Mary Jo Mullen: Candidate profile
Office sought: DuPage County Board, District 5
Family: Married with three children
Occupation: CEO/President of Advantage Strategy Consulting, Inc. and licensed professional engineer
Education: Bachelor of Science, civil engineer, from University of Notre Dame
Civic involvement: Member of advisory committee for West Suburban Community Pantry; Volunteer in STEM activities & Rebuilding Together; Judge in 2019 SCARCE Sustainable Design Challenge
Elected offices held: Current Lisle Township supervisor; precinct committeewoman
Questions and Answers
1. Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election for the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you? If so, what?
I run to improve the quality of life for all residents. I will ensure the services, opportunities and future growth of DuPage County remains focused on the everyday citizens who live here. When the county board serves, protects, and supports residents, DuPage thrives.
As someone who seeks out continual improvement, I see many opportunities to do better in DuPage County. There are several concerns that drive me to run so I can help make needed change. For example, when I was a young engineer, DuPage County was a national leader in stormwater and floodplain management with innovative approaches to avoiding future problems. Now, regulations have been loosened such that we are viewed as only meeting the minimums, potentially compromising our safety and resilience.
Additionally, our social services programs are under-resourced. Budget documents show that departments that provide services and care for people in need are 18% to 33% understaffed and have been for years, which means that taxpayers wait too long for needed services and may not get the help they need. We are, and must be, better than this.
2. If you are an incumbent, describe your main contributions. Tell us of any important initiatives you've led. If you are a challenger, what would you bring to the board and what would your priority be?
I have spent my career in public service and serving my community. I spent 10 years working as a program manager at FEMA in the National Flood Insurance Program, sit on the West Suburban Advisory Committee, and currently serve as the elected Lisle Township Supervisor.
I have also spent my career problem-solving and taking action. When I saw few women in my classes or working alongside me as a young engineer, I mentored girls in STEM. Following 9/11, I swore I would never watch a catastrophe unfold and feel so helpless to support the response -- so I went to work at FEMA. And in 2016, when I worried about what the election results would mean for the issues and people I cared
about, I ran for office. When I won, I went straight to work with the board. I improved services for residents while lowering the township's tax levy.
My priority is to improve the quality of life for all DuPage residents by:
• Improving social services that lead to self-sufficiency;
• Addressing the mental health crisis and preventing suicides;
• Increasing our environmental sustainability;
• Strengthening our resilience to disasters, especially flooding;
• Boosting economic growth;
• and saving taxpayer money.
3. Should county board members continue to start their regular board meetings with an invocation? Please say why or why not.
I appreciate the efforts over the past year to increase the diversity and inclusivity of the invocation. If the invocation continues, all cultures and religions should be welcomed to participate.
When an elected official is sworn in, that person swears an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Our founders were clear that the First Amendment includes a "wall of separation between church and state." I believe conducting religious prayer in a government body breaks this wall and violates the oath of office. The invocation may also alienate the constituents we've sworn to represent and discourage attendance
and participation in the meetings.
On World Peace Day, I attended, along with several other elected officials, an Interfaith Prayer Service in Naperville that was open to the whole community. I believe participating in these events educates us on cultures and religions different from our own and brings a greater understanding of our neighbors than can be achieved through a brief invocation. I support increasing participation in and supporting such events throughout DuPage County.
4. How do you rate the county government on transparency and the public's access to records? If you consider it adequate, please explain why. If you think improvements are needed, please describe them and why they are important.
I rate the county's transparency and public access as average. In a culture of continual improvement, all systems have room for improvement.
The most positive aspect of the county's transparency is the video recording and publication of board meetings. The schedule of these meetings can be challenging for the public to attend; this recording makes the proceedings available to everyone.
The Transparency Portal is a good concept. However, it is not intuitive to find documents. A page of links leads to more pages of links. I believe the Transparency Portal should be reorganized, subjected to usability testing, and feature a consistent and straightforward search function.
There should be consistent follow-through for ongoing efforts. The DuPage Connects effort is overdue with no update since March 2019. The Cool DuPage pages appear dated to 2012, and there are no updates to the sustainability goals laid out for the Cool Counties initiative. I believe initiatives like these require metrics that are routinely reported to the public.
Also, at the township, we hold a budget workshop to have open discussion on and presentation from each department head on their proposed budget. This would be a valuable addition to the county's budgeting process.
5. Does there need to be more bipartisanship and cooperation on the county board? If yes, what would you do to help make that happen?
Yes. Once in office, I believe it is the duty of all elected officials to put party aside and focus on doing the work of the people. I have done this as I chair the township board and the majority of the other elected township officials are Republicans. We have forged good working relationships and professional respect in order to best serve our constituents. I have presented data-driven proposals to the board and been fully open and transparent with my fellow elected officials. I believe this has led us to be a high-functioning board and I enjoy serving with all my colleagues.
I will bring this spirit of cooperation to the county board. I will work with all board members to accomplish needed change and help residents. Additionally, it is not only possible, but healthy and necessary, to present varying viewpoints in order to arrive at the best solution possible. While I will always be respectful of my peers, I will speak my mind and vote my conscience and encourage others to do the same.
I will work alongside anyone on the board, regardless of party, to improve the quality of life for residents.
6. Do you support a plan to merge the recorder's office with the county clerk's office? Why or why not?
I believe that good government is built upon providing necessary and high-quality services for residents in the most efficient manner possible. I also believe in making decisions based upon the best data available. A study performed in Winnebago County, and discussed within the county board, shows that there will be value in this merger.
However, since another study is being commissioned and paid for by DuPage County, I want to see the results of this study before making a final decision on this merger.
When any departments, offices, or units of government are proposed to be consolidated, I believe the following criteria must be met:
1. A study is performed, or leveraged from another source, to ensure that the consolidation does not diminish the quality and availability of needed services and that meaningful cost savings will be realized.
2. A plan for the consolidation is created and approved by the appropriate governing body that will be the road map to achieving the benefits and mitigating the risks of disruption of services.