Sheila Rutledge: Candidate profile
Name: Sheila Rutledge
Office sought: DuPage County Board District 6
Family: Widow with two children
Occupation: photographer/sales professional/ real estate investor
Education: Master of Photography Mphotog (PPA); Certified Professional Photographer CPP (PPA) certifications; GED
Civic involvement: DuPage Forest Preserve volunteer 2010 to present (Danada volunteer of the year 2014); Warrenville Chamber of Commerce board of directors 20; DuPage Democrats finance committee representing Winfield Township
Elected offices held: Winfield Township Precinct 2 committeeman; Warrenville Chamber, director; PPANI (Professional Photographers Assoc of Northern Illinois) Host Chair, 2 term Treasurer, 1st VP, President, COB
Questions & Answers
1. Why are you running for this office? Is there a particular issue that motivates you?
I have been involved with my community for the last 20 years. From issues at my children's schools, chamber boards of directors, board of directors for my photographer's associations, forest preserve volunteer work and plenty of support for referendums and local issues. I could be counted on to move issues forward fairly and to speak up for those impacted by life's circumstances. I believe the best people for the board are people that have experience with their local communities and know how to advocate for issues that concern everybody. I want to be sure our decisions are right for most constituents instead of a favored few. I think that as an artist I look at the world differently than more analytical thinkers, an outlook that I don't believe is part of the current board makeup.
2. If you are an incumbent, describe two important initiatives you've led. If you're not an incumbent, describe two ways you would contribute to the board.
As a citizen I advocated for a change in the photography permit policy for our forest preserves that took an outdated, unused, unpurchased permit policy netting $540 ever and changed it into an $11,000+ a year revenue booster. The challenges were many but I persevered for 18 months to finally convince the commissioners of the forest preserve that a change was good for both the photographers and the forest preserve and was a reflection of their stated mission. I also, along with another group of dedicated volunteers at Danada Equestrian, advocated to remove a manager that was not doing a good job managing that valuable resource. In 2014, I was named their volunteer of the year.
As a small-business owner, I have dealt with the sometimes Byzantine rules and regulations of the county, and the challenges of being a "one man band". In an economy that is increasingly moving toward this business model, I believe I have a unique prospective on how the county can support the next generation of workers and business owners.
3. Is there a specific service or amenity that is lacking in the county? If so, how do you propose to provide and fund it?
I think that we need another way to help the homeless in our county. There are no numbers that this problem will get any better so a new approach is needed. I would love to take the blighted house initiative that the county is using to take possession of blighted properties and find the right place to build a tiny home village to house our homeless veterans and other homeless with dignity. As a real estate investor I have spent the last three years evaluating distressed properties and turning them into quality homes for the first time buyer market and I think that background makes this issue a good fit. I have already spoken with contractors who are interested in participating in this with a net zero, or energy-independent plan. Several cities in the U.S. are using this approach to solve their homeless problem. I understand not everybody would want something like this in their neighborhood, but sometimes blighted properties are blighted particularly because of where they are. Better to turn properties into useful communities than to allow them to rot, and take down whole neighborhoods. It is a myth that such a purpose is a net negative. Lifting up those who need a hand up is how communities succeed. It would give the homeless an address, a crucial step in getting a job that would give them the leg up they need to be contributing members of our county.
This would also result in great savings to the health care system in reduced ER visits and better health outcomes. The stabilization that comes from just this one issue can pay for such an effort. Hospitals in other cities are directly investing in such endeavors to protect their own bottom lines, and it is working. I would look for grants to help fund the project and seek out collaboration with those who are promoting this idea across the country. But even at the bottom line, this is a win-win proposition.
4. With DuPage County's budget being squeezed by state funding cuts and other factors, what initiatives would you support to increase revenue and/or save money?
I would like to see county board members take on the advocacy for our county at the state and federal levels, so that we could stop paying such large amounts to lobbying firms that are politically connected to our board members and chairman. At the very least we must have a better accounting of their advocacy to evaluate their service. I also believe a salary freeze for board members, for several years, so that we would become more commensurate with the rest of the state's county board compensation is justified.
Regarding increasing revenue, I would like to take a look at permits that no longer work as our county rules have changed over the years but old permits and regulations still on the books sometimes are not working for either the citizens or the county.
I believe that Republican control of our county for so many years has only seen one side of the picture. Fresh eyes on many of our policies are overdue.
5. The county has been focused on consolidation of services and government agencies. How effective has that effort been and how could it be improved?
I absolutely support eliminating duplicative government services and we should continue to find ways to reduce the budget. That said, there is no definitive list of exactly what we have saved through consolidation. I have had it suggested to me that the consolidation efforts are consolidating the power of the chairman more than anything. Their suggestion that some of these entities be pushed to the cities instead of consolidating up to the county would keep those obligation off the county plate. More details are needed to truly judge if this is effective.
6. What is the single most important issue facing your district and how should the county address it?
I believe that Health Care is our biggest issue. ACA was a Lifeline for those that have pre-existing conditions and I believe we are at a place where that protection may disappear. Those between the ages of 55 and 65 are being squeezed as corporate entities no longer value their experience but they are too young to obtain Medicare at a time when most have some kind of pre-existing condition.
If more and more people lose their health care, it redounds to the county health infrastructure. We need to be pro-active in both protecting existing resources and increasing access to preventive health care. This is both fiscally sound, protecting the productivity of our citizenry, and the right thing to do.
7. Please name one current leader who most inspires you.
8. What is the biggest lesson you learned at home growing up?
Being the youngest of seven children, I learned to advocate for myself. Nothing got handed to me and I learned quickly to speak up for the things that I wanted or needed. I also learned how to deal with people, to have empathy, and to negotiate win-win compromises.
9. If life gave you one do-over, what would you spend it on?
I never have been the sort of person who spends much time on regret. I make the decisions in life needed and move to the next challenge with no looking back except to influence the next life experience. That being said the one I would like a "do-over" on is the death of my husband 6 weeks after the primary. I would have delved more deeply into the details of his medical treatments, as this was a preventable tragedy. He was my biggest supporter and this race would be so much easier with him. A new direction in life was thrust upon me and my attitude in life is to experience those moments and move on to the next challenge.
I'd also say from a practical perspective more education. I've had a lot of training at the school of hard knocks! I have taken advantage of many circumstances throughout my life that have provided training opportunities, particularly in relation to my photography business, that earned accreditation. But I wish I had had the opportunity and resources to attend college.
10. What was your favorite subject in school and how did it help you in later life?
Probably that would be English and creative writing. I have inherited the Irish love of letters, and the gift of the gab. Reading and appreciating literature has helped me to communicate with people, and understand them, and it gave me the tools for lifelong love of language and learning.
11. If you could give your children only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't borrow trouble. Take life as it comes and don't think so hard about what ifs. Most of that stuff never happens so better to be a realist and make the best of the moment. I hope they will adapt my at the waterline thinking. My glass is neither half-full nor half-empty.