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Grant Park elects its first woman mayor

GRANT PARK — When she was in sixth grade, Jamie Hawkins was elected to the student council at her suburban school.

“It didn’t last too long,” she said of her role. “We really didn’t do much. The teachers pretty much decided everything.”

Hawkins expects her second elected position to be far more productive and long-lasting.

The 41-year-old Hawkins was recently elected mayor of Grant Park, where she will soon be replacing Martin Roth, who has served the past six years as the village’s mayor.

While Hawkins outpolled Roth 235-136, she not only become the village’s newest mayor, but its first woman elected to the top position in the northeastern Kankakee County community and likely only the fifth woman elected mayor in Kankakee County’s history.

A former police officer with the Beecher Police Department from 2007-19, Hawkins has most recently been a member of the eight-person Kankakee Community College Police Department and its first woman member, having been hired there in October 2019.

‘NO IDEA’ SHE WAS THE 1ST

A 16-year resident of Grant Park, Hawkins never envisioned herself stepping into the political arena, let alone being mayor of the approximately 1,400-member community.

But then, the mother of three freely admits she hasn’t also followed the path which most people would travel.

She contemplated the idea of running for office in Grant Park, first thinking about being a trustee. Then, she said, why not think a little bigger and run for mayor.

So in the summer 2020, when many people had plenty of time of their hands to think, she decided she would run for the top office. She never looked back.

“My family was like ‘What?!?’ I said ‘Why not?’”

The fact that she will become the first woman to hold the mayor’s gavel in Grant Park never even crossed her mind until it was mentioned to her on election day that she would be the first woman mayor in the village.

“I had no idea. It is an accomplishment. It does add a little more spotlight, but I’m just here to help. ... I hope to be doing this for some time,” she said.

FAMILY SUPPORT

Her oldest child, 21-year-old Jase, a 2017 graduate of Grant Park High School and a part-time firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Grant Park Fire Department, said he’s not quite sure how to describe his thoughts on his mom being mayor.

“I think it’s very awesome to be the first woman mayor,” he said. “I’m not sure I said that the best way, but it’s a great opportunity for her to show that she can do what a man can do.”

He said he will help around the house more “while she’s doing mayor’s stuff.”

He noted thus far the experience has been great.

“I’ve been calling her mayor,” he acknowledged.

One of his two sisters, Teagen, 19, a 2020 Grant Park graduate, said she didn’t realize her mom was political.

“She just wants everyone’s voice to be heard. I know Grant Park is small so some might not considered it that big of a deal, but this is still amazing,” Teagen said, adding that the more she thinks about it, her mom being mayor is quite natural.

“She loves to help people,” she said. “This is amazing. I think it’s a great step toward helping women getting involved.”

Scott Dillman, the six-year village clerk, said in this day and age a woman taking municipal leadership roles is becoming less and less unusual.

“Women can do anything. I think she might give us a new perspective,” he said, adding that from the time she announced her candidacy, she had a very real chance of winning.

“It’s definitely a growing trend. I don’t know if I would call Grant Park a trend-setting community. We are just laid back. She obviously got her people out to vote,” he said.

TAKES OATH MAY 3

Hawkins will be sworn into office on May 3. She is supported by a six-member village board.

What is her first mission?

“I want people to know this is their town,” she said. “I want to bring back small-town pride.”

She can’t get away from the fact that she will soon be the mayor.

“I never thought I would be involved in politics,” she said. “I always felt I would hate to be in that place. But I’m very ‘Mama Bear’ when it come to Grant Park. I think of everyone as my little ducklings. I want to protect them.”

Perhaps that is her instinct as a mother. She doesn’t disagree with that assessment.

“Now-a-days women are doing everything. If I do a good job here, no one will say anything about me being a woman. But if not, they’ll say something.”

She also doesn’t take this new role lightly.

“I take this responsibility very seriously.”


Local
Another bobcat spotted in southern Will County

WILMINGTON — A game camera recently snapped the first photos of a bobcat walking through the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Sand Ridge Savanna Nature Preserve in Custer Township, located about 20 miles northwest of Kankakee.

This is the second bobcat sighting in a Will County preserve in a little over six months. A mother bobcat and her kittens were photographed walking through a small open area in Kankakee Sands Preserve also in Custer Township in late September.

The cameras, which are triggered by motion, are used in the preserves to document animal numbers and movements. The information obtained by the cameras helps guide the Forest Preserve District’s land management strategies.

In addition to Sand Ridge Savanna and Kankakee Sands, bobcats also have been recorded at Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve in Reed Township, Evans-Judge Preserve in Custer Township and Sugar Creek Preserve in Joliet.

Photos of bobcats in the preserves are rare because the animals are so elusive, said Becky Blankenship, the Forest Preserve’s wildlife biologist. So, capturing photos of the creatures in September and again this month at Sand Ridge Savanna Nature Preserve was noteworthy.

“The bobcat was caught on my game camera walking alone along a game trail,” Blankenship said of the latest photos. “My camera caught three pictures. I can’t tell if this individual is one from the Kankakee Sands photos.

