Word on the street has it that the Lake Forest Caucus is an exclusive, “good-old-boys network” that hosts secret meetings in dark rooms of at undisclosed locations.
Current Caucus president—Eileen Looby Weber—would like to set the record straight.
“I hear these stories and they just make me smile,” Weber, a young wife and mother of a newborn and co-owner of Lake Forest Flowers explains. “These stories couldn’t be further from the truth. The Lake Forest Caucus is one of the most open and inclusive organizations I’ve ever been a part of.”
Since 1935, the mission of the Lake Forest Caucus has been to provide an open, independent, non-partisan process for recommending qualified volunteers to serve in Lake Forest government and on its local school boards. All Lake Forest registered voters are members of the Caucus.
The Lake Forest Caucus nominates residents for placement on local election ballots as Caucus candidates for the citywide offices of Mayor, Alderman, District 67, and District 115 School Boards. The Caucus also interviews and recommends more than 100 volunteers for open positions on the 20 boards and commissions (for example, Historic Preservation, Parks and Recreation, and Library) to provide leadership, establish policy, and oversee budgets.
“We meet every other Tuesday, from September through April,” says Chris Collins, vice president of the Lake Forest Caucus. “It’s a commitment. We aren’t paid. We’re volunteers seeking volunteers. We recruit. We vet. We recommend the best candidates we can find for open positions in our city.” Weber and Collins lead a 36-member Caucus Committee, where there are nine members from each of the city’s four wards. Each year, the Caucus Committee must replace 12 of its
36 elected members, as terms are a three-year commitment—a little bit longer for those who decide to serve on the Executive Committee of which Weber and Collins are part.
“The caucus system couldn’t work in every community,” explains Collins, “but it’s alive and well in Lake Forest because of the depth of talent of our residents and the spirit of volunteerism that exists here.”
Weber and Collins are actively looking for local residents looking to give back to the community. “We’re looking for individuals who aren’t single-issue, single-agenda people. The Caucus Committee is a great way to learn about how the City of Lake Forest works,” Collins says. The Committee also wants to make sure that the candidates they recommend have diverse backgrounds. “We need men and women of different ages, races, professions, and interests who have different networks of friends and colleagues that we can tap into” says Weber. “And we aren’t intended to be a launch pad for someone looking to be on a board—we like everyone to honor their commitment to the Caucus Committee first.”
The first step for those interested in volunteering for the Caucus Committee is to complete the volunteer application that can be found on their website. The Lake Forest Caucus will be holding their annual meeting on Tuesday, November 17 at 7 p.m. at Gorton Community Center where they will present their slate for the coming year. The meeting is open to the pubic. Additionally, the Caucus will hold a Community Night in February prior to their March elections. (This is the Caucus’ only fundraiser—no tax dollars support the Caucus.) Election ballots will be mailed to all registered voters in Lake Forest. “Casting your ballot is the opportunity you have to have a voice in the running of our city,” says Weber. “If you can’t be a Caucus
Committee volunteer, we hope at least you’ll take a few minutes to vote.”
To learn more about the Lake Forest Caucus, visit lakeforestcaucus.com.
By Ann Marie Scheidler
Photography by Mary Carol Fitzgerald