Village Hosts Meetings on Diversity, Affordable Housing


Amal Hasan

Sharon Starr, chairman of the Human Relations Commission in Libertyville, and Mayor Terry Weppler have been focusing on diversity and inclusion in Libertyville with the help of some committed residents.

According to many of its residents, Libertyville has been deemed a safe, family-friendly town with a great school system and many community events, lacking in only two categories: diversity and affordable housing.  

These conclusions were determined by residents who participated in a survey that was sent out this past summer by the Human Relations Commission of Libertyville. The survey asked questions about public services, safety, affordable housing, diversity and inclusivity, town events, and ease of making friends. 

“We [sent it out] last summer to find out about how people feel, basically to take the pulse of the community on certain issues where the Village can have some impact,” said Sharon Starr, chairperson of the commission.  

Once the surveys were completed and the commission received the feedback, they decided there needed to be deeper discussions in small groups. Libertyville residents were invited to attend online meetings with a maximum of 10 people to discuss topics, such as diversity, welcoming and inclusivity, affordable housing and public safety, and access to cultural opportunities and events. The residents who participated were able to choose which sessions they wanted to attend. 

Volunteers from the commission were given the role of facilitating the discussions and taking notes on what the residents had to say. Tom Gore, who led the discussion about affordable housing and public safety, vouched for the participation from the residents, not only in numbers but also in engagement. Gore explained how vocal they were and how the differing opinions contributed to the conversation. 

“It wasn’t like a session where people came in to complain,” he said. “They came in with, ‘Hey, here are some things that we think are really good and here are some things that could potentially be improved, and here’s some thoughts on how to do that.’”

Summarizing the meetings on affordable housing, Gore said, “The one common theme was many people like to live in Libertyville and there are some ways we could help to provide more housing that’s not upper-end, you know, more medium-priced housing. I think that was the major theme in all three of the meetings for affordable housing.” 

Along with diversity, affordable housing proved to be in need of development.  

“They are connected really because as long as housing costs are out of reach for many people, we have less of a chance of becoming a more diverse community,” Starr commented.

With Libertyville’s population being more than 80% white, diversity, welcoming and inclusivity was a hot topic with many participants. Jennifer Rich, the facilitator for this topic, expressed how passionate the residents were about discussing ways to increase the diversity in Libertyville: “There were a lot of really cool ideas of really simple things for ways for us to be even more welcoming to folks, particularly folks from different cultures and racial and ethnic backgrounds, so things like even just acknowledging commemorative months.”

According to Starr, the residents had the town’s best interest in mind when discussing diversity and believed it would greatly benefit children. To increase diversity would be to give children a better representation of the real world, she said. 

The other main topic that was discussed was cultural opportunities and events, but this meeting was not as popular, according to Starr, due to the lack of events occurring during the pandemic. 

According to Starr, the detailed results from the discussions will be reported to the public early next year. The results will also be shared with Libertyville Mayor Terry Weppler and the Village Board, with the goal of implementing some of the ideas and suggestions captured in these small-group discussions.  

“I think the future of Libertyville lies in us embracing more diversity and…I would hope that we would come together as a community and try to figure out some ways to make that happen,” Rich expressed.