“Bobcats can have a wide variety of home range sizes, so that won’t help either,” she added. “Logically, if last year’s photos showed a mother with two kittens, there is a male out there somewhere, too. I’d love to get more photos to help piece this wildlife story together.”

For more information on the bobcats in the Forest Preserve District, visit bit.ly/willcobobcats.


Local
Bourbonnais Township Parks District wants community's input

BRADLEY — What does Bourbonnais Township want out of its park district? That was the question Wednesday night at Recreation Station in Bradley where the Bourbonnais Township Park District was conducting, in conjunction with Hitchcock Design Group of Naperville, a workshop for residents.

“We want your ideas,” said Bridget Deatrick, senior associate with Hitchcock, to the dozen or so township residents in attendance. “We’re not just talking about physical facilities but also programs and special events.”

Deatrick along with Andy Howard, a principal with Hitchcock, prodded those in attendance to write down ideas, wants and needs.

“This is a brainstorming session,” Howard said.

Deatrick and Howard had the residents write down at least three ideas on sticky notes, and they were all posted on the board that read “What should BTPD focus on over the next five years?”

Hitchcock Design Group has been contracted by the district to put together a comprehensive plan for BTPD. Something its executive director Hollice Clark said is long overdue.

“We’re excited about doing this,” Clark said. “The last time this was done was in 1992. The staff is very excited to give an opportunity to tell the board what they want. That’s what it comes down to — what the people want.”

In addition to Wednesday’s community meeting, a 15-minute survey can be taken and submitted online at btpd.org.

Some of those at the meeting made it clear they want to see pickleball courts.

“We enjoy it,” said Dwight Lockwood, of Bourbonnais, who was there with his wife, Linda. “We go down to Chebanse. They’re a much smaller community, and they have three outdoor courts and two indoor courts. In the past we’ve had to drive all the way up to Manhattan and Frankfort, so we’d like to see something here.”

Linda Lockwood said the sport is growing in popularity.

“In Florida, that’s all you see is pickleball courts,” she said. “They’re pretty elaborate, so we just like it to see it.”

BTPD has pickleball courts in the planning stages at its Diamond Point Park.

Dave Panici, of Bourbonnais, said his main interest was pickbleball, too.

“I’m an aging baby boomer and pickleball is a quite popular sport,” he said. “It’s very good for seniors, it’s a very good for social [activity]. I think it would be, in this community, a phenomenal draw around the area.”

Other ideas or wishes brought up in the meeting were:

• Facility updates and maintenance

• Partnerships with other public entities

• Synthetic turf fields for Diamond Point Park ball fields.

• Intramural sports for all ages; teen and middle school programs, especially in the summer

• Indoor trampoline facility; indoor pickleball courts

• More space for senior programs

“This is going to be a long process,” Deatrick said.

Howard said the process of compiling all the survey results will last into June and July, and Hitchcock Design Group will present the information to the board.

“This is an all-inclusive process and we want to include as many people in the community as possible,” Howard said. “… We’re really starting to see some common threads that start to be a higher priority.”

Clark really emphasized spreading the word about taking the survey.

“Tell your friends and neighbors,” Clark said. “This is a way that we can communicate with you to know what you want out of your park district. This is your opportunity to speak your mind to tell us what you want.

“In addition, once they have completed the comprehensive plan in July or August, we will have a whole copy of the plan on our website to browse through at your convenience,” Clark said.

Panici said he wished there would’ve been a bigger turnout at the meeting.

“Maybe there will be once word gets around [about the survey],” he said. “Hollice is right. We all have a stake, and it’s good to have input into what is our community.”


Local
Jury convicts Bourbonnais man on child sex charge

PEORIA — A Bourbonnais man arrested as part of an FBI sting in Bradley in February 2020 has been sentenced on a child sex charge.

A federal jury deliberated for approximately one hour before returning its guilty verdict Wednesday afternoon against Timothy Lyle Dean, 38, for one count of enticement of a minor, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Dean arranged to meet an individual whom he believed to be a 14-year-old minor for sexual activity on the dating application Grindr, according to testimony delivered over two days in U.S. District Court.

Sentencing for Dean has been scheduled for Sept. 14 before Senior U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm.

Dean faces statutory penalties of 10 years to life imprisonment. He has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest.

Dean was arrested and charged as a result of an FBI investigation that resulted in the arrest of 15 men in Bradley on child sex charges, according to federal authorities. Eleven of the men were from Kankakee County.

The men, who ranged in age from 21 to 50, were charged in separate complaints with attempted enticement of a child to engage in illegal sexual activity. Some also were charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children.

The sting was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.

According to the affidavits filed in support of the complaints, each of the men arrested used various social media applications to contact and engage online with FBI covert employees posing as 14- and 15-year-old minors, both boys and girls. Arrangements were made to meet with the intent to engage in sexual activity, police say.

As the men arrived at or near the designated address in Bradley, they were arrested and taken into custody by FBI special agents, Bradley Police Department, Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office and the Kankakee Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group.


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