2023 Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy Speaker Information - Metropolitan Planning Council

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2023 Drinking Water 1-2-3 Academy Speaker Information

Session One, November 2, 2023 (Virtual)

Level setting on the state of drinking water in the Chicago region.  

Carolyn Grieves
Director
Illinois Section American Water Works Association
Carolyn has been a long‐time member of AWWA including holding the positions of Board Past‐Chair and the current Director of the Illinois Section American Water Works Association (ISAWWA). 

Carolyn began working for Baxter & Woodman, Inc. after obtaining a Bachelor in Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois and a Master in Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa. Carolyn has spent her career focused on the planning and design of water supply, treatment and distribution systems. Carolyn has managed Baxter & Woodman’s Water Department and Environmental Department and is currently the Vice President of Business Development as well as Board President of Baxter & Woodman’s Corporate 501(c)(3) not‐for‐profit charity B&W Cares.

Ruth Kerzee
Senior Project Manager, Water Programs
Elevate
Ruth Kerzee is a Senior Project Manager, Water Programs at Elevate. She is the lead on technical assistance for the Cook County Lead Service Line Replacement program. Ms. Kerzee has worked on lead exposure and lead poisoning issues relating to adverse health outcomes, especially among children, for decades focused on lead in paint. With this project, the focus will shift to mitigation of exposure via the water service lines leading to our homes and businesses. 

Ruth is passionate about the prevention of disease and injury by promoting sound public health practices and is a graduate of the UIC School of Public Health with a Master of Science in Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health. With over twenty years of public health practice and project management, her work has provided opportunities to engage on environmental health issues impacting some of our most vulnerable citizens including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and workers on the frontlines of exposure to toxins and other hazards. Ruth has led research and training on subjects as wide ranging as childhood lead poisoning, maintaining healthy homes, and migrant farm-worker injuries. She has worked on policy development, especially on pesticide use in sensitive environments such as child care facilities, schools, and other institutions.  

 

Justin Keller
Strategist, Water Programs
Elevate
Justin Keller, AICP, is a Strategist, Water Programs at Elevate, a nonprofit organization that designs and implements programs that bring clean and affordable heat, power, and water to homes and communities. Through collaborations with water utilities and other partners, Justin supports the Water Programs’ mission to provide clean, safe, and affordable water for Illinois residents and throughout the Great Lakes region.   

Focus areas: 1) Work to identify where and how water burden may be impacting residents and explore strategies for tackling water affordability in those communities; and 2) Lead initiatives to provide community education and outreach on lead in water safety, including community workshops and listening sessions to better understand community concerns and questions around lead service line replacement.   

In addition to his work at Elevate, Justin is Director of the Chicago Metro Section of the Illinois Chapter of the American Planning Association. In his free time, he likes to ride and work on bicycles, read novels, and watch K-dramas.  

 

David Kohn
Deputy Commissioner, Regional Partnerships
City of Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM)
David L. Kohn is Deputy Commissioner, Regional Partnerships for the City of Chicago’s Department of Water Management (DWM). He has extensive experience in public policy and  government affairs at federal, state and local levels, having previously worked on the staff of U.S. Representative John Porter as well as for Illinois Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood. In addition to his government service, for many years he also was Executive Director of Public Affairs for the Union League Club of Chicago. Deputy Commissioner Kohn manages Chicago’s relationships with, and serves as principal liaison to, the communities and regional systems that receive water service from the City. He is leading efforts to establish an Advisory Council comprising representatives of Chicago’s suburban water customers and is part of a team working to implement the City’s adoption of  the nationally-recognized American Water Works Association cost-of-service water rate  methodology. A native of Chicago, Kohn earned a Master of Arts in Communication Studies from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts in English/Communications, with a Minor in Spanish, from DePaul University. He is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Jeannie Krueger
Vice President & Area Manager
Arcadis
Jeannie is a Program Manager, an Arcadis Midwest Area Manager, Program Manager and National Funding Expert. She has also been instrumental in acting as the liaison for various clients' SRF and Grant funding programs, including over $1B in water related loans and grants over the last 6 years. She has been in the program management and program controls field for over 25 years, with consulting experience primarily in oil and gas, utility, and municipal clients. Jeannie has developed and maintained many multibillion-dollar capital budgets on large scale projects and programs both domestically and internationally throughout her career. She has her Master of Business Administration, PMI Project Management Professional Certification, and she is a certified Program Manager with a passion for personally connecting with each team member and volunteering during time off.

