New Carpentersville trustee to represent Latino community

As a parent support liaison for Community Unit District 300, Maria Vela has spent the last five years working with and listening to the needs of minority families in the district. She hopes that experience will serve her well as she represents the Latino community on the Carpentersville village board.

Vela, who was born in Mexico and raised in Chicago, moved 17 years ago to Carpentersville - a town she now considers home. She takes over the seat of former trustee Don Burroway, who is moving out of state.

"It has a big significance because I think that we live in a very diverse and wonderful community that is continuing to grow on a daily basis," Vela said. "It's an opportunity to represent the community and our culture. I'm very excited to be a part of it."

Vela was sworn in Tuesday after the village board unanimously approved her appointment. Village President John Skillman said officials have been working toward getting minority representation on the board; Vela's position as a community liaison for Lakewood Elementary School and the deLacey Family Education Center makes her a great fit.

"She's very involved with our Latino community, and she has great contact with the parents," Skillman said. "We look forward to continuing that."

Vela is filling the village's third board vacancy in six months. Skillman appointed Trustees John O'Sullivan and Jeff Frost last fall to take over the seats of Pat Schultz, who died unexpectedly in October, and Jeff Sabbe, who also moved away.

Skillman said Vela's appointment was being considered before the village received a letter from the Campaign Legal Center alleging Carpentersville's election system could be stifling minority representation on the village board.

In the March 15 note, Chicago representatives for the Washington D.C.-based agency claimed the village's at-large voting practice is diluting the votes of Latino residents, and offered suggestions for addressing the issue.

Though officials intend to meet with the agency, Skillman said the village is making great strides toward overcoming political tension that dates back more than a decade ago. Carpentersville aims to include all members of its community in an ongoing rebranding initiative, he said.

"We're moving forward. We don't want to go backward," Skillman said. " ... We're all coming together. We live together. This is our community."

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