Former Homewood Trustee Anne Colton plans to be on the ballot in April 2023. She will be running as an independent for one of the three four-year seats on the Board of Trustees.
Colton, a documentary filmmaker, previously served on the board from 2009 to 2018.
She decided to seek office again primarily to help improve the village’s relations with the community. She said the village sometimes seems to make unilateral decisions on important issues without enough consultation with residents.
“I’m just getting a sense that people are feeling unheard, that there haven’t been really satisfying dialogues with the village,” she said.
She acknowledged that Mayor Rich Hofeld and Trustee Jay Heiferman do a good job of being available to talk with residents. Hofeld holds office hours every Saturday morning in the lobby of village hall, and Heiferman has a standing invitation to residents to stop by Starbucks on Harwood Avenue once a month.
She said those are good efforts, but she would like to take outreach to residents further.
“I feel like that was something I was good at when I was on the board,” she said. “I listened. I made a real point of making sure I was meeting people on their terms. I think that’s missing right now. The most important thing that a municipal government can do is to listen. People want to feel heard. They want to feel like their opinion is having some impact on the decisions that are made.”
She cited the Calumet Country Club redevelopment issue as an example where she thought the village could have done better at communicating with residents. After the previous owners of the property filed to have it disconnected from the village, officials held two public meetings that attracted large crowds in late 2019. However, prior to a controversial settlement agreement with the new property owner in January 2021, there were no meetings in advance of the board’s vote.
“I felt like a lot of people in the community started out talking really reasonably, and then they didn’t feel listened to and it turned into shouting. I think people got frustrated,” she said. “It doesn’t need to get that ugly.”
Colton said the board is also doing good work in some areas. During Hofeld’s long tenure as mayor, the village has prioritized economic development efforts, and she supported most of the projects that came before the board during her service.
“I think the board has done some great things. I don’t think we’re in a crisis. I think we could do better,” she said.
She noted that while she supports the village’s economic development efforts, she has been willing to resist projects she thought were not in the village’s best interest. Village staff and trustees were critical of what they saw as Walmart’s bullying tactics prior to remodeling the former Kmart store on Halsted. Ultimately, the village board voted to recommend Walmart receive a county property tax relief designation.
“I was the only one who voted against it. That is something I’m really proud of,” she said.
Her first stint on the board ended when she stepped down before her term expired in order to pursue career opportunities.
“The opportunities were going to involve an absolute ton of travel,” she said. “It would have involved missing almost every single meeting. I thought, ‘I can’t do my job if I’m not there to vote.'”
She spent more than half a year driving all over the country to shoot footage and work on a number of projects, and she said the experience helped her develop her business from a part-time “side hustle” to a full-time job.
Two things have changed that will enable her to devote the attention a board position requires, she said.
For one thing, she has had four years of running her business at a new level, and that means the work is more stable than it was during the surge of growth.
“I’ve got a handle on having a full time business now,” she said. “I have room for all of this.”
For another thing, the COVID-19 pandemic made it normal for public bodies to provide remote access to meetings, a practice that has continued even after pandemic restrictions on gatherings have expired.
“I can now sit in on meetings remotely. I will be able to participate no matter where I am,” she said. “That’s kind of a non-issue now.”