Why Wheeling Township 708 board appointments are drawing mixed reviews

  • Jack Vrett

    Jack Vrett

  • Bill Dixon

    Bill Dixon

  • Jim Ruffatto

    Jim Ruffatto

Updated 1/25/2023 5:34 PM

Wheeling Township Supervisor Kathy Penner said her seven appointees to Wheeling Township's new mental health board have a wide range of qualifications.

But advocates of the referendum that created the panel say its members are light on mental health expertise.


The township board Tuesday approved the seven members, who include: former Arlington Heights Village Manager Bill Dixon; Wheeling Township Trustee Jeanne Hamilton; Wheeling village Trustee Jim Ruffatto; JoAnne Schultz, a former township trustee and its former director of senior and disability services; Susan Hayes, a nurse at Rockford Pediatric Pulmonology, and the wife of Arlington Heights Mayor Tom Hayes; John Lubbe, an engineer; and Jack Vrett, a veteran and an attorney who ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2022.

Voters in November approved the creation of a special tax to fund mental health services in the township. The new panel, known as a 708 board, will allocate those tax dollars to local organizations that serve people with mental health issues, disabilities or substance abuse disorders.

Penner said the township received 23 applications. After reviewing applications and interviewing candidates with township Director of Finance and Administration Regina Stapleton and Director of General Assistance Julie Villarreal, Penner selected the seven appointees.

"(They have) a wide range of qualifications, including direct experience with individuals with mental health needs in their own families (and among) friends and community," Penner said, adding that members also have knowledge of law, finance and health care.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Hamilton, who has a family member with special needs, works as a controller for a logistics firm and said she would bring financial expertise to the board.

"My goal would be to make sure most of the money goes to the people that need it and not to government bureaucracy or any kind of bureaucracy," she said.

Lorri Grainawi, a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Illinois legislative committee, said she was disappointed that many qualified people who applied were never contacted.

Another referendum advocate, Arlen Gould, said he respects the community leaders appointed by Wheeling Township, but he wishes the panel included experts in mental health.

Go to comments: 0 posted
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.