"The aim of this Caucus is to bring together a representative body of citizens, fairly harmonious with respect to policies in order that a ticket of fit candidates, standing for those policies, may be presented to the voters." -1925 Caucus Council Platform
For 87 years the Winnetka Caucus Council has focused its efforts on the business of recruiting, vetting, interviewing, and nominating candidates to the village's park, library and school boards, and the village council. Although any qualified resident can run for a board or council position without a caucus nomination, the majority of our village board and council members go through the caucus' extensive selection process.
This year the Caucus Council has invested over two hundred hours of volunteer time in the process of refining the candidate selection process so that it is a consistent and objective effort across the four major caucus committees and for all potential nominees. Spearheaded by Village Candidates Committee Chair, Susan M. Harris, and Schools Committee Chair, Alice Clark, the candidate selection process has been updated to include four different phases.
The first phase, Education, is designed to provide caucus members serving on the four major committees with a solid foundation and understanding of the roles and tasks of their committee. Committee members learn about the role of the Caucus, local government, and the board to which they are assigned. They attend board meetings, meet with board members, and become well-versed in the issues most pertinent to that board.
The second phase, Development, mandates that each committee develop a list of unique criteria for evaluating prospective board members. Committee members meet with current and past board members, review previous criteria, and consult with experts on the issues at hand in order to develop a set of essential qualities and skill sets for potential candidates. It is important that these criteria be developed and agreed upon by the committees in an objective environment before candidates are identified.
Candidate Search is the third phase, with each committee using multiple channels of input to identify potential candidates. The caucus utilizes local media, posters, community kiosks, social media, and their website to spread the word that the search process has started. Committee members also reach out to residents who have previously been involved in the village or may be able to recommend interested potential candidates. In addition, the annual survey includes a form for interested parties to express interest or suggest someone they know. Each and every potential candidate is then contacted by a committee member.
Finally, committees implement the fourth phase, which is Candidate Evaluation. Through interviews, referrals, vetting, and committee deliberations, the caucus can select the best, most qualified candidates to serve on the board. Candidates and residents alike can be assured that all candidates are treated objectively and equally during the selection process. All committee members must attend, watch on video, or listen to audio tapes of each interview in order to vote on candidates, so that all members have full knowledge of each candidate before reaching a conclusion.
The four phases are supported by a newly designed, rigorous set of documents that inform and guide the process. First and second interview candidate letters, a guideline for the selection process, a candidate skill set summary, interview questions, and guidelines for conducting candidate interviews are a few of the documents that Harris, Clark and their committees have created.
Susan Harris explains, “In the past each caucus committee has approached the candidate selection process in their own way, leaving room for inconsistencies. We want to be sure that the processes in place are objective, trustworthy, and consistent across the committees responsible for candidate selection, and we want the community to know that we are doing everything possible to nominate the best possible candidates. Our ultimate goal is to find candidates who can work well with a diverse group of people, be unbiased and without a personal agenda, and dedicate the required amount of time to the board work expected of them.”
Sandra Berger, Caucus Council Chair, adds that the intense, year-long efforts of the Caucus Council on the candidate selection process will serve future caucuses well for years to come. “Each caucus is unique and starts its work with a fresh perspective, and we wanted to create a process that could serve as an outline for future candidate committees. We've left no stone unturned in creating a selection process that our residents can trust and rely on.”