Laura Medwid
Post Doctoral Research Associate
UIC Government Finance Research Center 
 
Laura Medwid is a Post Doctoral Research Associate for the Government Finance Research Center (GFRC) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Medwid joined this role as part of a multi-year Water Rate Setting Study in Illinois, as well as other research projects. Her areas of interest include natural resource economics, public policy relating to water rate setting, and equity in household water access. Dr. Medwid continues to publish articles on these topics in peer reviewed journals as well as present at academic conferences across the U.S. 

Adam Nutt
Lead and Copper Coordinator, Compliance Assurance Section, Bureau of Water
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Adam joined the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in May 2021.  Adam worked in Drinking Water Operator Certification until January 2023 when he joined the Illinois EPA’s Lead and Copper team.  Adam is currently working as the Illinois EPA’s Lead and Copper Coordinator for the IEPA lead and copper program. 

Alec Singer
Research Manager
Metropolitan Planning Council
Alec Singer joined MPC as Research Manager in February 2022. In their role, Alec acts cross-functionally to plan and execute research projects within MPC’s program areas.

Prior to MPC, Alec was an Analyst and then Manager at World Business Chicago Research Center. At WBC, Alec co-lead strategic planning initiatives around long-term economic development and co-authored strategies for the first COVID-19 recovery plan of any US city. Additionally, they executed analysis driving the creation and retention of over 20,000 jobs and resulted in Chicago’s recognition as the top region nationally for business expansion. These roles built upon their prior experience in real estate consulting and local government.

Born and raised in Evanston, Alec spent four years at Seattle University pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Public Affairs, concentrating in Urban Planning and Policy. During this time, they received an award from the American Planning Association and the Planning Association of Washington for their participation and leadership in a city-wide inventory of Seattle’s public stairways. Presently, Alec is enrolled in the Masters of Urban Planning and Policy program at UIC.

Alec currently lives in Albany Park and in their free time enjoys trying new restaurants, the Cook County Forest Preserves, and the MCA.

 

Nihdan Singh, M.B.A.
Deputy Manager, Infrastructure Financial Assistance Section Bureau of Water
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Nidhan Singh graduated from Saint Louis University with a degree in Finance and a M.B.A from DePaul University in Chicago. Nidhan has spent 11 years in the private sector working in the banking industry (data analysis, budgeting/forecasting and financial reporting) before joining the public sector.

Nidhan joined the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in March of 2021. Nidhan was hired as a Water Revolving Fund Finance Manager where he oversaw the financial management of the Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF). Currently, Nidhan works as the Deputy Section Manager for the Illinois State Revolving Fund overseeing both the Wastewater and the Drinking Water loan programs.

Session Two, November 9, 2023 (Virtual)

Winning strategies for creating sustainable drinking water solutions. 

Matt Brolley
Village President
Village of Montgomery
With 18+ years in Chicagoland's land development sector, Matt has forged a unique perspective on collaborative problem-solving. Notable achievements include: Future Water Supply Planning: Championing sustainable water solutions for the Village of Montgomery, where he is at the forefront of investigating alternative sources, partnering with Oswego and Yorkville to secure Lake Michigan water for Kendall County; Lead Service Line Removal:  Montgomery was one of the first communities in the state to fully fund removal of all known lead water service lines; Infrastructure Transformation: As Village President, Matt transformed road funding through successful sales tax reform, ensuring long-term stability and fair cost-sharing; Sustainability Advocate: Embracing the Greenest Region Compact, Matt drives data-driven climate action, guiding his community towards a greener future; Land Development Expertise: With hands-on experience in diverse projects, Matt has helped shaped the Chicagoland landscape through comprehensive planning and development, and Regional Engagement: Leadership roles in CMAP and Metro West Council underscore Matt's commitment to regional cooperation and sustainable growth. 

Dedicated to sensible planning and innovative solutions, Matt aims to mold Chicagoland's future for the next generation. 

 

Racheal Burchett
Senior Project Manager (Water Affordability)
Elevate
Rachael Burchett is a Senior Project Manager (Water Affordability) at Elevate, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world in which everyone has access to affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities – no matter who they are or where they live. She is the lead on Elevate’s water affordability initiative in Cook County and has also supported research on lead service line replacement communications and water affordability. 

Rachael has a degree in Public Health from Saint Louis University. Prior to her role at Elevate, she has worked in the nonprofit space for the last decade, raising over $2 million to support water infrastructure and WASH programs across the global south. Her work has centered around implementing sustainable, community-based water systems that empower indigenous communities across Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, she has worked in public affairs, supporting a number of nonprofit organizations and public agencies in the St. Louis area. 

Rachael and her husband are a foster/adoptive family and live just outside of St. Louis with their 4 kids. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, gardening and thrifting. 

