Mary Priller: 2021 candidate for Antioch trustee
Five candidates are running for three Antioch trustee seats in the April 6, 2021 election.
Occupation: Marketing/Public Relations Visit Lake County
Civic involvement: Volunteer Antioch Traveling Closet, Antioch Area Healthcare Accessibility Alliance, Northern Illinois Food Bank, Roberti Community House, Fill-a-heart-4-Kids, Feed My Starving Children, Special Olympics, NEDSRA, Antioch Parks & Recreation, Lake County Forest Preserves
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A: As an invested community member, a marketing professional with a focus on municipalities and economic development, and as a mom, too, I have watched and navigated these challenging times. My role in the pandemic is to face it head on. My expertise communicating with people, understanding their needs and interests and delivering on that, whether it be through donating my time and support to local food pantries, serving in safety preparedness, to sharing a card with a senior sheltering-in-place, those important "touchpoints" put my leadership and skills to best use. No matter what "hat" I'm wearing, whether we agree or disagree, without the important "connecting of the dots," communicating and a voice, there can be inefficiencies -- time and resources, from manpower to revenue (households to the local economy), and safety risks for our community and families. I provide the tool kit -- training, skills and experiences, with a betterment-of-the-community mindset, listening, providing a voice with parity and transparency, and opportunities that are workable, scalable and fit the ever-changing nuances. To successfully "reopen," strong in wellness and health (physically and financially), takes a steadfast willingness to collaborate, work hard, to look for answers and solutions as a team, and create an ongoing dialogue and connection, no matter who is served. I am excited to be able to contribute and serve in all ways possible.
Q: Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A: The Village of Antioch kept the community well-informed during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting the guidelines and initiatives of federal, state and local leaders. They worked closely with health and wellness experts from the Lake County Health Department along with local resources. Their working together was beneficial from an information and awareness standpoint, and helped show a unified position of support among agencies, and gave credibility as a source in a time that many felt insecure and skeptical. I think they kept a "healthy" balance, disseminating information, while not putting themselves in the role of a health expert. They also provided valuable other sources such as United Way's "211" campaign as well as the recent AllVax site.
The Village put other initiatives in place including a virtual Parks & Rec portal. I think this was valuable from a tactical and technology standpoint, particularly with everyone getting their information online and increased device usage. I think the intent and desire to help was highly felt. However, I think there was a lack of "best" implementation and idea-generation needed, with the sense of urgency the pandemic demanded. Alternatives and plans to large gatherings, for example, could have been improved and done better (particularly having an idea of what loomed ahead after Easter). Residents looked to the Village as their "go-to" for safe and appealing options. Although this could be perceived as a much "softer" need priority, it was important. The desire was strongly vocalized, and studies were showing the negative mental health impact the pandemic was causing. I think more initiative should have been taken for safe opportunities. Villages like Libertyville, come to mind, with their safe and social-distanced "Santa Parade" through town, providing an uplift and respite from the monthslong plight.
Q: In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A: The best way to avoid a public health crisis is education, awareness and services. I would champion for and put more deliverables in place for our community. This would include a robust portal of resources, digital, web-based, social media, and traditional (offline) media. I would work closely with our community nonprofits and health/wellness partners, such as Antioch Area Healthcare Accessibility Alliance, Antioch Traveling Cost, Open Arms Mission, The Penny's Purpose, establishing each as a "sanctioned" fundraising partner of the Village of Antioch, allowing the community/residents to openly and overtly, donate to and support these groups, at officially-sanctioned events, and specials ones, that would underwrite funding on a special date. For example, "The Mayor's Picnic to Support (fill in agency name)." That way, the excitement and "onboarding" of donations is ongoing, well-planned and by design, helps build proactive relationships. I would also create more ways to inform and educate, from increased free programming (underwritten by grants or sponsorships and no cost to taxpayers), to other services, like meal planning and free healthy meals to those in need, to more established "walking" programs and bike paths, and incentives for healthy habits, in place. With education, awareness, the right messaging and branding, the enthusiasm will build, and so will being healthy. I would also create a custom Village-centric campaign, as an ongoing safeguard, for messaging important core areas like hand washing, outdoor and multi-general spaces, to greater use of our parks, native areas and more.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: The Village of Antioch needs to be fiscally responsible, as well as proactive, to stimulate the local economy. We need to look at services, be prudent, and not be too limiting (with cuts), to allow for things to "recover." There is no true "benchmark" on how to handle the recovery/reopening from the pandemic. I would look to technology and needed growth in the areas of economic development to reduce the tax burden on taxpayers. With a look to marketing and commerce platforms with the goal of bringing visitors/people (and their spend) to our places, it would drive measurable economic impact to vendors, partners and businesses throughout the Village. With more spending, the ROI would be seen through current and prospective merchant and investors' eyes, creating a healthy climate for expansion, new builds and relocations. This means more taxes paid, more sales tax, more experiences, more excitement, more jobs, more home buying and building. A wonderful "circle" that begins with a charming downtown, and culminates to a decision to live/work/play/earn/visit here. Taxes paid through occupied storefronts and buildings, through restaurants and diners, from venues and activities, mean less for taxpayers, better infrastructures, services, higher-quality life and more.
