Desire to help draws Renehan to public service

Running for office wasn't always part of Julie Renehan's plan, but doing what she could to help her community was. In 2017, she determined the best way to do that was to pursue a seat on the DuPage County Board.

"I decided I was going to take my community service to the next level," said Renehan, who had volunteered in many capacities, including with the Hinsdale Junior Women's Club and as an election judge prior to placing her name on the 2018 ballot.

After a successful run for office, Renehan stepped into her role as District 3 commissioner with a goal of creating a stronger focus on how the county cares for its least fortunate residents, including seniors, veterans and those who live in lower resourced areas.

One of those areas is Willowbrook Corner, located just south of Hinsdale. Renehan said the economic challenges faced by residents of Willowbrook Corner are only made worse by a lack of public transportation in the area. The inability to easily travel to and from home means residents there can't get to jobs, doctor's appointments or affordable grocery stores.

"It's a transportation desert," said Renehan, who is hoping to relieve the neighborhood's thirst for mobility. She said the county recently received a grant to launch a study into the area's transportation needs.

Renehan said she believes helping those most in need strengthens the entire community.

"When we all do better, we all do better," she said.

As a county board member, Renehan has a say in how federal funds received by the county are spent. Recent allocations that have met with Renehan's approval include $1 million to provide internet access to low-income kids learning remotely, and $35,000 to the Hinsdale Community Services food pantry. Right now, she and the rest of the commissioners are working to allocate $179 million in federal COVID-19 recovery money.

Technically, Renehan's job as county commissioner is part time. But she said she gives it her all, often putting in long hours meeting with constituents and learning about their concerns. Rather than spend time in her Wheaton office, Renehan said she prefers to meet people where the work needs to be done, usually at their homes or places of business.

One of the face-to-face meetings recently resulted in the homeowners, township and county engineers working together to find a solution to a stormwater issue.

"Things like that are not uncommon," she said, and among the things she enjoys most about her position on the county board.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Renehan attended law school at Washington University in her hometown of St Louis. After a semester spent in Washington, D.C., she was offered a job on Capitol Hill, but chose instead to marry and start a family.

She and husband Dan, a Hinsdale Central graduate, raised their three children in Hinsdale.

"We've loved living here," Renehan said.

- story by Sandy Illian Bosch, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Sandy Illian Bosch is a contributing writer to The Hinsdalean