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Strategic planning challenges Homewood to think big, plan the details

In an exercise meant to stir their imaginations, officials and staff members of the Village of Homewood choose items from a table that represent their hopes for the village’s future. It was one aspect of a multi-part process to create the village’s future strategic plan. (Carole Sharwarko/H-F Chronicle)


As Village of Homewood officials deal with challenges and changes, they’re pushing the limits of their imagination to envision a sustainable and vibrant future for the community.

It’s all part of the village’s strategic planning, a project that lays out long-term plans and hopes for the future, and creates a strategy for achieving them.

To coordinate this significant project, the village hired consultants from the NIU Center to Governmental Studies. They recently hosted one of several workshops planned for village staff members to help shape the strategic plan. 

These meetings are open to the public.

At the Jan. 9 workshop, CGS consultants Greg Kuhn and Jeanna Ballard kicked things off by asking members of the group to select two items off their “garage sale” table, a colorful array of random items — a thermal coffee mug, a toy police car, a paintbrush, a fidget spinner and more. 

In an exercise meant to stir their imaginations, officials and staff members of the Village of Homewood choose items from a table that represent their hopes for the village’s future. (Carole Sharwarko/H-F Chronicle)

Their first item represented an existing topic they thought was important. The second item was a symbol of what they hoped for Homewood a decade from now. As they choose from the silly items, officials and staff laughed together, but conversation quickly springboarded into their concerns and dreams for the village.

Here is a sampling of what participants said. These do not represent their full comments.

Village President Rich Hofeld: Kept his comments brief, but said he would love to see a performing arts center in the H-F Auditorium.

Trustee Barbara Dawkins: Chose a toy police car to signify her desire to focus on improving public safety in the short term. “The reality is that we’re a safe town, but it’s the perception sometimes that makes the difference.” Long-term, Dawkins said she wants Homewood to become a destination town for a night out or children’s activities.

Trustee Larry Burnson: Mentioned the arrival of Maple Tree Inn and said he wants to attract more fine dining establishments. Long-term, he’s interested in working with other local governments on bigger projects.

Trustee Lisa Purcell: Improving village communications is an important current topic to Purcell, who in the long term said she would like to see some type of establishment or program offerings for pre-teens and young teenagers.

Trustee Lauren Roman: Chose a toy recycling bin from the table, saying she would like to focus on creating more opportunities for conservation and energy efficiency in the community and local government.

Trustee Karen Washington: In the short term, she would like to work toward having a cleaner community with less litter. She chose a rubber duckie to represent her long-term desire to preserve open space.

Trustee Jay Heifernan: Wants to improve pride and community ownership among residents and businesses by encouraging them to maintain, upgrade and revitalize properties. In the long-term, Heifernan would like to see more commercial development in town, which he represented with foam brick.

Village Clerk Marilyn Thomas: In the short-term, she would like to see the village make a name for itself with the state legislature and at the county level. She wants to focus on infrastructure improvements for the long-term. “It’s something people don’t see, but it’s essential,” she said. 

Assistant Village Manager Napoleon Haney: Seeks to incorporate more technology to enhance customer service. “Long-term, I want to carry on the professional lineage (of village government),” Haney said. “That’s why this (strategic planning) is so important; engaged governments attract more professional staff.”

Finance Director Dennis Bubenik: Chose a rock because he feels he’s between a rock and a hard place when it comes to the village’s finances, he said. His short-term focus is to increase efficiency to offset declining real estate taxes, sales taxes and communications taxes.

Police Chief William Alcott: Anticipating in the short-term to improve technology for better communicating with residents about safety issues, including looping into a wider Cook County notification system. In the long-term, Alcott wants to focus on helping improve citizens’ buy-in to feel like they’re part of the community’s public safety network. Alcott mentioned that he doesn’t plan to increase public transparency of the police department. “I don’t like that word, ‘transparency,’” Alcott said.

Public Works Director John Schaefer: Said the “biggest issue and complaint in town is our infrastructure,” and he thinks the village should focus on a plan to replace it, while also communicating to residents that it will be a long-term project. “People get on the ‘media’ and complain, but they don’t understand what it takes to replace.”

Marketing Director Jennifer Quirke: “I want to develop a clear vision of who and what Homewood is,” Quirke said. “We need a brand.” She wants to reinforce accurate assumptions and correct misguided ones. In the long-term, she would like to see a more vibrant downtown and an even more diverse population. 

Economic Development Director Angela Mesaros: Chose a toy brick to indicate goals for commercial development, specifically transit-oriented development that will encourage an influx of new residents.

Village Manager James Marino: Chose a water shutoff valve from off the table, to indicate his immediate focus on transitioning the village’s water supply from Chicago via Harvey to Hammond, Indiana. He wants to focus on water quality and communicating the change to residents. He chose a No. 1 birthday candle for his long-term goal of getting Homewood recognized as a top community in the area.

Village Attorney Chris Cummings: Took the AOL Instant Messenger free trial disk as a reminder that what worked in the past won’t work for now or the future. He also picked up shiny Mardi Gras beads, for happiness, he said. “Homewood residents have high expectations,” Cummings said. “People don’t expect anything from their government in most places, but they do here, and I hope that continues. It keeps us on our game.”


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