 

Jonathan D. Flowers
Senior Engineer
Robinson Engineering
Jonathan works as a senior engineer for Robinson Engineering, Ltd. His focus has been lead service lines for the past 5 years. He is currently working on all aspects of lead service line replacement programs. Jonathan appreciates connecting with residents and contributing to progress in our communities.  

Russ Rietveld, PE
Director of Engineering
Village of Skokie
Over the past twenty years Russ has worked on numerous construction projects and programs intended to improve drinking water quality for users across northern Illinois.  Russ has been on both the Contractor and Owner sides of projects such as the City of Chicago water main replacement project, the drilling of a deep well and construction of a new water tower in unincorporated Lake County and replacement of a water system in Hawthorn Woods.  Russ is currently the Director of Engineering for the Village of Skokie and since joining the Village has worked with the Morton Grove-Niles Water Commission and Village of Lincolnwood on transmission main projects through Skokie.  Most recently, Russ oversaw the Village’s 2023 Water Main replacement project, which for the first time included the replacement of lead service lines on private property.  In April 2023, Skokie created the Lead Line Replacement Program to assist impacted homeowners with private side lead service replacement.  Using this Program, the Village was able to facilitate conversion of over 85% of the impacted lead services to copper on the private side. 

Dante Sawyer
Village Manager
Hazel Crest
Dante Sawyer is Village Manager for the Village of Hazel Crest, where he is responsible for the efficient administration of all departments of the village. As a dedicated public-sector professional with 20 years of experience in politics, government and organizational management, Dante believes government has a responsibility to help resident and their communities overcome barriers to progress through the community engagement and public policy making process.  

Dante started his path into politics and public service as a precinct captain for a Chicago Alderman.  He credits this experience with teaching him how to listen and learn from the concerns voiced by constituents.   

Prior to joining the Village of Hazel Crest, Dante directed the Community Engagement Unit for the Cook State’s Attorney’s Office as the Deputy Director of External Affairs. Mr. Sawyer received both his B.S. and M.S. in Political Science from Illinois State University.  While a student he was active in student government and is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.  

 

Allison Swisher
Director of Public Utilities
City of Joliet
Allison Swisher is the Director of Public Utilities for the City of Joliet and has worked in the municipal engineering business for 19 years in both the public and private sector.  She has a bachelors of science degree in environmental engineering from Northwestern University and a Masters of Public Administration degree from Governors State University.  Allison is the President of the Chicago Metro Chapter of the American Public Works Association and president of the Lower DesPlaines Watershed Group. 

Mayor Katrina Thompson
Mayor
Village of Broadview
First elected the seventh Mayor of the Village of Broadview in a five-person race with 44% of the vote on April 4, 2017, Katrina Thompson became the first African American female mayor of the village. In the 2021 election contest against a former mayor, Mayor Thompson was elected to a second term with 71% of the vote.

As Mayor, Thompson has fully embraced the power of partnership and alliance building with ordinary citizens as well as the major stakeholders within Broadview and with surrounding communities, including the City of Chicago, and the State of Illinois. In that spirit of collaboration, Mayor Thompson has committed both her time and her energy to serving the community of Broadview. The mayor is promoting and creating unity. She is aiming to develop a vibrant local economy of thriving businesses. She is working to build strong and safe neighborhoods. She is seeking to create a greener Broadview.

 

Kris Tiongson
Associate
Metropolitan Planning Council
Kris Tiongson joined MPC in February 2021. As Research Associate, Kris supports cross-organizational collaboration in research, policy development, and advocacy through research design and data analysis across MPC's portfolio. To date, Kris has supported a multitude of MPC's research and advocacy efforts on topics such as zoning and land use, housing and community development, transportation equity, and environmental justice. Kris also supports multi-organizational efforts across Illinois. Kris co-authored the State-funded 2022 Illinois Future of Work report and the recently-released Latinos in the Suburbs report. Kris also actively supports state agencies and environmental partners on the equitable implementation of lead service line replacement across Illinois.

Kris received his master's degree in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he specialized in Spatial Planning and Geospatial analysis and Visualization. Kris brings expertise in utilizing mapping and spatial analytic tools to promote social change and civic engagement.

Kris is a native of Metro Manila, Philippines, and now resides in the Albany Park neighborhood.

Session Three, December 7, 2023 (In-Person):

Meeting each other and meeting the drinking water challenge.  

Gary Bingerheimer
Manager
Infrastructure Financial Assistance Section Bureau of Water
Gary Bingenheimer graduated in 1990 with a degree in Electrical Engineering from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and worked approximately 5 years in the electric utility industry performing electric rate analysis and cost of service studies.

