- Feb 19, 2019
When they go to the polls on April 2, Northbrook voters will find three uncontested candidates for seats on the Village Board of Trustees. Selected at a Northbrook Caucus town meeting last December, the three candidates include a veteran Trustee and two newcomers, each of whom will bring a mix of professional experience and community involvement to their positions.
The Chamber asked each candidate the following questions:
What is your vision for Northbrook in the next ten years, and how does the business community fit into that vision?
What inspired you to run for the Board, and what are your top goals as a Trustee?
The following profiles reflect their responses as well as a summary of their personal and professional backgrounds.
Johannah Hebl Johannah “JoJo” Hebl began her involvement with local government at the grassroots level, as a resident working with her neighbors to draw attention to a problem. A few years after she moved to Northbrook in 2004, her street experienced flooding and property damage. Hebl went door-to-door to film the impact of flooding on neighbors’ homes and interviewed drivers as they tried to get through the waterlogged streets. She sent her videos to the Village Board, and also organized others to attend Board meetings with her.
“I initially became interested in local politics because I did not believe Northbrook was properly investing in our infrastructure,” recalls Hebl. “Through the determination of my neighbors and other impacted citizens, we were able to motivate our leaders to take action.”
Hebl’s efforts led to her appointment to Northbrook’s Stormwater Commission in 2009 where she participated in the development of the comprehensive stormwater plan, leading to a number of landmark projects to alleviate flood risks. “I was encouraged that we were able to accomplish this action through collective cooperation,” she notes. “I believe that collaboration among government, citizens and the business community results in the best solutions.”
After two terms on the Stormwater Commission, Hebl joined the Village Plan Commission in 2017. The position gave her a broader perspective on how development and zoning shape the community. She felt a strong imperative “to balance the interests of developers and residents to make sure that any zoning variance is best for our community as a whole.”
Hebl predicts, “I believe that we will see an increase in density throughout Northbrook” in the next ten years, “but also specifically in the downtown area. With the increased density, I believe Northbrook will continue to be an excellent choice for residents and businesses to put down roots.”
“The business community will be an integral part of the growth and development of the future of Northbrook,” she continues.
In addition to her Commission experience, Hebl has been involved in a number of local organizations including the Chamber. Professionally, she is an attorney with Matlin Law Group specializing in estate planning. Her legal work has made her sensitive to the needs of senior residents and their families.
Hebl has a number of policy goals to pursue on the Board. “I would like to see Northbrook be a leader on the environmental challenges that face us and future generations. I would like increased transparency with our business community and to see some processes streamlined. Finally, I would like to recruit a next generation of Northbrook residents to get involved at a civic level.”
Robert Israel Incumbent Trustee Robert Israel sees tangible links between the vitality of the Village and the ways we travel within it. Through his work as a Chief Civil Engineer with TranSmart/EJM Corporation, he has a depth of knowledge about transportation systems ranging from local roads to tollways and mass transit networks. At the same time, he has a passion for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, which he believes brings people closer while also supporting the environment.
A resident for over 20 years, Israel first became involved in local government in 1999 as a member of the Stormwater Management Commission. He continued in that role until 2011, contemporaneously serving on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee and the Bicycle Task Force.
Elected to the Village Board for four-year terms in 2011 and 2015, Israel has continued to contribute with an emphasis on topics that reflect his expertise. He has chaired or participated in Board committees for Community and Sustainability, Public Works, and Administration and Finance, and currently serves as Chair of the Ad-Hoc Facilities and Public Works Committee. He also maintains an interest in the Senior Services and Pedestrian/Bike Commissions.
His view of Northbrook’s future combines redevelopment with enhanced facilities and strategic planning to support the community’s needs.
“In the next ten years, I see continued development of the bike/ped plan along with the Skokie Valley trail, allowing cyclists to safely access our downtown…. I see people making use of transportation alternatives,” to commute to work in or out of Northbrook, says Israel. “My overarching goal is to foster a vibrant Village that benefits from the contributions and presence of our businesses and our residents.”
To achieve that vision, Israel describes three immediate priorities. First, he focuses on improving the Village’s infrastructure, pointing to progress made in flood management and water system operations. Second, he will continue the Ad-Hoc Facilities Committee’s decision-making process for renovation or replacement of the police station, fire station #11, and the public works garage. Finally, he aims to encourage the “balanced redevelopment” of downtown with steps to support pedestrian/bike activity and opportunities to engage people in residential, retail, artistic, and community celebration settings.
“I believe that our business community is integral to the health of the Village and central to the sustainability of our community,” says Israel. “I will continue my work to make opportunities for our businesses, visitors, and residents to love this Village as I do.”
Heather Ross Although a newcomer to elected politics, attorney Heather Ross draws on a long history of professional experience and civic activism. She combines an entrepreneurial perspective, as a founder of the law firm Ross & Zuckerman, LLP, with an interest in social causes and advocacy.
“My experience practicing law in a collaborative legal field along with years of civic and non-profit advocacy work has enabled me to develop strong negotiation and mediation skills,” she explains. “I have also established budgets for both start-up entities (including my law firm) and well-established not-for-profit groups, and have spent over two decades involved in developing policy and educational programming.”
Ross began her career as a lawyer at the Chicago firm Chapman & Cutler, LLP in the municipal finance department. She later joined the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, representing low-income clients in various civil matters. Concurrently she served as director of the Woman’s Law Project, providing educational outreach and advocacy on behalf of low-wage working women.
Ross moved to Northbrook in 2005, and in the same year launched her law firm specializing in the legal issues surrounding reproductive technologies and alternative family building. She was chosen to chair the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Legal Professional Group, a leadership position experience that she sees as useful to a Trustee.
“As Chairwoman, I developed budgets, initiated education programs, and spoke on panels for this national and international organization,” she notes.
Ross was inspired to run for the Village Board by her personal involvement in local groups supporting, among other measures, the concealed weapon ban and opting into the Cook County sick leave and minimum wage ordinances. In her statement to the Northbrook Caucus, she stressed the importance of transparency in Board operations and “fostering good will between and among citizens and the Board.”
Ross describes a number of priorities she sees as important for the Board, including responsible development, enhancements to the downtown area, community vibrancy, and environmental issues. These broad areas of concern shape her vision of Northbrook’s next decade.