Christine Mena: Candidate profile
Name: Christine (Chrissie) Mena
City: Tower Lakes
Office sought: Trustee
Family: Husband Rey, three daughters -- Kylie (3rd year medical student at U of I and part of Daily Herald's Leadership Team 2012-13), Twins Laura and Katharine (juniors at Miami of Ohio)
Occupation: Co-Founder of Menagery Inc., a branding/marketing agency and an active Community Leader for the last 23 years.
Civic involvement: Founder of the Tower Lakes Community Foundation: Which was built to be a safety net for the community and allow donations to be made to better the village; Barrington Noon Rotary Club -- Current President; Barrington Area United Way -- Past President -- Current Board Member; Barrington Junior Women's Club -- Past President -- Associate Member; Auxiliary of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital -- Past President; St. Mark's Day School: Founder of Parent Board. Other Boards Positions: Barrington Area Community Foundation (Current Board Member), WINGS Program, Barrington 220 PTOs, and Barrington High School Fine Arts Boosters; Chaired many large charity events for the organizations where I am involved, including the JourneyCare Gala twice; Championed funding for the Pepper Family Treehouse in Citizen's Park & the Freddie Pederson Family Splash Pad at the Barrington Park District.
Previous elected offices held: No government positions. This is my first foray into public office.
What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
Increasing property taxes. Unlike neighboring villages, there are no taxable businesses in Tower Lakes. Therefore, we need to be pragmatic and look for creative ways to serve the community's needs while minimizing our share of the tax burden. We need fresh thinking on the board. Every resident has representation. Many residents living in neighborhoods outside of the Lake Community/TLIA, don't feel a part of the village. They just pay property taxes. As someone who doesn't live around the lake, I want to make sure these residents have representation on the board. Better communications. We need to improve how we communicate with residents. Some, like me, do not receive emergency calls from the police department. Our contact database needs to be updated to ensure the safety of all citizens. Property values. Tower Lakes is the best-kept secret in all the Barrington area. It has a great deal to offer young millennial parents who today represent 36 percent of all homebuyers. As a village, we are not effectively reaching these buyers online or through social media. As a marketing professional, I will bring fresh thinking with the hope of making Tower Lakes as the best community to raise a family in 60010.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I've lived in Tower Lakes for the last 23 years. During that time, I have dedicated my life to raising a family and trying to make a difference in the lives of others through my community involvement. I have served in a leadership capacity in numerous nonprofits and have extensive board experience. I've earned these positions due to my ability to collaborate with others to achieve best results. I have strong communication skills and knowledge of how to best connect with people. I'm known for my creative problem solving skills and ability to find money or make the best use of monies available. I want to bring these skills to government to serve our community and my neighbors. I am running with two others who will bring fresh energy and experience to help better prepare the village for the future. It has been said that it is tough to get people to run for our village board. So I made a few phone calls and landed two great running mates: Caroline Milne and Randy Spiess. Caroline is a brilliant scientist and Randy will bring technical knowledge helpful to the board. Hopefully, through our example, we will inspire in our community to step up, get involved and help shape the future of our wonderful community.
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 would describe my style in these words ... a good listener, inquisitive, collaborative and consensus builder. Great leadership starts with being a good listener. Unless you truly understand a problem from all perspectives you can't provide a proper solution. If, for instance, a neighbor was not keeping up their yard or home and it was becoming an issue, my first reaction would not be to send a letter from the board demanding the issue is addressed. I would visit that neighbor to see if they were having an issue. Are there financial problems or health issues? My reflex would be to be neighborly and find them the help, if needed, first. I believe in collaboration and consensus building. On boards I have served on, I have helped guide or lead discussion to the best result. I've helped navigate organizations through difficulties and implemented programs or processes to make them stronger and more resilient. I am also a very good researcher and have no issue picking up the phone to find an expert in an area where additional help or information is needed. I have developed an incredible network of resources, which I plan to bring with me to the village board.
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?
Frankly, our village has not been very transparent with its budget by posting it online as the majority of villages do. As a result, we had to do a FOIA request to see the village budget for the past five years. Although the existing board has done well managing costs, some citizens are upset with the deterioration of roads, lighting or features in their neighborhood. We have studied the history of expenses and hope to bring fresh ideas and best practices to solving village issues. As a village we need to better communicate with residents, find out what is important to them, better support their needs while being fiscally prudent. As a trustee, I want to have a conversation with residents and bring true representation to the village. I want residents to know we are listening and their input will be part of our decision-making.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
Tower Lakes zoning laws have not been updated since the village was incorporated in 1966. I think everyone can agree that a lot has changed since 1966. Since that time, the village has annexed properties unlike the homes around the lake that initially made up the community. It is time to do the work necessary to bring the village zoning laws up to date and be more reflective of the times and what homeowners want. This does not mean we are advocating for major change. We are not. But some areas of the code make no sense or impact the village in ways that make it less attractive rather than more attractive to today and tomorrow's homebuyers. Fresh thinking and dialogue on how best to approach this is required.