Melinda is a lifelong resident of Lake County. She and her husband, Andy, live in Grayslake where Melinda has been a resident since she was eight years old. She has one adult son, Chris Willen, who spends his time between Grayslake and Hayward, Wisconsin. Chris is pursuing his passion as a fly fishing guide. Melinda currently serves as a Member of the Lake County Board and a Commissioner of the Lake County Forest Preserve.
Before moving to Grayslake, Melinda’s family lived in Halfday, Illinois in a small trailer park surrounded by what is now Lincolnshire. Melinda quickly learned that what you have is not who you are. Her parents built a small home in Grayslake in 1964. As the oldest of six brothers and sisters, Melinda did her part in raising her younger siblings. She understood that success, even survival, takes hard work, perseverance, and community.
The Rollins Savanna
In 1988, with Chris in her arms, Melinda read that the Village of Grayslake – then with a population of just over 5,000 – had plans to build more than 4,000 new homes on what was then known as The White Picket Fence Farm. Melinda knew the impact this would have on the local infrastructure, specifically the schools.
Melinda took action. She worked with the Forest Preserve and organized the community. Today, what could have been a devastating development to Grayslake’s infrastructure and environment is now home to the Rollins Savanna, the 2nd largest forest preserve and a top birding site in Illinois.
The Countryside Landfill
When elected Trustee of Grayslake, Melinda opposed the citing of the Countryside Landfill, believing it was an ‘insider’ deal, struck behind closed doors out of the public eye.
Alarmed by the potential environmental and health hazards of allowing a landfill so close to area residents, Melinda voted no – she was out voted. Today, the Countryside Landfill is now emitting double the toxins allowed by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and has become a health risk to local residents.
A Local Business Advocate
As a proponent of redeveloping our existing commercial areas, Melinda worked to bring the focus to the downtowns. When businesses were leaving downtown areas and moving to strip malls, Melinda opened a small store in downtown Grayslake. She brought a farmers market to the community and formed the Downtown Merchant’s Association. Melinda understands that downtowns are central to what makes us a community and are key to stemming business growth. Today, downtown Grayslake is home to festivals, parades, and a source of pride for its residents.
Another Up Hill Battle
The definition of a public servant shouldn’t ever include the words ‘part-time’. Concerned with your representation on the Lake County Board at the time, Melinda entered back into the public arena. In 2007, Melinda challenged a 16-year incumbent. Her chance of winning was slim but she had faced these odds before. Her message of fighting for working families was simple. The fact that Lake County’s tax system is unfair, regressive, and the 2nd highest in the State of Illinois resonated with voters. On Election Night, Melinda won a stunning victory and brought the fight to ‘Put People First’ to Lake County Government.
Melinda’s reputation of being ‘real’, outspoken, and a results driven individual is something all too rare in State Government. Melinda is someone who is compelled to action. She sees her run for the State Senate as a matter of necessity, not ego. Much of Lake County is an area in crisis due to failed leadership and the political class’s interests topping those of the middle class.
Our representation in Springfield is doing nothing to fight for our interests. We must act to create jobs, stem foreclosures, and help the most vulnerable in our community.
We’re being duped with campaign slogans and empty promises from career politicians. Melinda has a proven past of taking action. She is a passionate fighter for the community; she listens and is one of us.