is very important, and as I understand it, this is not being updated regularly.
What initiatives, if any, do you have in mind for your specific county board district?
Consolidation of local government, expand educational curricula including foreign-language instruction in elementary school preserve and expand our parks system, address the issue of O'Hare airport noise
What other issues, if any, are important to you as a candidate for this office?
Inspire citizens to run for local government, thus creating more choices for voters and furthering a culture of engagement
reform property taxes
ensure that residents in need of healthcare have an advocate
address the opioid epidemic
Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
Justin Trudeau- he celebrates diversity, promotes kindness, and inspires positivity
What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Pay it forward. We are all in this together.
If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I wouldn't. I am proud of my mistakes as well as my successes- even if it took me a while, I have learned from them.
What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
I have gained immeasurably from English literature/writing: I have learned to articulate my thoughts, to dream, to envision and grasp the world beyond myself
If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kindness plus gratitude equals happiness.