Justin Sheperd: Candidate For Wilmette Village Board | #schoolshooting


WILMETTE, IL — Ahead of Wilmette’s upcoming municipal elections, Wilmette-Kenilworth Patch provided candidate questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot.

In Wilmette, the ballot will contain two candidates for village president and five candidates for village trustee seeing four-year terms on the six-member village board.

Candidate responses are published verbatim and in the order they are received. Early voting began March 22 ahead of the last day of voting April 6.

Justin Sheperd

Age (as of Election Day)
49

Town/City of Residence
Wilmette

Office Sought
Village board

Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
My brother and sister-in-law are judges in another state.

Education
Miami University, BS in Business Administration, Major in Finance and Accounting
University of Chicago, MBA, Concentration in Finance and Entrepreneurship

Occupation
Investment Manager, 20+ years of experience

Campaign website
justinforwilmette.com

Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office
Current, Wilmette Plan Commissioner – Appointed

The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

Economic Development is the most pressing issue facing the board. Our commercial districts are integral to our community. They provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs to open small businesses and contribute a source of revenue to the Village. Moreover, they impart vibrancy to the community as a place for neighbors to interact and build networks. We need to take a step back and study our commercial areas, understand what is possible, promote them purposefully, and ensure that we have a streamlined process for implementation. We are embarking on a Comprehensive Planning Process and it has been over 30 years since the last Comprehensive Plan was adopted, 20 years since it was updated, and 10 years since the Village Center Master Plan was incorporated. This is a unique opportunity to position Wilmette for the future and integrate our residents’ values into our planning process.

Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?

I believe Black Lives Matter. I also believe in peaceful and (covid) safe demonstrations. I was proud to walk with my fellow Wilmettians in the ‘Wake up Wilmette! Walk to End Racism’.

Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?

It is crucial to focus on introspection, dialogue, and transparency and the Board’s letter was part of that process. First and foremost, every person and every town has room to grow, and understanding that allows us to move forward in a productive fashion. Second, we need to have an active dialogue that respects a spectrum of viewpoints and ideas. Finally, we need to be transparent about the problems we have. For example, while infrequent, our schools have had disturbing examples of intolerance. When this happens, we need to be absolutely transparent with community members

Regarding specific policy, we should continue to increase the amount of affordable housing in Wilmette. I plan to fully support our re-constituted Housing Commission. Cultivating our partnership with the Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) and the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation (HODC) will provide leverage for ongoing progress.

I also think we can better market the warmth of our community. I will also actively support the reconstituted Human Relations Committee and their efforts in this regard. After attending the Commission’s first meeting I am very excited for the group that has been formed and the ideas they are just beginning to formulate.

What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?

First, I respect that the decisions that had to be made were incredibly complicated, difficult, and with imperfect information. Given those circumstances, leaders have to make the best decisions possible with the current data and science and adjust as more information becomes available. For instance certain outdoor restrictions like playground closures that were enacted earlier in the pandemic were rightly lifted as our knowledge improved. I am happy that restrictions continue to be lifted in a prudent manner as case numbers decline and vaccinations increase.

What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?

One frustration surrounding COVID, both locally and nationally, has been the ongoing vaccine rollout. While neighboring communities with their own health departments such as Evanston and Skokie are equipped and able to support vaccine administration to their residents, Wilmette has had to rely on Cook County’s health department. I was pleased to see the Village Manager’s January 25th letter advocating that the County utilize Wilmette’s (and other neighboring communities’) public safety professionals and resources to hasten vaccine delivery. This, and the work of others across the community, resulted in Wilmette working with neighboring communities to provide for more localized vaccine delivery utilizing these resources. Just yesterday (3/23) well over a thousand seniors received their first dose at New Trier High School! It does make sense to analyze the Village’s health infrastructure and consider teaming up with other communities in a similar manner to create a more localized health effort.

In addition, the Community Caretakers Program undertaken by the Village and the Woman’s Club of Wilmette shows the volunteer spirit of Wilmette, and the efficacy of partnerships between the Village government and volunteers.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

Wilmette has great candidates for Trustee this year. We all love Wilmette, have great ideas for its future, and have run positive campaigns.

