Climate change informs run for water district

Bid for water reclamation district kicks off in Forest Park

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Eira Corral Sepulveda, 34, may be the clerk in northwest suburban Hanover Park, a village of roughly 40,000 people that spans Cook and DuPage counties, but she decided to launch her campaign for a seat on the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago — the entity responsible for treating wastewater and managing storm water — here in Forest Park. 

Surrounded by roughly 50 of her supporters at Urban Pioneer Group in Forest Park on Sept. 24, Sepulveda framed her candidacy with diverse representation and climate resiliency.

"I'm running to represent the county as a whole, but this would be the first time we have an opportunity to have representation on MWRD from the western and northwestern suburbs," Sepulveda said in an interview moments before she spoke at her kickoff. "Most of the [MWRD] elected officials are from Chicago and a few are from the North Shore." 

Sepulveda, who is married to Melrose Park native and well-known community leader Roberto Sepulveda, said her family often visits Forest Park. 

"I spend a lot of family time here," she said. "Even though I live in Hanover Park, we spend our Mother's Days here. We like to eat ice cream at the Brown Cow and walk downtown. It's a wonderful suburb." 

Sepulveda is one of three candidates running for three open seats on the MWRD board in the 2020 elections who were slated by the Cook County Democratic Party. The other two endorsed candidates, Cam Davis and Kim Du Buclet, are incumbents. 

Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins and Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough were on hand during last month's launch. 

"Eira is a personal friend," Hoskins said. "I met her through her husband, Roberto, around 2009. It was around the time she became clerk of Hanover Park. She's a great person and I think she'll bring a lot to the MWRD." 

"We were really excited about her credentials and her abilities," said Yarbrough. "We look forward to her taking a seat with MWRD." 

Sepulveda, who was 23 when she was elected clerk, was for a time the youngest elected official in the state, she said.  

"I think they saw an opportunity to have a dynamic leader, a Latino elected for 10 years and who has experience in local government and environmental justice," she said. "Being clerk taught me to stay connected to people." 

Sepulveda touted her part in making Hanover Park more economically resilient, explaining her role in bringing nationally acclaimed Arbor Day and recycling initiatives to the suburb. She said that, if elected, she'll be particularly focused on ensuring that the district is moving forward on climate resiliency initiatives equitably. 

"We've become much wetter, which puts more strain on the infrastructure and capacity of our system," she said. "We need to build resiliency against climate change to ensure people's sewers aren't being flooded. It's very important we address that in an equitable way. Data shows that the zip codes that are primarily impacted by wetter climate through increased flooding are in black and brown communities." 

Sepulveda said she's had personal experience with flooding. 

"When I first bought my home, I was a single mom and it was very difficult having to deal with the flood and the insurance process," she said. "It was emotionally and financially difficult. This is a critical issue many of our residents face. Instead of enjoying the rain, people are freaking out because their basements might get flooded." 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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