Few but Mighty: Women Village Presidents

Appeared in the Spring/Summer 2023 Gazette
by Nan Greenough

Gwen Trindl, c. 1980s.

Starting in 1915 – two years after Illinois passed women’s voting, but five years before the 19th Amendment – each Winnetka Village Council included at least one woman trustee.

In 1980 Gwen Trindl broke the glass ceiling to become the first woman Village President. Gwen was an experienced hand, who served on most village commissions and boards before joining the Village Council. During her term, McDonald’s was approved and the Winnetka prohibition on alcohol sales ended.

As President of the Northwest Municipal Conference, Gwen was an early advocate for creating PACE (the suburban bus and regional transit part of the RTA), and became a board member of two regional transit boards and chair of the Cook County Council of Mayors.

Gwen was an independent facilitator for non-profits. With a leadership style that was firm yet consultative, she brought everyone on board during difficult conversations.

In 2016 the Chamber of Commerce honored Gwen with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement award.

Clarine Hall served on the Village Council with Gwen for four years before being elected Village President in 1985.
Mid-career, Clarine earned an MBA from University of Chicago in the XP program, which required classroom work on weekends. She served on the boards of the Chicago Symphony, the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois and was Executive Director with the Northwest Suburban Council of Girl Scouts of America.

As Supervisor of New Trier Township, an elected position, Clarine recruited North Shore police chiefs to support a youth peer jury program, which started in 1998. “Anytime you can keep a juvenile out of court, give them a second chance and make the mistake a learning process, they’re stronger,” she said.

Jeanne Bradner, having served as a Village Trustee from 1979-1982, was elected as Village President in 1989. By this time, she was an established political hand.

She had been recruited to run in the 1978 Republican primary for the State Senate challenging Roger Keats. Jeanne worked for Senator Charles Percy, was John Anderson’s Illinois Presidential campaign manager, and served as a delegate to the 1980 Republican National Convention where she led the floor fight against Reagan’s conservative platform. Having served in both the Thompson and Bush administrations, Jeanne became a nationally known expert in the 1990s on volunteer and non-profit management and authored books and articles on volunteerism.

Louise Holland, 2015. Photo courtesy of Holly Marihugh.

Louise Holland also volunteered both in Winnetka and outside the village for decades. In 1997, she was elected as Winnetka’s fourth woman Village President. She was a strong voice for local retailing, historic preservation and helping introduce recycling to the village. Louise chaired nearly every non-profit board in town.

Her years as Village President saw the completion of the Comprehensive Plan and the classically styled Elm St. bridge. Post-presidency Louise became co-president of the Winnetka Historical Society during complicated years that led to opening two vintage buildings to the public. She chaired both the Landmark Preservation Commission and the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

In 2018 the Chamber of Commerce honored Louise with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jessica Tucker served on Village Council during 2004-07 and was elected Village President in 2009. A University of Michigan grad and a law school grad, Jessica brought her legal background to the job.

Notable outside events demanded the Council’s attention, including the 2008-09 recession and a 100-yr rain event that flooded a large part of the community. These led to searching for fiscal efficiencies with other taxing entities and tackling stormwater management. As President, Jessica also supported the business districts and streetscape improvements. As part of the Northwest Municipal Conference Jessica traveled to Springfield several times to advocate for Winnetka.

Winnetka has benefited in all areas (governmental and non-profit) from volunteer service by its residents. Across all boards, women have made a distinctive contribution to that legacy. Winnetka’s women Village Presidents were particularly energetic and devoted.

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