Gary joined the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in November of 1996. Gary worked approximately 8 years in the Agency’s Bureau of Water - Wastewater Permitting Section. Gary joined the Infrastructure Financial Assistance Section in 2006 and is currently the Manager of the Infrastructure Financial Assistance Section overseeing the Agency’s two State Revolving Fund loan programs.

Deborah A. Carroll, Ph.D.
Professor & Head, Department of Public Policy, Management, & Analytics  
Director, Government Finance Research Center 
Editor-In-Chief, Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs (JPNA) 
Collaborating Scholar, Institute of Government and Public Affairs 
Dr. Deborah Carroll is Professor and Head of the Department of Public Policy, Management, and Analytics and Director of the Government Finance Research Center in the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois Chicago. Dr. Carroll’s research focuses on financial management and fiscal policy issues of state and local governments, particularly related to taxation, revenue diversification, revenue stability, and urban economic development. On these topics, Dr. Carroll has produced more than 65 scholarly publications and 20 grant-funded white papers and technical reports. She has been invited to share her research and expertise with academic and practitioner audiences across the U.S. and in several other counties. Dr. Carroll earned her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee along with a Graduate Certificate in State and Local Taxation from the UWM Sheldon B. Lubar School of Business. She is also a collaborating scholar with the University of Illinois System's Institute of Government and Public Affairs, and previously worked as a budget and policy analyst for the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.    

Drew Williams-Clark
Director, Bureau of Asset Management
Cook County
Drew Williams-Clark currently serves as the Director of Build Up Cook in the Bureau of Asset Management at Cook County. The program uses ARPA funds to lend the technical expertise of the county to assist in fundraising, project management, budgeting, and planning, and construction of infrastructure improvement projects in communities across the south and west areas of Cook County. Drew has 17 years of experience in housing, transportation, and environmental planning and policy. He is passionate about the need to approach urban and capital planning with an equity lens and believes that every decision represents an opportunity to do that. He previously served as a Senior Director at the Metropolitan Planning Council where he oversaw a portfolio of equitable transit-oriented development, community development, stormwater, and drinking water infrastructure projects. He also led the Urban Resilience team at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, including analysis and strategy to mitigate urban flooding in Cook County. While on staff at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, Drew helped create the Local Technical Assistance Program and managed a Long Range Regional Transportation plan update. He is proud to have put down roots in Oak Park with his wife and two sons. When Drew isn’t working, you’ll find him leading his son’s Cub Scout Den, fishing in a Forest Preserve lake, or tending his small vegetable garden. 

Darlene Hightower, J.D.
President & CEO
Metropolitan Planning Council
Darlene Oliver Hightower, J.D., began her tenure as President & Chief Executive Officer of Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), an independent nonpartisan regional planning organization, in January 2022. Darlene leads the organization’s strategic vision, shaping ambitious goals that will strengthen the impact of MPC’s work within the region.  

Throughout her career, Darlene has been a tireless advocate for equity. Previously, Darlene served as Vice President, Community Health Equity at Rush University Medical Center. In that capacity, she oversaw the Office of Community Health Equity and Engagement, which included 3 school-based health clinics; Rush University community outreach programs, community benefit reporting, and Rush’s cradle to career healthcare pipeline programs. Darlene also led the development of West Side United, a cross-sector, collaborative aimed at improving health and economic vitality on Chicago’s West Side. 

Her leadership in health equity throughout the COVID-19 pandemic was nationally recognized, as Darlene was honored in 2020 with the U.S. News and World Report Health Care Hero and Marquis Who’s Who in America. 

A thoughtful contributor to many publications and speaker at well-renowned conference events, Darlene has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, TriplePundit, and Crain’s Chicago Business. 

Darlene is a Chicago Community Trust Leadership Fellow, a University of Chicago Civic Leadership Academy Fellow, and an Administrative Law Judge for the Chicago Department of Human Relations. Darlene attended Bradley University and received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C.    

Darnell Johnson
CEO & President
Urban Efficiency Group
C4 member
Darnell Johnson is the CEO and President of Urban Efficiency Group (UEG), Illinois’ first native, minorityowned utility implementation and sustainability design firm. Darnell served in the United States Army for nine years and began his formal education at Central Texas College majoring in Urban Planning, while on active duty. Darnell graduated from Moody Bible Institute with a Bachelors in Theology and a minor in counseling. His industry specific credentials include but are not limited to; BPI- Building Analyst, Building Envelope, Infiltration Duct Leakage, Energy Auditor, Quality Control Inspector, Healthy Home Evaluator, RESNET Rater, EcoDistrict Accredited Professional, and DEI Certified Professional (Cornell University). Darnell is a spirtitual and sustainability architect, with over two decades of entrepreneurial, social science, and sustainability experience. His commitment to engineering solutions that humanizes sustainability for BIPOC communities and advancing energy equity is fundamental to all of his work. Darnell and Urban Efficiency Group have assisted thousands of underserved residents across Northwest Indiana, the greater Chicagoland and Milwaukee Wisconsin reduce their energy burden by delivering energy efficiency and community sustainability services, while working toward carbon neutrality. He believes that diversity brings strength, inlusion is indicative of an acceptacne that is essential to growth, and equity is a human right that should be embraced as the standard and not an exception. By pragmatically implementing these beliefs systemic change would be the resolve and “Stronger Together” would become a reality.

