Karimar “Kari” Brown grew accustomed to seeing the name of her husband, former Chicago Bears defensive end Alex Brown, on signage.
But the poster boards were turned recently. Kari Brown had the “exciting” experience of seeing, for the first time, her own name on placards that proclaimed her candidacy for a spot on the Lake County Board in the 18th District.
Brown, a Republican, faces Democrat Julie Simpson in next month’s election.
The native of Puerto Rico has lived in Lake Country since 2002, when Alex Brown, an All-American football player from the University of Florida, was drafted by the Bears. The Browns have called Vernon Hills their hometown for 12 years. They have four children, ages 16, 11, 6 and 1.
“I love it here,” Kari Brown says. “Our plan was to live here while Alex played and then eventually go somewhere warm. This is not weather we’re both used to. But then we had children and found out how great the schools are, and we decided to stay.”
She has become acclimated to the weather.
“I like the cold weather in December,” she admits. “I never had that growing up.
“I didn’t see snow until I moved up here.”
The 18th District includes the villages of Vernon Hills, Mundelein, Long Grove, Indian Creek and Hawthorn Woods. Brown replaces former Lake County Chairman Aaron Lawlor on the ballot. Lawlor, chairman since 2012, announced in August his withdrawal from the race amid charges he used a county credit card for personal use. He had served on the board for almost a decade. Lawlor also revealed his decision to take a leave of absence to seek treatment for addiction.
Vernon Hills Mayor Roger Byrne appointed Brown to replace departing Village Board Trustee Cindy Hebda on September 5.
A community volunteer, Brown is new to politics but agreed to run because “an opportunity like this doesn’t come up often,” she says. “This is home, and I’m up for anything I can do to help my community.”
Brown has addressed the issue of the area’s high property taxes more than any other in her campaign.
“We’re all affected by it,” she says. “I go knocking on doors and ask residents what they would most like me to do to help them, and they all ask if I can do something about their taxes.”
New to politics, Brown says she puts people before partisanship.
“I’m surprised,” she says, “how political things can get. You would think everyone here would be on the same page. We’re not the Supreme Court, and we should do what’s best for the residents of Lake County, regardless [of party].”
Brown’s family still lives in Puerto Rico. Kari’s mother resisted her daughter’s calls to leave her homeland and seek temporary shelter in the states during last year’s devastating hurricane season.
“I don’t think people realized what was coming,” Brown says. “I was up all night [when Hurricane Maria hit]. I talked to my mom on the phone and asked if she was ready. She said she had a half a case of water. I told her she needed to get some more. She wouldn’t leave their home.
“She said,” Brown adds, “they had come through so many hurricanes.”
School District 128 recently bestowed a “Difference Maker Award” on Brown for her efforts on behalf of Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico. She last visited the commonwealth and territory of the United States in January.
“A lot of places still didn’t have power; it will take some time [to recover],” she says.
Brown owns Indios de Mayagueza, a professional volleyball team in Puerto Rico. Her team has not played this season because of Hurricane Maria.
“The stadium is being used to house refugees,” she says, adding she had helped expose corruption in the league, resulting in the ouster of the league’s president.
“I do what’s right,” Brown adds, “and that’s what I’m going to do for Lake County.”