Developer, grant writer and 28-year Forest Park resident Michelle Melin-Rogovin said that she owed the village a debt of gratitude. And last week she announced her plan to pay it back.
Her husband, artist and activist Mark Rogovin, had memory issues during the last few years of his life, but she knew she never had to worry about him.
“He’d go into any restaurant you could think of, and the owner of the restaurant would say hello to him by name,” recalled Melin-Rogovin., “They would know his dietary requirements automatically, they would help him with the menu, and know what he wanted. The owners always talked to him and treated him with dignity and respect, regardless of whether he communicated well or not. They would look out for him.”
That kind of care, she said, shows what makes Forest Park special. Ever since her husband died on Sept. 30, 2019, she wondered how she would give back – which is why she is running for village commissioner in the April 2023 election.
Melin-Rogovin said that, if elected, she would support Forest Park’s business community and help the village get grants. Beyond that, she didn’t outline any priorities and demurred on taking positions, saying that an elected official should reflect the constituents’ wishes. In situations where there are conflicting options, Melin-Rogovin believed in researching the issues and being transparent about her decision-making process.
Toward that end, Melin-Rogovin will hold a Meet the Candidate event at Brown Cow ice cream parlor, 7347 Madison St., on Oct. 23 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Melin-Rogovin heads the major gifts aspects of fundraising for Northwestern Medicine’s Feinberg School of Medicine. She has volunteered at the Forest Park Food Pantry and the Howard Mohr Community Center.
“I decided that now is a very good time for me to take stock of what Forest Park has given me and my husband over the years, and the care and concern that we received. Really, how I got to Forest Park is I worked on a project with the Historical Society of Forest Park, so it is part of my origin story [as a Forest Parker] and I decided that it was time to give back,” Melin-Rogovin said.
If elected, her major priority would be to help Forest Park navigate through the effects of the pandemic.
“I do think that the next four years are going to be equally as challenging [as the past three years],” Melin-Rogovin said. “I think that things are going to start to come up we haven’t dealt with yet.”
She believes that grant-writing experience would be an asset to Forest Park.
“In the last six years, I raised $30 million for medical research,” Melin-Rogovin said. “I can turn those skills to whatever problem, or whatever area I can think of.”
She would also contribute her knowledge to help find solutions no one in the village would be able to come up with on their own.
“My personal philosophy is — best alone, better together,” Melin-Rogovin said. “I want to bring my skills and abilities to collaborate with folks who have their knowledge and abilities, so that together, we’re better addressing the needs.”
She said that, if elected, she would hold weekly “Michelle on Madison” community listening sessions, where she would go to a Madison Street business and residents would be able to share their comments and concerns with her.
“I think that a commissioner needs to be accessible and open and be more of a listener, and not someone who represents their own point of view but represents the point of view of people that they talk to,” Melin-Rogovin said.
Throughout the interview, she mentioned several times that she believes in doing research to form opinions. On some issues – such as the future of the Altenheim property – she said she simply didn’t know enough to take a position, at least not yet.
Melin-Rogovin said she supported incumbent mayor Rory Hoskins because she believed Hoskins did a good job navigating through the pandemic. She declined to say whether she supported any other commissioner candidates.
“We have an abundance of riches,” Melin-Rogovin said. “The candidates we have for commissioner are all very talented people, and the voters are going to have a great time learning about them and pick the folks who represent them best.”
State of the race
Among incumbent commissioner candidates, commissioners Maria Maxham and Ryan Nero have announced their intention to run. Commissioner Jessica Voogd is weighing her options, and Commissioner Joe Byrne is leaning toward retiring.
In addition to Melin-Rogovin, Mark Boroughf, president of the Historical Society of Forest Park, told the Review that he would be running.