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.
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.”