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2019 Chicago Market Board of Directors Candidate Statements


All the candidates for the Board of Directors were asked a series of questions to help the Owners of Chicago Market make an informed decision. Here are their responses:

 

Benjamin Henke

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I have a strong personal feeling about being involved in the community and working as a Director would allow me to both help the co-op and build communities in the area.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I don’t have significant experience as a board member but am very familiar with the necessary processes and procedures to run a proper meeting and to contribute.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I have extensive experience in the financial sector and sales roles.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I have shopped at and enjoyed co-ops in 3 states.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Food sustainability and community building.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I have worked in food systems on the ocean and the ground and have an interest in building and maintaining the ongoing success of the movement. I was a commercial fisherman in Alaska.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes, absolutely.

Bob Kunze

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I believe I have experience and expertise that would be of value to the Board in developing and financing the Chicago Market. As a volunteer I am utilizing this expertise to assist Board in its application for tax increment financing from the City. Being retired, I have substantial time to devote to Board matters.

Do you have previous Board experience?
Although I have not been a member of a Board, I have been staff to two boards or commissions, assisting in the administration and management of these organizations. One was the Board of Commissioners for Special Service Area #12, a special taxing district set up to assist in the financing of a major downtown transit improvement. The other organization was the Community Development Commission, responsible for making recommendations to Chicago’s Mayor and City Council on financial assistance for City redevelopment projects. I was responsible for setting up monthly and special meetings and public hearings, briefing Commissioners on agenda items, preparing meeting minutes, and insuring compliance with the State’s open meetings act.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
The most important asset I bring to the table is my expertise in tax increment financing and other financial assistance programs for large and small redevelopment projects. I managed such programs for the City of Chicago for 10 years. As a Board member I can assist the Board in applying for tax increment financing and negotiating the redevelopment agreement for such assistance, and make sure the Market complies with the terms of the agreement for receiving TIF funds.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
None.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Increasing people’s access to healthy, minimally processed, and ideally organic and local foods. Hopefully the Board can find ways to make good food affordable to persons in the community with lower incomes.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
You can count on me to be a team player.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes.

Isaac Emerson

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
Nice things take work and I am very excited about having a COOP grocery. There is still work to be done, and I am willing to put my time and effort in to achieve what we all want.

Do you have previous Board experience?
While I do not have experience as a member of a board, I have experience interacting and working with boards of HOAs and COOPs. As well as various other governing boards I encounter in my profession.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I am a professional accountant for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Currently I prepare the Department’s Annual Financial Report, but I have worked in all levels of accounting and finance. I believe my expertise would be valuable as Chicago Market continues amassing resources and transitions into active retail service.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I grew up in Bloomington, IN and was a member of Bloomingfoods for several years before I left Bloomington. That is how I came across Chicago Market, when I moved to Chicago in 2017 I began looking for a food coop.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Sustainability and quality. Sustainability, in sourcing of food by avoiding monocultures, harmful pesticides/fungicides/herbicides, and inhumane animal practices. As well as in the transit, storage, and packaging of our food. It is nearly impossible to achieve a zero-waste grocery trip with the options currently available to us on the north side. And while zero-waste may not be the goal, we must strive to eliminate all single-use plastics.
Food is life, and the quality of the food we can get directly impacts our quality of life. Flavorful, fresh, and nutritious food, available at a fair price, that supports our community and member owners.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I am dedicated, motivated, and I do what I say I am going to do.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes!

Navid Afshar

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I want to be a voice for those Owners who are not able to contribute to the loan program, and to the community members who cannot afford to become Owners. Having a local grocery store that is going to meet the needs of our neighborhood community is excellent, and I am very excited for it. I support having a market is that also a meeting space, a place to educate, and a creator of good paying jobs with benefits that work. However I am concerned about potential gatekeeping with financial expectations by those involved in Chicago Market. I want to help our lower to middle income neighbors have a voice in what this market will be to the community at large, and make sure that we work to make the Chicago Market products and services as accessible to them as it will be to the Owners.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have previously served on the board of a small non-profit theatre company where I was also the Managing Director. I did this for about a year and half before I made a career shift from theatre.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
My background is primarily in project management and finance. I have worked as a production manager in my first career for about four years. I made a shift into finance and booking and have been doing that for the past four years in both non-profit and for-profit companies.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I have only experienced food co-ops as a patron.