Q: What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A: The Village of Antioch recently purchased the two-acre Pittman Property in December 2020. Located in the heart of downtown, its potential/future use brings much excitement. However, from an infrastructure and cost aspect, it brings a lot of trepidation. That is why I rank it as a "most important" project to address. It was purchased under asking price; a kudos on that. And, kudos, too, on acquiring it altogether. Land is scarce, and having an "extra" like this, a center of the community, wonderful. However, it's like buying the "box" on the "Price is Right"; you have no idea what you're getting. You could be getting a Tesla. Or, you could be getting an old jalopy that doesn't run. It's "ours," yet studies have to be done, not just from public interest/vision standpoint, but what the "land" itself will allow/provide for. There's a creek there, that has reared its head a few times, reminding us of its powerful nature. And, subsequent study needs, to go along with what has limitedly been done so far, come with a price tag, and an even larger potential "make usable" cost. So, like many, I'm hopeful and thankful, but worried for taxpayers.
For the back burner, I would hope that we wouldn't have to do that. I think all of the projects are workable. However, the Grimm Road project would be best suited for a temporary hiatus. Although the sentiment, at the beginning and even day-to-day, could be something like, "I can't do without this road/access." But, in actuality, as a community, we have been doing without it, working around it, and for quite some time. Amazing how we can adapt. I think it has "good bones" in its plan for development and future tenants, accessibility and safer connections/thoroughfare. However, some of the agencies and partners involved, have timelines that are on the longer-side of things, and tenants/prospects are sometimes years in the relationship-building and commitment process. So, although the project has started, perhaps a "delay" wouldn't even be as obvious, or detrimental, as something else.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: I support legal marijuana sales, per Illinois law, in our community based on the economic benefits such as increased tax revenue, jobs, and other investment opportunities.
Under the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, the cultivation, trafficking, sale, or possession of a small amount of marijuana is legal in Illinois. Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a bill into law legalizing the recreational use of cannabis by adults, including retail sales beginning on Jan. 1, 2020. The law allows adults to consume cannabis either in their homes or at certain approved establishments. Businesses and landlords have the right to refuse its use on their properties.
Based on the legalization, I feel that it is a personal and individual choice. There is a very stringent and vetted application process, with only a certain number of licenses given out by the state, to certain areas. By opting out, other communities could be potentially given the opportunity to get revenue from marijuana sales. Opting out, brings its own set of hurdles. With the Village being sensitive in defining and restrictions to zoning in certain areas, along with very defined messaging and branding determined at the state level, I am comfortable and support the Board's decision. The Village Board did restrict zoning to certain areas in the Village of Antioch, with limits of one license per business and discretion will be used during the special-use permitting process. However, I do not support cultivation or transporting centers in our boundaries (which did not pass Board approval).
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: I have approached the mayor and asked that he become a greater champion of outdoor spaces and the monarch butterfly by signing the Mayor's Monarch Pledge (by the National Wildlife Federation). Many municipalities throughout the nation, and our area including three in Lake County, have done so. The pledge is open until March 31. The Village has already worked with Antioch Township, having their location serve as a garden and way station for the butterflies, however, this butterfly needs protection and we need to get more involved.
Having worked for years with the Lake County Forest Preserves, I am keenly aware of the importance and value our open spaces and flora/fauna provide. I'd like to see us elevate and champion things even more, and a way that best suits us. I would start by making our own home talent, the Antioch Garden Club, the lead for the project, and put a robust outreach program in place, with easily, donated butterfly garden "kits" to all the communities, school groups, and homeowners associations. This would bring benefits to the monarch, and those involved as well, with more time outdoors, shared multigenerational and multicultural experiences, opportunities for mentorships and stewardships, and more.