I do believe my career in financial management and investment due diligence is ideal for both embracing the opportunities and addressing the challenges that lie in front of us. The two board members with the most similar experience are either coming off the board in April or in two years. Our elected board and village staff have managed the Village’s resources prudently and with great care, but the pandemic and long-term trends in the retail sector have impacted many of the Village’s retail establishments and thus its tax base. We need to be purposeful and forward-thinking as we address these issues and my professional experiences can lend a unique voice as we move forward.

Beyond, and building on my career in finance, I have made an impact in the community. I served as the Chairman of the Board for the Cancer Wellness Center, I volunteer with the Economic Advisory Council as a lecturer on financial literacy in Chicago Schools, and I am involved with both my undergrad and graduate universities.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform

First, for me, it starts with how I will represent the Village. I will be open-minded and represent all members of the community. I will do so in a civil manner and I will be transparent in my thought process. Next, I want to help prepare Wilmette for the future. In doing so, I have several goals: keeping Wilmette in a strong financial position while maintaining first class services, building inclusivity, and increasing sustainability.

We need to focus on long-term planning in all aspects of our budgeting to keep expenses in line. To support revenue, we need to evaluate and support the more challenged commercial areas as well as foster intelligent development. Our permit and development processes should be efficient and pragmatic.

Wilmette has an opportunity to build on its warm and welcoming population and create an even more inclusive community. Supporting our newly reconstituted Housing and Human Relations Commissions is of utmost importance to me as we prepare for the future.

Finally, we need to take sustainability into account. I want to build on the 2018 adoption of the Greenest Region Compact and the Wilmette Energy and Environmental Commission’s work to integrate sustainability into our long-term planning.

Please see justinforwilmette.com for more.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

I believe my professional and life experiences are the main reason I can be an effective trustee. My experience has prepared me in the following ways:

– My experience in finance and investment management – I conduct deep analysis of issues and think long-term. The two board members with comparable experience will be coming off the board in April and in two years.
– I have experience helping to grow a business from six to 130 employees and know the value of seeking input, believe in teamwork, and have created systems that work.
– My experience on boards and investment committees – I know how to work through hard decisions and build consensus in a collaborative fashion.
– My experience in public and philanthropic service has sharpened my sense of empathy and civic engagement.
– My experience on the Wilmette Plan Commission – I have learned about Wilmette’s governance, its great legions of volunteers, and its wonderful staff.

If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?

In four years I want to be able to look back and say:

– I sought out a diverse set of opinions across the whole community to help inform my votes and priorities.
– I acted with civility and worked productively with all other members of the board and staff.
– I was transparent in the rationale for my votes.
– We approved and began to implement a new Wilmette Comprehensive Plan that is actionable, pragmatic, and builds for the future.
– We promoted inclusivity in our community by building on momentum gained on affordable housing and better marketed the warmth of Wilmette to a wider population.
– I helped increase sustainability and I supported the Wilmette EEC’s Strategic Plan and integrated it into our long-term planning.
– The board was a prudent steward of the Village’s resources and kept property taxes as low as possible.
– We continued to deliver first class municipal services to our residents and improved our infrastructure. This includes making progress on road repair, increased pedestrian and bike safety, and successfully completed the Downtown Streetscape Project as well as the Neighborhood Stormwater Project.
– I helped support and promote business to keep Wilmette vibrant and support our sales tax revenues.
– I productively worked with other governmental organizations across Wilmette.

Why should voters trust you?

I believe that my history of Public Service demonstrates my ethical sense of purpose. In addition, as a trustee I would lead with transparency.

What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?

I believe we are stewards of our residents’ hard earned resources and that is a huge honor and responsibility. We should do everything possible to keep the tax burden as low as possible while providing the services and community investments that our resident’s expect. In addition, we should also maintain a long-term mindset as I truly believe that will save us money over time.

Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?

No.

The best advice ever shared with me was:

The only things you can absolutely control are how hard you work and how you treat people.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

It would be an honor to serve as your trustee.



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