Meet the Candidates
A large part of the Caucus' year involves vetting and slating candidates for openings on Winnetka's four governing Boards - Village Council, Parks, Library, and Schools - and placing them on the Illinois Spring Ballot.
Here are this year's Candidates.
WINNETKA CAUCUS COUNCIL
GOVERNING BOARD SLATES
Village Council Slate
Chris has lived in Winnetka for 30 years. He has served on the Village Council for almost 12 years, six years as Trustee and six as President in May. During his term as President, he has distinguished himself as a visionary, collaborative leader; as a president who listens respectfully and inclusively to residents, other participants in Village governance and staff; and as an executive who – once a plan is agreed upon – works with great care, determination, and perseverance to see the plan become a reality. Noteworthy among the many projects he has overseen during his tenure as President are the Stormwater Project, Streetscape, the development of a proposal for the Post Office space and a progressive enhancement of the restaurant and commercial offerings in Winnetka. Chris impresses with his grasp of the many complex issues that the Village Council faces. As one reference noted “He has a great sense of the pulse of the community.”
Village Council Trustees
Robert (“Bob”) H. Dearborn
Bob has lived in Winnetka for 27 years. He has served on the Village Council as a trustee since 2017. Before serving on the Village Council, Bob was a member of the Design Review Board for eight years. Among his many contributions to the Village Council, he has brought business acumen, financial stewardship, and informed diligence to the review of the many, often complicated, financial matters that come before the Village Council, including the budgeting for various public works projects, fire and police department pensions, and other initiatives overseen by the Village Council.
As he noted in his interview, the “Village Council works for the residents,” and he makes it a point to keep in the forefront of his thinking “what is right for the residents?” when analyzing any issue that comes before the Village Council.
Bridget Kathleen Orsic
Bridget has lived in Winnetka for seven years. She has children in high school and college. She earned her law degree at DePaul and has worked in the City of Chicago Corporation Counsel’s Office. She is currently both an arbitrator for the Circuit Court of Cook County and a local real estate professional. Bridget has been a member of the Winnetka Plan Commission since 2017 and has chaired that commission since August 2021. She also now chairs the Winnetka Planned Development Commission, serves and has served in leadership positions on the New Trier Parents Association, the Skokie-Washburne Parent Teacher Organization, and the Winnetka Children’s Theater.
She noted in her application, “I have always been deeply involved in my communities. I like to understand local issues and participate in making my community the best it can be. As an attorney, I bring critical thinking and analytical skills, and have developed strong leadership skills from participating in many boards and organizations, and chairing several of them. On a personal level, I fulfill my commitments and bring optimism, honesty, directness, and a sense of humor to everything I do.”
Kirk has lived in Winnetka for 11 years. Originally from Minnetonka, Minnesota, Kirk graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business with a Major in Architecture and Small Business Management and Entrepreneurship. Kirk is presently employed as a Senior Developer at Pennrose Real Estate Developers.
For the past 10 years, Kirk has served on Winnetka’s Design Review Board, five years as its chair, presiding over hearings on architectural design features for Winnetka’s multi-family, institutional and commercial structures, most notably, the One Winnetka project. Outside of Winnetka, Kirk has served on the Board of Wayside Cross Ministries for the past six years. Kirk understands what makes a healthy, vibrant community and the role community involvement plays in the built environment and looks forward to helping make Winnetka “the best” in all its aspects.
In his application, he notes, “I approach topics impartially and consider all positions before making a decision. I am regarded as a strong servant leader. I have years of experience serving on various boards and committees and am committed to leaving Winnetka better than I found it.”
Library Board Slate
Travis Gosselin has lived in Winnetka for almost seven years. He has one child in nursery school, one in primary school, and one in middle school. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan’s law school and works for the Federal Government within the Labor Department.
Travis has completed one four-year term as Trustee on the library board and is currently Vice President. His profession as a lawyer, and his experience handling several complex issues at the library make him an excellent candidate for another term. Travis has served on several subcommittees of the library board including the selection process for filling the Executive Direction position.
He displays great communication skills which enables him to effectively communicate with other board members, the library staff, and its director. He has great attention to detail. He is a deliberate thinker and decisive. He is passionate about the library and has invested hundreds of hours supporting it.
