Caucus hopes to reboot, maybe for 2023

Community invited to October meeting to learn about group, possibly volunteer to serve

After sitting out the past two election cycles, the Hinsdale Caucus is hoping to gear up for future village, school and library board elections.

The caucus, which has been identifying, interviewing and endorsing candidates for local offices since 1934, was sidelined in 2019 due to a shortage of volunteers and in 2021 due to COVID-19.

“During the pandemic and the last few years, we basically haven’t run the caucus,” said Nadine Gilbert, the group’s recording secretary. “We haven’t been able to interview candidates. We haven’t been able to put together enough delegates.”

She and other executive board members hope to change that. They have a planned a meeting for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at the Hinsdale Public Library, 20 E. Maple St. All interested residents are invited to attend.

“At the meeting, we hope to get people from the community so we can explain the value of the caucus and we can find officers and people willing to serve on the caucus,” Gilbert said.

The next school, village and library board elections are in April 2023. Caucus volunteers — called delegates — typically work the fall before the election to identify potential candidates, interview them and decide on a slate of individuals to run for a particular board.

Susan Blumberg-Kason, who studied political science in college and public administration in graduate school, said she got involved in part to learn more about local government. She found serving as a library board delegate rewarding.

“It was run really well. It was fair,” she said. “We brought dessert and we were kind of competing for who could bake the best and it was really fun.”

Because the caucus is nonpartisan, Blumberg-Kason said the divisiveness common in many political conversations simply was not present in caucus meetings.

“Not everyone agreed, but we were able to work together,” she said.

Blumberg-Kason appreciated when Karen Keefe, the library’s executive director, came to talk about the responsibilities of the library board and the qualities needed in a board member. She ended up running for a seat on the library board herself after serving on the caucus.

“It gave me the idea to run, and I don’t think I ever would have done that if I had not been on the caucus,” she said.

Mridu Garg was not considering a run for the Community Consolidated Elementary District 181 Board until she was contacted by the caucus’ Paul O’Flaherty. She had just lost her husband two years earlier and had plenty on her plate as a single mom. When she said no, he asked her to think about it.

“I reconsidered because I had been asking people to run myself,” she said, adding that few were interested.

Her mom and sister and they encouraged her to run. Despite some anxiety about the interview, she decided to go through the process. She met with a group of about 12 delegates on the D181 nominating committee.

“At the interview I felt that they asked a lot of good questions. They asked about current issues, which showed they wanted people who were following what was going on in the district,” she said.

Garg was elected in 2013 and finished her four-year term on the board as its president.

She believes the caucus vetting process results in stronger candidates who are more likely to experience success serving as a board member.

“It’s easy for people to complain,” Garg said. “Be engaged. Be involved. Attend meetings and be part of it.”

Gilbert said it would be ideal if the caucus could endorse candidates for one or more boards for the April election, but that might not be possible. Candidates for the April 4 consolidated election must file their petition between Dec. 12-19.

“We would love the caucus to hit the ground running,” she said. “In reality, because of the timing of the election, there may not be enough time.”

Gilbert said she believes residents who volunteer will be glad they decided to do so. And they might find some unexpected benefits.

“I became more well-versed on issues in the community,” she said. “Better than that, I made friends.”

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean