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Debbie Serota: Candidate For Deerfield Park District Board – Patch.com

Debbie Serota: Candidate For Deerfield Park District Board – Patch.com

DEERFIELD, IL — Ahead of the April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Deerfield Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot. Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Deerfield Park District Board of Commissioners on Election Day. They include three incumbents Rick Patinkin (current president), Gil Antokal and Greg Lapin. The challengers are

DEERFIELD, IL — Ahead of the April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Deerfield Patch provided questionnaires to all candidates on the ballot.

Six candidates are vying for three seats on the Deerfield Park District Board of Commissioners on Election Day. They include three incumbents Rick Patinkin (current president), Gil Antokal and Greg Lapin. The challengers are Michael Brown, Joel Seeskin and Debbie Serota.

Deerfield Patch is publishing all responses submitted by candidates verbatim.

Debbie Serota

Age (as of Election Day)


Town/City of Residence


Party Affiliation (if a partisan race)


Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?



BA in Social Work/Social Welfare from University of Wisconsin-Madison, Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University, Certificate in Human Resources Management from Cornell University


Current title: Program Director at Playworks Illinois
13 years of sports based youth development, 11 years non-profit management, 11 years learning and development, 11 years DEI work

Campaign website


Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office

Member, Deerfield Park District Mitchell Park Advisory Committee

The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.

The single most pressing issue facing our community is the need to heal from the collective trauma of the pandemic over the past year. Our parks can play an important role in that healing. The community will be looking for the Park District to begin to offer more exercise and wellness activities at the Sachs Center, opportunities for socialization for our seniors at the Patty Turner Center, and enrichment activities for our kids. As we start to be able to make these activities available, it is also essential that every decision is based on the latest recommendations of the CDC and IDPH.

Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?

Yes, I unequivocally support the movement for Black Lives and am a proud supporter of Black Lives Matter. To me the movement is more than the demonstrations we saw over the summer–it is also a call to action and a personal commitment to work to end racism. I am inspired by the displays of power, unity, and strength shown in these demonstrations and I have been proud to stand alongside friends, family, and colleagues at several demonstrations throughout the last several years.

Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?

I believe our current work should be based in racial equity rather than racial equality, and I do not believe the current board has done enough to support racial equity. There have been requests from community members to rename Mitchell Park and Pool dating back to 2015, which were ignored until last summer. While the formation of the Renaming Advisory Committee and subsequent name change of the park to Floral Park were positive steps, there is still much work to be done towards healing. This should include renaming Mitchell Pool and following through on the other recommendations of the Advisory Committee–including leading the effort to create a museum dedicated to educating residents about the full history of our community that highlights the failed Floral Park housing development proposal of 1959. In addition, I would like to see a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan integrated into the next strategic plan cycle.

What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?

I believe the local coronavirus response has been appropriate and that along with other local governmental entities that the Park District should continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and IDPH in regards to mitigation measures to keep our families healthy and safe.

What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?

Vaccine rollout is outside the jurisdiction of the park district, so it is not my place to judge the rollout. However, if public health officials were to request park district facilities to support distribution, I believe that the Park District, just like every other public and private entity, should be ready and eager to do its part to support this crucial mission.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

My background in diversity, equity, and inclusion work sets me apart from other candidates. The overwhelming majority of Deerfield residents have expressed interest in making our community more inclusive. My knowledge and practice of equitable decision making and inclusive leadership make me uniquely suited to support the integration of an equity plan into the next round of strategic planning. Additionally, I am also currently raising young children in the community. There is currently no representation of families like mine on the board, and it is, therefore, more difficult for the board to understand the needs of young families.

If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)

I am grateful for the solid leadership the incumbent candidates have provided over their collective 56 years on the board. However, the values of the Deerfield community have shifted over that time and it is time for new leadership who can commit to growth and progress, and who can represent the interests of currently underrepresented residents. There is currently no representation for parents with younger children on the board, and I seek to provide that voice.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform

Along with the other candidates on the Fresh Voices slate, I am running on four core values: fresh voices, accountability, fiscal responsibility, and inclusivity. I believe our parks should reflect the values of our community, and our leadership should be on the forefront of modeling these values. We have significant additional details on each of the four values that define our campaign on our website: www.freshvoicesfordeerfieldparks.com

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

I have spent the entirety of my professional career in non-profit work. I understand the complexities of recruiting, hiring, and retaining skilled year round and seasonal staff, of balancing a non-profit budget, and of fulfilling grant requirements. I am personally responsible for securing our earned revenue. I believe my experience offers another valuable perspective that is currently missing from the board, as many of these duties are central to effective management of the Park District.

If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?

For me, success over the course of my term would be to improve the feedback loop between Deerfield residents and the board. There are many residents who feel their voices have not been heard and that there is a lack of transparency in decision making on the current board. Restoring a more cooperative relationship between the board and members of the community, and our community’s trust that the board represents their values, will mean that my term in office was a success.

Why should voters trust you?

As a member of the Mitchell Park Advisory Committee, I was proud to represent the community on this important issue. I believe that throughout that process I demonstrated my ability to bring people with sometimes opposing values and viewpoints together for a common cause in a productive manner. I am also proud to have the endorsements of two trusted local leaders–Bob Morgan and Brad Schneider. Along with the other members of the Fresh Voices slate, Congressman Schneider and Representative Morgan have cited their confidence in me, and I will continue to work to earn and maintain that trust from all Deerfield residents.

What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?

In our community, property taxes have increased drastically for residents over the past 10 years. People across the country, including in our community, are feeling considerable economic pain due to the pandemic, and so I believe that all local government entities, including the Park District, should prioritize limiting further increases when possible without sacrificing service quality. I will carefully assess spending decisions as our budget stabilizes with our emergence out of the pandemic to ensure that we are using taxpayer money responsibly.

Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family?


The best advice ever shared with me was:

In making any decision, there are a few key steps that often get overlooked: identify who is most impacted by this decision and how their needs can be centered; seek multiple perspectives; attend to unintended outcomes; and communicate not only what decision was made, but also how the decision was made. This advice has been incredibly valuable to me in my personal and professional life.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

Although my family recently relocated to Deerfield (August 2019), I grew up here. I spent my childhood playing soccer at Brickyards Park and softball under the lights at Jewett Park; attending park district summer camps and enrichment classes; and meeting friends every summer day at Mitchell Pool. I even remember the (admittedly strange) tradition of going to the pool on the last day of school to catch goldfish in the pool. I believe that our parks are a major factor in the high quality of life we enjoy in Deerfield. In fact, when house hunting, we intentionally sought out a house in the Woodland Park area because of the walkability to at least 3 different parks in the community. I look forward to contributing to the future legacy of our parks as Park District Commissioner.

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