Olian, Rotering Vie to Become City’s First Female Mayor
A historic Highland Park April 5 election is set with an empty mayor’s chair and three vacant city council seats up for grabs.
Highland Park was assured of its first woman mayor and that no incumbent will be on the city council ballot – something that hasn't happened for 40 years – when the filing deadline passed at 5 p.m. yesterday for the city's April 5 general election.
Councilwomen Terri Olian and Nancy Rodkin Rotering will compete to replace Mayor Michael Belsky, who decided earlier this month not to seek reelection. Olian is in the last year of her current term while Rotering has two years to serve.
A lifelong Highland Park resident, Rotering was first elected to the city council in 2009 after service on the Planning and Environmental Commissions. She wants to see a departure from the current focus of city government with an emphasis on public works, public safety and community development.
"I feel the distribution of the use of city resources needs to be redirected to focus more on the agenda of municipal government," Rotering said. "When I first decided to run, I was running against somebody else, but Councilwoman Olian has been in sync with the mayor."
A five-year member of the council with a seat on the School District 112 Board before that, Olian said she values her independence.
"Every vote is made on the facts before me and in the best interest of my community," said Olian. "Just tonight I was the only one to want to return the polystyrene foam ban proposal to the (Environmental) Commission," added Olian in reference to a proposal at Monday's Committee of Whole meeting where she was the lone voice for further study before discussions begin.
In addition to Olian's vacancy on the council, current two-term members Larry Silberman and Scott Levenfeld will not seek reelection, leaving three vacant seats for the first time in local history. The last time no incumbents ran for reelection was 1971 when only four people served. It became a six member chamber in 1974.
Paul Frank, David Naftzger, Carolyn Cerf, Lane Young and Tony Blumberg are the five candidates that filed petitions to claim the three vacant city council spots.
Young, a lifelong Highland Park resident with a 2003 degree in Education from Beloit College, is the director of technology and library at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka. He has also served six years on the Traffic Commission, which is soon to be the Mobility Commission.
"I want to make sure we make good decisions in the short term that will make our city good in the long term," Young said. Learning from the name change of the commission on which he serves, he understands that "people, not just cars, move around Highland Park. Each time we repave a street we should look at putting in a bike lane."
Another lifetime Highland Parker, Cerf wants to see fiscal responsibility in government along with an elimination of conflicts of interest while "coming up with creative solutions as a steward of the assets of Highland Park."
Naftzger, executive director of the Council of Great Lakes Governors since 2003, holds an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaw University and an M.S. from the London School of Economics. With four years experience on the Lakefront Commission, Naftzger puts a priority on "protecting the environment for future generations," while "doing everything we can to be innovative."
Vice president for government relations of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, Frank also gained public policy experience working as a staffer for the Illinois General Assembly.
"People in our community are starting to pay more attention to integrity and transparency," said Frank, who feels his public policy background in government and education puts him in a position to offer that. He places the sale of the Highland Park Theater by the city at the top of his agenda.
An attorney who grew up in Highland Park, Blumberg got his first taste of Highland Park politics when he served on the Plan Commission.
"That's when I became certain that I would eventually like to run for office," he said.
Blumberg said he's seen Highland Park expand rapidly throughout his lifetime, growing through projects like Renaissance Place and residential developments.
"My past has been that I've opposed some of that development," he continued, "but it's all here."
Expansion can be difficult to maintain, Blumberg explained, and he'd like to see steps taken to address infrastructure issues like the city's sewers and electrical grid.
"How are we going to support now, physically, all the development that's coming into the city?" he asked. "For me, running for council is an extension of those concerns that I had going into my time on the Plan Commission."