What food issues are you passionate about?
Food deserts and food waste are two issues that I am most concerned about in our world. The fact that we are throwing out tons of food while many people don’t have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables is astonishing, and I hope that the Chicago Market can help make a dent in that for the Chicago community.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I live only a few blocks away from the Chicago Market location and have been a resident of Uptown for about six years.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes.

Richard Stacewicz

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I have been an Owner for several years and am excited about the opportunity to take on a more active role in helping to propel the market forward. I view cooperatives as alternative models to the destructive corporate capitalism that is dominating our lives, destroying the environment, and alienating us from the food we consume. It’s critical, in my view, to develop and support alternative models of economic development to overcome cynicism and fatalism and to show that viable alternatives can be created. The Chicago Market can help, in a small way, to build a more humane sustainable future.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have not served on other boards.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I have been an educator for the past thirty years as well as a union organizer and union officer. In each of these capacities, I have developed the skills to work with diverse groups of people, develop and implement action plans, and to communicate effectively.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I have been a member/owner and shopper at several co-ops over the past 40 years.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I am especially concerned about supporting food systems (local, organic, sustainable) that provide an alternative to the monocultural mass production of food that degrades the environment, displaces local producers, and strips nutrition from the food we consume. The Chicago Market’s focus on partnering with local independent producers will help to build an economy based on local production with affordable and healthy food
options for the community.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I am recently retired and have a lot of flexibility and time to devote to helping build the market.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes.

Sarah Kircher

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
Giving back to the community has always been an important part of my life. As a foreigner in this country, I feel it is essential for me to engage in strengthening our community in order to be fully integrated. I have been involved in local organizations in Uptown since I moved there in 2014. When I became an owner of Chicago Market, I unfortunately could not volunteer immediately as I started graduate school. Now that I have completed my Executive MBA from the University of Notre Dame, I again have free time to volunteer and share my skills and knowledge with an organization and mission that is dear to my heart.

Do you have previous Board experience?
In Chicago, I was president of the Sheridan Park Neighbors Association in 2017-2018, managing our group of volunteers and overseeing the planning and execution of various events (including the 2017 Sheridan Park Art Festival). That’s where I learned of Chicago Market since Sheridan Park is the home of the Gerber Building. Back in Europe, I also held various board positions for local offices of Babel International, which is a non-profit that publishes a multilingual online magazine made for and by European youth.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I bring 12 years of cross-cultural business experience with strategic responsibilities in sales, marketing, and product management with an emphasis on growth and business development strategies. I am passionate about building and mentoring teams and work well both in a team environment and independently. Throughout my MBA studies, I have strengthened my financial acumen and project management skills. On a personal note, I have volunteered since I was a teenager and have significant experience in fundraising, events management, volunteer management, communications, and finance.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
Although my experience with food co-ops is limited, I grew up in France where food supply is organized very differently from that of the US. We would shop several times a week, in small quantities, from the baker (which happened to be my uncle), the butcher, or the fishmonger; we would buy our produce either from the farmer’s market held down the street twice a week or from some of our family members’ farms. This way to
shop and cook has taught me to cultivate relationships with local producers and vendors, appreciate seasonal products, and support shorter supply chain – all values I recognized in Chicago Market and prompted me to become an owner.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I passionately believe that food brings people together. It is a community builder, a peacemaker; it strengthens families and creates friendships. Unfortunately, ingredients, seasonality, or even recipes can be intimidating. Cooking can also be too difficult, time consuming, or expensive. Bridging this gap and bringing more food access, diversity, and education to local communities is very dear to my heart. Since moving to Chicago I have volunteered for Peterson Garden Project and helped cooked breakfasts for retirement home residents in Uptown and dinners for shelter residents in Lincoln Park – all opportunities to help bring people together around food.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I am passionate about building communities, particularly since moving to Uptown – a neighborhood so rich with diversity and passion. I was thrilled to hear about the first plans for Chicago Market when I was living in Sheridan Park where the Gerber Building stands. Becoming an owner was an easy decision: I feel extremely close to the Chicago Market’s mission to build a better food community – what better way to do that than to create food connections. I am living that mission in my volunteer work, my personal hobbies (I am a member of a cookbook club!), and even my personal life (my husband is an artisanal butcher; we are all about supporting farmers!). I would love to bring my personal and business skills to help continue build a better food community with Chicago Market.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes.

