Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt: Candidate profile
Name: Leslie Sadowski-Fugitt
City: Downers Grove
Office sought: Downers Grove Commissioner
Family: Husband and one daughter (3)
Occupation: Manager of Student and Teacher Programs, Lincoln Park Zoo
Education: B.A., Biology, Case Western Reserve University; M.S. Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University
Civic involvement: I work at a nonprofit, where I manage school programs that mostly serve under-resourced schools. Over the summer I also mentor teens in under-resourced neighborhoods throughout Chicago. I also have volunteered for parks systems and environmental organizations, in both education and animal care. I am also engaged with groups, both at work and in my personal life, aimed at diversity and inclusion initiatives and social justice.
Previous elected offices held: none
Incumbent? If yes, when were you first elected? no
Twitter: @Leslie4DG Issue questions
What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
My first concern is stormwater. Downers Grove has a stormwater and flooding problem. The Village makes piecemeal fixes based on who complains the loudest, rather than looking at the larger watershed as a whole system. I plan to use my experience from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to bring an understanding of stormwater mitigation to the Village. Second, decisions need to be made with a defined process and with transparency. I want to bring evidence-based decisions to the Village; particularly with regard to stormwater and infrastructure, but also to board and commission appointments. I feel that for too long decisions have been made based on opinions and not based on data, or evidence from other similar communities.
I want to contribute to a sustainable community for future generations. I have a three-year-old daughter, and I plan to leave the Village a better place for her and her peers than when I joined the community in 2012. I believe that when you choose to live in a community with a population density like ours, you take on the expectation that you will make decisions that help not only you, but also your neighbors and lift all families.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I am running for Downers Grove Commissioner because I want to help my community and am public service-driven. I moved to my house in December 2012. In April 2013, my community flooded, and I watched my neighbors throw their belongings out in rented dumpsters. We asked the city to help with our stormwater and flooding issues and were delayed for years. Before moving to Illinois, I worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, where I conducted trainings with city planners and stormwater managers. I will use that knowledge to bring low-cost solutions to Downers Grove. I have a great attention to detail, I am levelheaded, and I am data-driven.
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.
I am an internal processor, which means I like to have data and do my research before joining a meeting. I will bring a calm, measured, and evidence-based approach to my leadership. We need someone who is willing to put in the time and understands the data to make change in the community. I listen to all stakeholders' input, and believe the best leaders are those that can recognize everyone's strengths within a group and ensure everyone has an opportunity to use his or her expertise. I am good at reading a room and recognizing when people are on board with an idea, as well as any hesitation, and am not afraid to facilitate difficult discussions to reach an agreement.
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?
The Downers Grove budget is stable, but vulnerable. In December 2020 the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) District and SSA (Special Services Area) expire. The revenue from the TIF district is used to pay off debt, which will be paid off when the TIF expires.
The downtown business owners requested the SSA to fund the Downtown Management Corporation, which facilitates business growth. When the SSA expires, we lose a significant revenue source for the Village. I will work with the Downtown Management Corporation and downtown residents to explore funding options, and if only those who have properties in downtown Downers Grove should contribute or if the entirety of Downers Grove benefits from these services. I also want to explore the sales tax rebate agreements. We need to be thoughtful about the process by which these are offered. Downers Grove recently gave a rebate to a large automobile dealership that wanted to move locations within the Village. It can be beneficial if we want to bring in new business, but we lose revenue when it is simply a move. I look forward to meeting with all stakeholders to help bring in new business and revenue when the TIF and SSA funds expire.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
I would love to create a maker space, whether it be in the library or another central location in downtown Downers Grove. These spots are valuable for small businesses, crafters, or other vendors to rent time on equipment that would otherwise be cost prohibitive (3-D printers, woodworking supplies, etc.) to own. Downers Grove has one of the most successful local fine arts festivals in the area, and we could advertise even more local talent if people had a space and had resources to help them realize their dreams. Small businesses and entrepreneurs are a crucial part of our economy, both nationally and locally, and I would love to see them expand and maintain the quality local business we have in downtown Downers Grove.