Deborah Vandergrift has lived in Northfield since 2016 and has one child currently in high school. Deb has a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of California and has a successful career in Theatre Management.
Deb Currently serves as the Director of Production for the Chicago Opera Theater and worked for 6 years as the General Manager of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater — with responsibilities including serving as the head of operations, IT, facilities, company management, front of the house, box office, and special events.
Deb has served as a Winnetka-Northfield Library Trustee since 2019. As such, she brings a broad understanding of the library’s operations, staffing, finances, challenges, and needs. During the past term, she has co-chaired two important subcommittees of the board. The work of one of those committees led to the hiring of the current director of the library.
As someone who works in a creative environment, Deb further adds value in bringing that artistic perspective to the board.
Mrs. Shankar is a Northfield resident. She graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BS in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. She also holds an MBA from The University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
After former library board Trustee Todd Van Neck moved out of the district, she stepped in to finish his term. Her professional experience as a management consultant for Boston Consulting Group is a valuable addition to the library board as the library will focus on the implementation and communication of its strategic plan over the next years.
In addition, Mrs. Shankar has volunteered her time on the Northfield School and Park Board Caucus and the District 29 PTO. In her role as VP of Strategic Planning at the Northfield Community Nursery School, she created the preschool's first 5-year strategic plan. She is well-informed and understands the issues facing the library. She thinks strategically, is able to boil down problems in order to find solutions. She is a good communicator and works well with others.
Matt Kinnich has served on the Northfield D29 School and Park Board Caucus for six years. He has also been a member of the Northfield Architectural Commission for seven years. Mr. Kinnich has been the CEO of FMT Solutions for the past three years, following his leadership as CEO of Language Stars for the two years prior.
He serves on several boards incluing Coinifide, Launch Code After School, and Lincoln Park Community Services. Past board service includes Harrington College of Design, Le Cordon Blue College of Culinary Arts, and Gibbs College – New Jersey. He brings wide experience in profit, non-profit, and civic-related organizations, both strategic and financial expertise, and an ability to provide high-level advice as well as an ability to grasp the details.
Mr. Kinnich’s professional experience in education from K-8, higher education, and professional education/credentialling gives him high regard for education and the library as a driver of that, and hopes to assist the Library District to fulfill that role. A 17-year resident of Northfield, Matt and his wife have a daughter in Northfield schools. He originally hails from Brookfield, WI, is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin (Eau Claire) in Business Administration, has an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School in Strategy and Finance, and an Education Degree in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.
Park District Slate
Christina Codo and her husband Pat Maloney have lived in Winnetka for over 20 years. They have two children in college who attended Winnetka District 36 schools and New Trier High School. She brings 14 years of experience in the securities business, including underwriting, trading, selling, and restructuring international and domestic debt. She graduated with a BA in Economics from Northwestern University and earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management.
During her interview, Christina impressed the committee with her grasp of finance and capital budgeting, her approach to educating herself on any given topic, and her fulsome understanding of the role of the Park District board.
This will be Christina’s second term as a Commissioner.
Cynthia Rapp and her husband have lived in Winnetka since 2015. They have three children who attend Winnetka District 36 schools. Cynthia has a BA and MS from the University of Rochester and an MBA from Columbia University. Her professional background is in product management and marketing finance analysis.
Cynthia impressed the slating committee with her thorough and intentional approach to educating herself on community topics of interest, her appreciation of the various stakeholder interests, and her public policy background.
Cynthia was appointed to complete the term of a commissioner who left. This will be Cynthia’s first full term as a Commissioner.
James Hemmings and his family moved to Winnetka in 2016. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Foreign Affairs, and received his MA from University of Chicago and his JD from the University of Iowa. Previously, James was actively involved in the Economic Club of Chicago and the American Cancer Society. Professionally, James is currently Senior Counsel and was previously partner with a law firm.
James impressed the committee with his in-depth preparation, and knowledge of the strategic plan and issues facing the Park District Board. His holistic approach to decision-making, beginning with agreement on the objectives, also resonated with the slating committee.
This will be James’ first term as a Commissioner.
Jeff Tyson, his wife and two children are more recent residents of Winnetka. Jeff has a degree in Computer Science from Lafayette College, and professionally, has held several IT positions and earned his Six Sigma Certification. Previously, Jeff was active on the Sewickly Borough Planning Commission.