Sebastian Rojas

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I am excited for the prospect of having a wonderful new grocery co-op in the area that helps to bring better food options, creates jobs and supports the community. I believe the Chicago Market will create a place that brings the community together and I hope to be able to contribute its success.

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have not had experiences on a board.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
My professional experience has been as a retail sales representative, account manager and business development executive with various major food companies. I have worked tirelessly and passionately to improve performance of the products and brands I represented at various accounts, both in retail and foodservice channels. I have worked in teams in many of these companies (alongside accounting, finance, marketing, etc.) to help reduce loss and costs, launch new products, create marketing materials, and boost profitability.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
I have no experience with food co-ops in the past.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I care about the future of food. As someone who has worked over the past decade within the food industry, I am passionate on the direction the industry will (hopefully) go towards. Such as being able to adopt sustainable practices, reduction in food waste, and educating people on where their food comes from. Personally, I believe food should be nutritious, affordable and available to all people.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
I enjoy coming up with solutions to problems and have experience working independently as well as collaborating with people from different backgrounds and functions of business.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes.

Seth Harrop

Why would you like to join the Chicago Market Board of Directors?
I recently purchased a condo and moved to the Sheridan Park neighborhood of Uptown, just down the street from the Chicago Market site. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about the plans for the Chicago Market and was interested to help in any way I could to help make it a reality. I believe the Chicago Market will be a vibrant addition to the community and it will be a community asset that all can enjoy and benefit from. To that end, I would like to lend my skillset to the Board in order to get the Market open and operational!

Do you have previous Board experience?
I have never personally served on a Board. However, in my consulting work, over the years I have had much experience with not-for-profit boards, including food co-op boards. I have often had to present to boards on behalf of clients to help them understand complicated tax-enhanced real estate financing for projects similar to the one Chicago Market is undertaking.

What expertise (through your profession, education, volunteer experience, life experience, etc.) would you bring to the table to make you a good fit for this Board?
I am a Managing Director in the Real Estate Transactions Team at Baker Tilly. I work with a very specialized federal tax credit, called the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC), that is designed to spur private commercial investment in Low Income Communities nationwide. In my consulting practice I work with a variety of organizations, both for-profit and not-for-profit, apply through a competitive process to the Federal government to obtain allocations of these tax credits. Once received, I work with them to identify worthwhile, high-impact projects in Low Income Communities and help them structure and close the financing for their transactions to include New Markets Tax Credits and any other government subsidies (grants, Tax Increment Financing, bonds, etc.) that help the projects get across the finish line. I have a BBA and M.Acc in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin - Madison and a JD from Marquette University School of Law. In my free time, I enjoy traveling, spending time on Chicago’s lakefront, and volunteering with PAWS Chicago.

What experience have you had with food co-ops in the past?
For many years I have been a member of the Willy Street Co-op in Madison, Wisconsin and shopped there regularly when living in Madison. I am a recent member of the Chicago Market and am excited about all the possibilities that holds. I have worked with a food co-op in Vermont in the past to assist them with a store expansion (where they nearly doubled the size) where New Markets Tax Credits were used to add a new loading dock, additional floor space, a new cafe and educational kitchen as well as additional “green” elements to the refrigeration and freezer units. In that process, I did present to their Board and worked with the co-op staff both pre and post-closing to understand the complexities and requirements surrounding the NMTC program.

What food issues are you passionate about?
I am passionate about fresh, local and organic food and, most importantly, providing access to that type of food across income brackets. I believe everyone, regardless of income, should have access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

What else should we know about you that would make you a good candidate for this Board?
In general, I am a thoughtful, pragmatic and reasonable person. In group situations, I am good at helping to identify and clarify objectives and focusing the group’s attention on taking steps toward those goals.

The Chicago Market Board is a working board. Does your schedule permit you to make the necessary time commitment to help make Chicago Market a reality?
Yes.

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Voting begins immediately after our Annual Meeting on August 29 and will be open for one week. You will receive an email from Chicago Market explaining how the voting process works.


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