David Kohn
Deputy Commissioner, Regional Partnerships
City of Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM)
David L. Kohn is Deputy Commissioner, Regional Partnerships for the City of Chicago’s Department of Water Management (DWM). He has extensive experience in public policy and  government affairs at federal, state and local levels, having previously worked on the staff of U.S. Representative John Porter as well as for Illinois Lieutenant Governor Corinne Wood. In addition to his government service, for many years he also was Executive Director of Public Affairs for the Union League Club of Chicago. Deputy Commissioner Kohn manages Chicago’s relationships with, and serves as principal liaison to, the communities and regional systems that receive water service from the City. He is leading efforts to establish an Advisory Council comprising representatives of Chicago’s suburban water customers and is part of a team working to implement the City’s adoption of  the nationally-recognized American Water Works Association cost-of-service water rate  methodology. A native of Chicago, Kohn earned a Master of Arts in Communication Studies from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts in English/Communications, with a Minor in Spanish, from DePaul University. He is bilingual in English and Spanish.

Paul May, PEIllinois Section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA)
Paul has been a long-time and active member of the Illinois AWWA where he served as a Trustee representing Cook County. He is currently General Manager of the DuPage Water Commission. He previously served as the Executive Director, NSMJAWA (Northwest Suburban Municipal Joint Action Water Agency). He is a Civil Engineer by training, with an Engineering degree from Valparaiso University and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin.  He has had the great pleasure of serving Northeastern Illinois communities for his entire 25-year career, including the City of St. Charles, Naperville, Harwood Heights, and Burr Ridge, before joining NSMJAWA in 2015. He lives in Oak Park where he serves on the Plan Commission. He has also been a member of the Elementary School District Facilities Advisory Committee in Oak Park.

Laura Medwid
Post Doctoral Research Associate
UIC Government Finance Research Center 
 
Laura Medwid is a Post Doctoral Research Associate for the Government Finance Research Center (GFRC) at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Medwid joined this role as part of a multi-year Water Rate Setting Study in Illinois, as well as other research projects. Her areas of interest include natural resource economics, public policy relating to water rate setting, and equity in household water access. Dr. Medwid continues to publish articles on these topics in peer reviewed journals as well as present at academic conferences across the U.S. 

Caroline Pakenham
Associate Director, Water Programs
Elevate
Caroline Pakenham is the Associate Director of Water Programs at Elevate, a nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world in which everyone has access to affordable heat, power, and water in their homes and communities – no matter who they are or where they live. Caroline leads Elevate’s water safety, affordability, and efficiency initiatives. This includes providing education, training, and lead testing services to childcare providers through a new statewide program called LeadCare Illinois. She also oversees Elevate’s efforts to research and implement solutions to water affordability challenges in the region.  

Caroline has more than a decade of experience working on water and energy programs in the nonprofit field, including managing water safety and green infrastructure projects, water quality public education events, and the implementation of a smart grid program. Prior to her current role at Elevate, she worked at the Water Environment Federation where she collaborated with water quality professionals to create education and programming to increase awareness of the value of clean water. She also worked on efforts to defend and implement the Clean Water Act at the Environmental Law and Policy Center and taught environmental education courses to elementary students in Brooklyn, NY.  

 

Nidhan Singh, M.B.A,
Deputy Manager, Infrastructure Financial Assistance Section, Bureau of Water
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency
Nidhan Singh graduated from Saint Louis University with a degree in Finance and a M.B.A from DePaul University in Chicago. Nidhan has spent 11 years in the private sector working in the banking industry (data analysis, budgeting/forecasting and financial reporting) before joining the public sector.

Nidhan joined the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in March of 2021. Nidhan was hired as a Water Revolving Fund Finance Manager where he oversaw the financial management of the Illinois EPA’s State Revolving Fund (SRF). Currently, Nidhan works as the Deputy Section Manager for the Illinois State Revolving Fund overseeing both the Wastewater and the Drinking Water loan programs.

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