During his interview, Jeff impressed the committee with his deep understanding of the Park District budget and its short- and long-term financial position. Jeff’s inclusive approach to engaging stakeholders and appreciation for healthy debate also resonated with the committee.
This will be Jeff’s first term as a Commissioner.
D36 School District Slate
Luke Figora has lived in Winnetka for 6 years and has children in preschool and elementary school. He graduated from Lake Forest College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business with an MBA in Finance and Strategy. He worked for Chubb Insurance Company as a Senior Underwriting Officer for 6 years after college. Since that time he has worked in higher education, spending 5 years at the University of Chicago as an Executive Director in the office of Risk Management and Internal Audit and the last 7 years at Northwestern University, currently as the Vice President for Operations.
In those roles in higher education, he has experience overseeing large capital projects and budgets, procurement, safety and security, risk management and compliance, community relations, as well as overseeing the pandemic response for Northwestern. While at the University of Chicago, he worked closely with their public K-12 charter schools. He has been involved in professional organizations such as the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA), where he served as the President, and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). He also served on the board of Student Holdings Inc., a Northwestern student-run holdings company that funds and manages a portfolio of 4 businesses serving the Northwestern and Evanston communities. Locally, he has been involved in the preschool programs and served on the Board at Harkness House for Children, where his children have attended.
In his application, he stated that helping strengthen the schools “is the top area of interest for me … given where we currently are as a family, and my own background and experience.”
Katherine Myers-Crum recently moved back to Winnetka after being raised in Winnetka and graduating from New Trier High School. She has children in preschool and elementary school. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree from Duke University, from the University of Chicago with a Law Degree, and from St. John’s University with a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She practiced law for three years before working as a teacher and a teacher coach.
For 10 years she served as the executive director of a K-8 Charter school she founded on Chicago’s south side. In that role, she grew the school to over 500 students and oversaw a successful capital campaign and a $14 million renovation. She currently works as an educational and not-for-profit management consultant, which she noted will allow her the time and flexibility to contribute to the D36 School Board.
She brings a collection of abilities from her time in education that includes staffing, curriculum, culture, operations, food service, real estate purchases, and project management. In her application, she stated she, “would love to be involved and to lend my skillset and experience to continuing to grow the excellent Winnetka schools.”
Emily Rose has lived in Winnetka for 12 years and has children in preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Since 2019 she has served on the District 36 School Board and is currently President of the Board. In her time on the D36 Board, she has served on finance, facilities, parent-teacher advisory, and ad hoc committees. She has been instrumental in helping guide the D36 Board as President, including helping advance the current capital improvement referendum. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a bachelor’s degree before working for 10 years for OMD in Media Strategy, including as Associate Director of Strategy. She went on to work for AbbVie as a Media Strategist and Senior Media Manager.
In addition to serving on the D36 School Board, Emily has served on the board of Winnetka Community Nursery School and the Winnetka Community House’s Board of Governors, where she has served on the Capital Campaign Committee. She is entering her 6th year of service on the Alliance for Early Childhood, where she is an Executive Board member.
In her application, she noted her desire to continue working to support “students, staff, parents, and residents.” And emphasized the importance of being “able to listen to each other” and that “a respectful dialogue and commitment to collaborative partnerships are of the utmost importance."
Marena Rudy has lived in Winnetka for 4 years and has children in preschool and elementary school. She graduated from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing. She also attended Chicago Photography Academy and has been actively involved in professional photography organizations including the National Association of Professional Child Photographers (NAPCP) and the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).
She worked at Starcom for 2 years before starting her own business, Marena Beck Photography, which she ran for 9 years.
Marena has been actively involved with the Crow Island Parent Teacher Organization, as well as serving on the Winnetka Congregational Church Youth board and the Willow Wood Preschool board.
In her application and interview, she spoke to her professional experience, including the financial aspects of running her business, but also running creative sessions to bring different viewpoints to the table, which she described as important in facilitating effective dialogue. She also mentioned her experience in running qualitative and quantitative data studies as a professional gave her comfort in understanding and interpreting different data, which is a skill set she could bring to the school board. Finally, she emphasized that although she will often bring her own viewpoint or opinion, she is always open to constructive criticism and encourages healthy dialogue in coming to group consensus.