Affirming diversity

Lansing’s first Human Relations Commission combines variety of backgrounds into unity of purpose

photos and article by Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (October 2, 2018) – Nine Lansing residents were unanimously approved to serve on Lansing’s Human Relations Commission on Tuesday, September 18, marking the end of more than a year’s worth of planning by the Village. After receiving over 30 applications, interviewing 15 individuals, and selecting 9 of them, Mayor Patty Eidam presented each to the Board individually for approval, asking each commissioner to stand as he or she was voted upon.

After attending to several other items of business, the Board adjourned its meeting and reserved some time for the newly-appointed commissioners to mingle with each other, the Board, and the spectators at the meeting.

Lansing’s new Human Relations Commission comprises the following residents. The information presented here comes from the applications submitted to the Village by the commissioners and supplemented by interviews conducted by The Lansing Journal:

Michael Bolz

• Age: 33
• Race: Caucasian
• Occupation: Ph.D. student at University of Illinois at Chicago, Adjunct Professor and Distance Learning Coordinator at Visible Music College
• Years as a Lansing resident: 32

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
In addition to my passion for community development and the wellbeing of the village, my experience as a researcher trained to study and examine learning environments, human interaction, and organization change makes me uniquely positioned to serve in this role.

David Iwaszko

• Age: 47
• Race: Caucasian
• Occupation: Realtor and Calumet City Assistant Police Chief
• Years as a Lansing resident: 14

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
I have worked in a very diverse community for the past 20 years. I have had positive interactions with people of all races and religions. In my current position, I interact and work with clergy, community groups, school leaders, and the local Chamber of Commerce. I have also worked with the Calumet City Mayor and City Council. I believe in fairness and am a very strong proponent of equal rights. I have been in an interracial marriage for 20 years which has helped me better understand other cultures. I have the ability to communicate with people from all walks of life…I have a very strong belief in fairness and equality.

Jamica Quillin

• Age: 34
• Race: African American
• Occupation: Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
• Years as a Lansing resident: 12

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
…I believe my desire to see a Lansing that continues to grow into a thriving, equitable community is one of many reasons for my desire to join the Human Relations Commission. I had the honor of working on the initial group to develop the Commission’s mission and goals. I would like to continue my contributions on the Commission to fulfill its interest in a Lansing that continues to bring existing and new residents together with Village administration in a way that symbolizes the strength of Lansing and it being a great place to live and raise a family. Additionally…I work in diversity and inclusion and would like to leverage my discipline to support the work of the HRC while learning from fellow members, the community, and the Village administration.

Rich Schaeffer

• Age: 66
• Race: Caucasian
• Occupation: Owner of Rich Schaeffer Wholesale Meats
• Years as a Lansing resident: 30

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
I have been the “boss” and leader of all my employees through the years. We have always had a diverse employee workforce of black, Hispanic, and white. I have dealt firsthand with human relations in the workplace for 43 years…I believe that living in Lansing for 30 years gives me an understanding of the things that drew me to Lansing originally. I believe it is important that we discover what is working now and what needs to be be improved to bring us into a good future in Lansing so that we are attractive to all ages and cultures.

Micaela Smith

• Age: 33
• Race: African American
• Occupation: Chief of Staff for State Representative Marcus Evans
• Years as a Lansing resident: 15

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
My current role as a Legislative Chief of Staff and Park Board Commissioner makes me qualified…because I act and serve as a listening/sounding board for the constituents of the district and residents of the Lansing community…. The process of constituent services consist of listening, research, asking questions, and problem solving. This role requires me to be able to compromise and advocate for positive results. As a Park Board Commissioner, I listen to the concerns and ideas of the residents and make sound decisions for how to allocate tax payer dollars. This consists of negotiation and logical reasoning. Both roles have skills necessary for a successful Human Relations Commissioner.

