Highland Park, News

City selects replacement in wake of Councilmember Jeff Hoobler’s resignation

Shorthanded for months, the Highland Park City Council is now whole again.

During the council meeting on Monday, June 10, the City announced its newest councilmember, Barisa Meckler Bruckman, who takes the seat left vacant when Jeff Hoobler resigned at the end of April. Hoobler sent an official resignation letter — which the City of Highland Park provided to The Record — to City officials on April 29.

Elected in 2023, Hoobler has not participated in the City Council since February, taking leave when his status and activity as a councilmember came into question. Hoobler announced in mid-March his intent to resign from office at the end of April and then followed through.

With an open spot on the council, Mayor Nancy Rotering had 60 days to fill the seat, she said on June 10. Rotering requested suggestions from councilmembers for new members, according to City Manager Ghida Neukirch, who added that the city also received inbound interest from residents.

Nineteen candidates applied for the vacant council seat, Neukirch said, and Rotering and the council interviewed two finalists before selecting Bruckman, a Highland Park High School alumna and three-year member of the City’s Plan and Design Commission.

Rotering called Bruckman’s experience on the commission and professional background in public policy a “tremendous asset to the council.”

“As a graduate of Highland Park High School who returned to this community to raise a beautiful family, Barisa also understands the priorities and challenges facing many Highland Park residents, particularly the young families who have chosen to make their home here,” Rotering said in a statement.

Bruckman has degrees in political science and public policy and has worked in human resources with the U.S. General Services Administration, the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago. Her experience also includes working for the White House Office of Presidential Personnel under then-President Barack Obama and within Obama’s office when he was a U.S. senator.

Together, let us embrace the opportunities ahead, working collaboratively to enhance the quality of life for all those who call Highland Park home.”
Barisa Meckler Bruckman, Highland Park’s newest councilmember

Bruckman will serve through at least the April 2025 election, when the vacated position and its remaining two years will be on the ballot. Bruckman can choose to run for the open seat.

“It is with immense pride and gratitude that I stand before you today as a lifelong Highland Park resident and now newly installed member of our City Council ready to hit the ground running,” Bruckman said at the meeting, adding, “As we embark on this journey together, I am inspired by the spirit of positive progress that defines our community. Together, let us embrace the opportunities ahead, working collaboratively to enhance the quality of life for all those who call Highland Park home.”

In a statement, Councilmember Annette Lidawer, who was absent June 10, supported Bruckman’s appointment but also took time to lament the departure of Hoobler’s strengths.

“Before I extend my full support to Barisa Bruckman’s candidacy, I do want to observe that in losing Councilmember Hoobler, the city lost a champion for economic and business development,” Lidawer’s statement read. “This is significant and I hope we continue to focus on economic development as a priority and as a pillar.”

Councilmember Andres Tapia shared Lidawer’s sentiment and added that Hoobler also championed environmental sustainability.

Hoobler was the leading vote-getter among five candidates in the 2023 council election. A few months later, the council revealed that Hoobler’s status was in jeopardy because of a City regulation that does not allow elected officials to hold liquor licenses. Hoobler is the co-founder of Ravinia Brewing Company.

Jeff Hoobler speaks outside of City Hall on April 24. | The Record File Photo

In February, the City Council voted against amending the ordinance to allow for liquor-license holders to hold local office. The decision led to backlash from many community members, who confronted the city officials during board meetings in March and April.

The April feedback was highlighted by a pre-meeting rally in which Hoobler told dozens in the crowd, “We all know what is being done here — it’s politics at its dirtiest,” pointing specifically to Rotering and Councilmembers Kim Stone and Anthony Blumberg for opposing a change to the liquor-license law.

Hoobler congratulated Bruckman on her appointment to the council, while saying she has a chance to challenge the City’s restrictions on councilmembers.

“I hope she votes to change this Prohibition-era law,” he wrote to The Record in a text message. “… This would be a great step in healing between the city government, the small businesses and the community of Highland Park.”

During the April rally, Hoobler said that his resignation “does not mean he is going away,” and he told The Record that while he will remain involved, the depth of that involvement depends on if the City Council reconsiders the liquor-license provision for councilmembers.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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