In the last couple of days in the tony suburb of Highland Park, just north of Cook County, the long time mayor of Highland Park, Mike Belsky, suddenly announced he is withdrawing from running for another term. That left only Nancy Rotering, a current member of the City Council and the only publicly-declared challenger, seeking the office. But another has now declared she is in the running---Terri Olian. Terri is also a member of the city's ruling council of seven. With Belsky out, and these two women now competing with one another (assuming no others), Highland Park may become a municipality headed by a woman for the first time in recent memory if ever at all---something that the community may find refreshing.
Terri has been active in the community for more than 20 years, including 12 in elected office. She has served as a Councilwoman since 2005, and, before that, six years on the local school board (District 112). Her seat on the council expires in 2011 and she planned to run again at that time. Terri is a force to be reckoned with, as she has initiated and coordinated multiple programs to assist the citizens of Highland Park. These have included being a founding member of the city's "Downtown Business Alliance" (serving as its interim Executive Director when first founded and currently serves as Board Chair-elect), and integrally involved in the school district's strategic plan update. In 2003 she was honored by the Illinois State Board of Education for her contributions to the community with a Those Who Excel Award of Excellence. She has been similarly recognized by the City of Highland Park with a Robert Pillars Character Counts Pillar Award. Terri and her family have been residents of Highland Park since 1984. She is a graduate of Carleton College, and Loyola University of Chicago Law School.
While no doubt Ms. Olian's present challenger provides voters with a choice, with Terri in the hunt, the only ones to benefit will be the residents of this Chicagoland municipality---which is the home of Ravinia and the summer venue for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. With Belsky gone, whoever takes the mantle of Mayor will have to be a determined, experienced individual who finds consensus in, and also leads, the other members of the Council for the benefit of the city as a whole. After all, this Chicagoland community is not immune to the issues and concerns that, on a larger scale, confront the State of Illinois and the nation. At first blush, and though just now getting into the race, Ms. Olian seems to be a formidable opponent.