Erica Bray-Parker: Candidate profile
Name: Erica Bray-Parker
Office sought: Councilman At-Large
Family: Jeremy (husband), Colin, Nathan (sons)
Occupation: Social Studies Teacher at Glenbard High School District 87
Education: Master's Degree in Political Science from Northern Illinois University through the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation
Civic involvement: Citizenship Merit Badge Counselor, Member of Mikva Challenge, Democracy Schools Network, McCormick Foundation, League of Women Voters Wheaton
Previous elected offices held: Milton Township Precinct Committeeman
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? No
Facebook: Erica 4 Wheaton City Council
What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
I find myself very fortunate to live in the city of Wheaton. We were just rated #1 by Money Magazine, we have a high functioning city council and city management team, and the city is financially stable. As I've knocked on doors for recent issues and candidates, I've asked people what their concerns are, and I often hear property taxes. As a city that values high quality community services, great public schools, a quality park district, a modern library and family focused neighborhoods, the trick is the balance of services and taxes. My husband and I moved here 22 years ago because we found an affordable home and access to great resources. We wish to stay here well into our "empty nest" years. The key is economic growth of the city while keeping the traditional neighborhood feel. Policies need to focus on economic growth. As councilwoman I would continue to support the downtown redevelopment plan while enacting policies that stimulate and maintain our tax generating areas in both the Northern business district and the Southern Danada areas. I am also excited to be a voice regarding the East Roosevelt Road Corridor plan and the positive economic impact that should bring to Wheaton.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I am highly experienced in teaching about and working with local government. I am also a vocal advocate of civic engagement as a high school civics teacher and a Boy Scout citizenship merit badge counselor. I am invested in the city of Wheaton and dedicated to continuing to move the city of Wheaton forward. I am a consensus builder and a champion for those who do not always know they have a voice. The nonpartisan Councilman At-Large position represents all of Wheaton. There are many different needs, and I will work hard to represent the many diverse voices of the residents of Wheaton.
Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing actions and decisions with your village board or city council.
As an educator, I make informed decisions in the best interests of groups of people every day. In the classroom and in my service as a professional on decision-making committees within my school district and my statewide teachers' association, I have worked to hear and represent a multitude of voices. I am a collaborator willing to share my own insight and not be afraid to speak up for the values of my community. On the District 87 Student Performance Committee I worked with elected board members, administrators, community members and students to create a school climate that facilitates the success of all students. As a civics teacher I strive to empower students as active members of their community. As a leader in my professional organization, I represent the voices of college professors and high school and grade school educators, as well as support personnel, with the goal of a high-quality education for all of our children. Through my professional choices I have acquired the skills to evaluate both needs and viewpoints, and with the resources available, choose the best possible course of action. This style will strengthen the current council and the decisions we collectively make for Wheaton.
How would you describe the condition of your community's budget, and what are the most important specific actions the town should take to assure providing the level of services people want?
I believe the current budget of the city of Wheaton has been well developed and is in good shape. The city's property taxes account for approximately 13 percent of a homeowner's tax bill and the city council has maintained and is committed to an operating expense of no more than a 2 percent increase a year. The city has done this while improving sidewalks, replacing trees, resurfacing pavement and maintaining quality library, police, public works and fire departments. All of these are services residents appreciate. In addition, the city has kept up with the increased costs of personnel, including pensions and health care. When city management has open dialogue with residents and bases their budget requests on well developed, fiscally responsible, future-focused strategic goals, Wheaton is most likely to maintain high quality services. As a new candidate, my primary questions as I speak with residents will focus on their needs, their wants and their vision for Wheaton as it relates to the revenue the city as a whole is willing and able to provide.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
As stated previously, we are very fortunate here in Wheaton. I do not believe we need any drastic changes, but I believe we should focus in general on mobility and access for both residents and visitors. A pedestrian entry way into Wheaton that enhances mobility between the North area, Downtown and the South by allowing safe and easy crossing of Roosevelt Road and connecting parks and businesses would be an improvement project the city should consider. Whether this is in the form of the underground pedestrian walkway or a more modern crosswalk for all pedestrian and bike traffic is an idea we should explore. This type of feature would serve as a gateway to draw visitors into Wheaton. In addition, commuters need safe and easy access from the south lots to the downtown Wheaton train station. The Wheaton College station has an underpass that serves this role. The downtown station needs a similar project.