Darvel Stinson

• Age: 48
• Race: African American
• Occupation: IT Field Technician for Cook-Illinois Corp.
• Years as a Lansing resident: 13

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
When you talk about human relations, it’s just that. In order to move forward as a…prosperous town, we have to be willing to make the change and get to know the ones that make up our great town. I’ve served on the Illinois PTA State Board for five years, and in that time I’ve served on the Justice and Legislative Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee. I’m still involved in those committees in which we…come up with programs, subjects, how-to’s, etc. to help keep our schools and communities on an uprise. I’m also serving as one of the parent liaisons at TF South. This gives me a good feel of our parents in the community by being able to engage with them and find out what they’re expecting.

Regina Titsworth

• Age: 53
• Race: African American
• Occupation: Owner of My Gina’s Christian Childcare & Community Services Inc.
• Years as a Lansing resident: 23

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
This Commission is really personal for me. My husband and I decided to seek land for the building of our new home 23 years ago. We wanted a safe community with wonderful neighbors and great schools where we could raise our four children…. After our contractor started building [our house], he asked us if we had done our homework on this Village. He…informed us that it was brought to his attention by a representative of the Village Board that African American families were not wanted here. That devastated me. “You gotta be kidding,” I said. This is the 90s not the 60s. We found out later that he wasn’t kidding. We were called out by name. We almost got run over crossing Torrence with our children and were yelled at and called names.

Lionel Valencia (Chairman)

• Age: 49
• Race: Hispanic
• Occupation: Plant Superintendent at Land O’Frost Inc.
• Years as a Lansing resident: 17

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
I enjoy people. I had always made an effort to be involved in my children’s school organizations when my kids were in school. Now that they are grown, I occupy my time staying involved in local organizations that give back to the community. I believe we are all one race and deserve to be treated as such.

Bobb Wright

• Age: 59
• Race: African American
• Occupation: Retired Human Resources executive, Chancellor of Bible college, Non-profit advocate
• Years as a Lansing resident: 12

What in your experience makes you qualified to be a Human Relations Commissioner?
I bring a passion and a heart for people. I’m a very good communicator and have had the opportunity to work with many different diverse backgrounds, either through chaplaincy, the military, human resources, or recruiting. I’ve had a lot of opportunities in my lifetime to deal with people. I consider myself to be a people person. That’s one of my greatest qualities — being able to bring people together and have them share dialogue and good communication. And from a chaplaincy standpoint, I think I know how to teach people to love each other and get along.

Next steps

All of the commissioners are excited and optimistic about the future of the commission.

Commissioner Wright said, “When I [first] saw that Lansing thought about forming [a human relations commission], I was elated—I was overjoyed. I had been looking for this opportunity, essentially, so when it presented itself, I was highly motivated to apply.”

Commissioner Titsworth echoed the sentiment: “I’m really excited, and I’m just so grateful to God for this opportunity and that the Mayor kept her word.”

Although the group has not yet held any official meetings, some members already have ideas about how to improve Lansing.

“I think the goal starting off should be focused on unity and togetherness, and getting on the same page,” said Commissioner Smith, “The HRC should be trying to figure out why there’s a division in Lansing…to get an understanding of why we have this in the air.”

Other members feel less strongly about Lansing’s divisions. Wright said, “As far as the general public and some of the things I’ve heard, I don’t think it’s that bad. Certainly I have not watched any bad race relations. …But in any situation there’s no ideal place, and Lansing probably needs more help than I realize. I’m sure we do [have problems], and because of the state of America, I believe that Lansing needs to make race relations a priority.”

Reflections from Trustee Zeldenrust

Trustee Jerry Zeldenrust closed the Board meeting by sharing his personal thoughts on the process and the outcome:

“To be sitting here today, looking at this group and these resumes and profiles, knowing that they’re in it for all the right reasons, bringing so much talent and holding such great promise for our Village—I’m just thrilled to see it actually happen. I’m thrilled to play a part in it, and to welcome you all for what I’m sure will be…change happening in our Village by the good work that you folks are going to be bringing to the table. It’s just an outstanding thing. It’s no small deal, and it’s worth reflecting on.”

 

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