Northwest Herald Questionnaire
Name: Ellen McAlpine
Office sought: Village trustee of Cary
Family: Married to Christopher: 5 Children and 5 Grandchildren
Occupation: Manager for residential mortgage banker, Envoy Mortgage
Education: Wm Rainer Harper – accounting and National College of Education: Business Management
Elected offices held: Current trustee for Village of Cary
Civic involvement: 20-plus year member of Cary-Grove Chamber of Commerce and past 8+ year Board Member, Co-Director of Miss Cary Grove Business Scholarship Pageant, Saints Peter and Paul Athletic Director, Religious Education Teacher, Youth Mentor Leader, volunteer for Little City Foundation as well as St. Coletta special needs programs, and volunteer for many other programs and charitable organizations.
Social Media: Facebook – We Unite Cary along with You Tube Podcasts for We Unite Cary
1. What is your largest priority for Cary if elected?
There are many pressing issues facing our village. These include the following: finding sustainable sources to increase revenue, pension reform, senior housing demands, and improving the quality of life for all of our current and future residents. It is imperative that we have sustainable and meaningful development so that we can continue to balance our budget, continue to deliver high level services, maintain excellent resources from our police so that we can retain our #1 rating as lowest crime rate in the county; all while keeping a watchful eye on our property taxes. We must address both short and long term solutions as the revenues to the Village have remained constant, however, our financial obligations continue and will continue to increase. Working together with the various taxing bodies as well as municipal partnering is an avenue we should continue implementing and take to a higher level. On a state level, the pension burden is unsustainable and it is time for everyone to work for the good of all residents in our state to have meaningful reform.
2. What changes should Cary make in the future?
One change that I believe will yield positive results is having a board that works collaboratively for the best interests of the residents. When residents elect their representatives they should expect and demand that they are serving them and not serving their own agendas or personal issues. Elected officials should always have an open mind and willingness to meet with residents, fellow board members, the mayor, and staff, as well as being open to business owners and developers. We also need to make sure that potential businesses and developers know that the Village of Cary is open for their business and that we want to optimize investment in Cary by bringing in sustainable businesses and developments that will add value to our Village. We have limited property left to develop and we need to insure that when something goes into the spaces that it meets the criteria of highest and best use of the property, will bring revenue to the Village, as well as enhance the character of Cary. There will be times when developments and businesses are not a good fit, but we are tasked with gathering and processing presented information prior to making a determination and decision. A board that puts the interests of all residents as its top priority can unify and our residents deserve and will benefit from their elected officials acting in this manner.
3. How do you feel about Cary’s video gambling and any potential expansion into places such as gas stations?
Currently the position that the village board has taken is that video gaming has been approved as an enhancement to a business that is serving food, has a required amount of seats, be out of direct access to customers, and not as a core profit center. This has slowed the pace by which video gaming has expanded within our village. Our current model has been working well for both the business owners and the village. However, video gaming is expanding throughout the state and surrounding towns at a rapid rate. I believe that we should continue to be open to the possibility of change, review the restrictions as they come before us so that we remain competitive with surrounding communities, as well as be careful not to change the character and charm of our town. If we elected to modify our current position then I would want to minimize the visibility of video gaming from the outside appearance of the establishment as well as the type of advertising to promote the activity. While I do not want to lose business to a neighboring community, I always want to remain true to what is best for our community as a whole and not negatively impact our Village.
4. How do you feel about Cary’s recent and upcoming senior housing projects?
I am very excited about our newest senior housing projects. I am proud that I voted in favor of both the PIHRL senior development as well as the Haber Oaks duplex project. This is in contrast to other board members who are also seeking re-election. This is a core principle of my campaign as the population in Cary is aging and we need to have options to meet the needs of this demographic. These are people who have lived in Cary for an extended time, raised their families, paid the taxes to build our schools and infrastructure, love their Churches, doctors, restaurants, and grocery stores, etc., and are in need of homes that will meet their needs so that they can age in place. I feel that these developments are a good start but that we still need a variety of options, such as single-family homes, town homes, condominiums, and rentals, as well as varying price points as we have a diverse sector of seniors and needs. This demographic is projected to continue growing and we need to have the forth sight to plan accordingly.
5. How do you feel about the way that Cary handled its harassment investigation of a village trustee?
I am disappointed on many levels but mainly because this happened and no one should be treated in such a manner. The village handled the complaint just as they have handled similar complaints in the past. They consulted with the village attorney and then hired out an independent investigator. Because I was the recipient of this behavior, I am able to articulate a unique perspective. After trying to resolve this directly with Trustee Cosler, then with the Village Administrator, and next with the Village Board, my options were filing a harassment claim or lawsuit, and I did not want to file suit. The claim was investigated, the parties were given an option to participate, the accused chose not to participate, and findings were rendered substantiating the claims. I am disappointed that there is not a policy that covers an elected official’s behavior as this type of conduct would not be acceptable in the private sector, public sector, classroom, or boardroom. My disappointment extends to the elected officials who then wanted to bury and destroy the findings, which certainly does not meet any standard of transparency. This was paid for by the taxpayers and, as such, is property of the taxpayers. When they were not successful in this attempt, they called a special board meeting, which cost the taxpayers in excess of $1500 to simply repudiate the report. In my humble opinion, the residents should not only expect but demand and deserve their elected officials to behave professionally and respectfully at all times.
6. How do you feel about Cary’s new social media policy?
I am thrilled that we were able to pass a social media policy, which has led to the Village of Cary instituting a Facebook page. I championed this effort beginning prior to me actually being sworn into office. It took almost four years but I am happy that all but one of the trustees voted to approve the policy. This is another tool to disseminate information to our residents, as I believe in true transparency. The previous village board wanted increased transparency as well and rewired the boardroom so that we would be able to tape our meetings. We now broadcast them on YouTube. In the future, we need to stay cognizant of other modes of relaying information to our residents and adapting as mediums adjust. While this is one way to communicate, we still need to be aware that this is not all encompassing. We have residents who do not use social media so we need to always be looking for additional ways, such as digital mailing and expanding our cell phone textcaster messaging, as methods to communicate with residents.
7. What else should we know about you?
I love Cary and serving the residents of our village. Cary exudes small town charm with a huge compassionate heart. I am proud of my time on the village board and believe that my record supports that I want what is best for the town and our residents. I have been an extremely active member of the community volunteering my time to various schools, Church, Chamber of Commerce, park district programs, and multiple civic organizations … as well as my husband, Christopher, and I, raising our five children and now being blessed with five grandchildren. I also manage a residential mortgage banking company. All of these experiences have prepared me to work collaboratively and respectfully with others and to critically analyze situations for long term implications prior to making decisions. I believe that working with and listening to others is a skill set that is necessary to achieve optimum results personally, professionally, and in a political forum. I have chosen to align myself with Dale Collier Jr, and Sean Wheeler under our banner of WE UNITE CARY as we are united in wanting to work together in an effective manner to improve the quality of life for all of our residents. Please feel free to check out our Facebook Page – We Unite Cary; our website – www.weunitecary.com; or check us out on YouTube as we have weekly podcasts on relevant topics.