Nekritz replaced in 57th, Northfield Township Dems usher in new leadership

New, younger leadership is coming to the Democratic Party in Northfield Township and the General Assembly’s 57th District.

As Elaine Nekritz retires after 14 years in the Illinois House, local Democratic committeemen chose to replaced her Oct. 3 with Jonathan Carroll.

At 43 years old, Carroll is about two years younger than Nekritz was when she first took office in 2003. Carroll was chosen for the job, the committeemen say, by Tracy Katz Muhl, 41, a progressive Northbrook activist who has party backing for a 2018 run for Northfield Township Democratic Committeeman.

The current committeeman, Mike Kreloff, 71, is retiring after the March primary election.

The circumstances surrounding the rise of Muhl and Carroll echo Kreloff and Nekritz’s early careers.

Nekritz became the first chairman of the Northbrook Community Relations Commission in 1997, and Carroll was appointed to that panel this summer. Nekritz was a political neophyte when she first ran for the state house in 1996, losing to Republican Beth Coulson of Glenview. Carroll is new to politics, too, but Kreloff said he has a lot of friends in the area.

Nekritz ran unopposed last time, and the state party wants to keep the 57th a relatively easy seat. Kreloff said that in the district, which has a slight edge of Democratic voters, an affable liberal who avoids arrogance can roll to victory.

“Too many politicians are always telling the voters how the world works rather than listening,” Kreloff said.

Carroll “has that all down. He kind of won everybody over” among the committeemen, he said.

“I think he’s devoted himself to helping others,” said Wheeling Township Democratic Committeeman Mark Walker of Arlington Heights. “He’s bright, kind to people, and he really isn’t all that politically connected.

“People who are new to the political world play well in the suburbs,” he said.

Wheeling has more voters in the 57th District than any other township, but Northbrook has more voters than any other village in the district.

Republican committeemen for Northfield and Wheeling townships did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Carroll is a former special education teacher who now coaches people who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on how to do better at school and work.

“I think I’ve gained perspective from a lot of personal challenges,” Carroll said. “I had challenges growing up, in school, and life. I had to work harder to get where I am in life. People said that I’d never go to college, but I have a master’s degree now.”

Carroll would next run in the March 2018 primary and the general election the following November.

He said Muhl is a family friend. “She introduced me to the process. She said, ‘We are looking for qualified candidates, and you would be a good candidate to serve our district.'”

Muhl said Carroll is ready for the job.

“He has just the kind of spirit we want to send to Springfield,” she said.

Nekritz, a commercial real estate lawyer, was best known for her skill as a bicycle racer, and her support of the sport locally, before she took over the township Democratic committeeman job.

Nekritz gave up the leadership of the township party 12 years ago to Kreloff, a Glenview resident who calls himself a “public interest lobbyist.”

Kreloff ran for alderman in Chicago’s 49th Ward — Rogers Park — on a progressive ticket in 1975, with future Cook County Clerk David Orr as his campaign manager. Kreloff lost, but successfully managed Orr’s aldermanic campaign four years later.

Nekritz said she had seriously looked into the possibility of running for attorney general after the announcement that Attorney General Lisa Madigan would not run again.

“That’s a great gig, attorney general. You get to do a lot of really interesting and meaningful things,” Nekritz said.

She had said in June, upon announcing her retirement, that not only did she fell frustrated by the inability to solve Illinois financial issues, but also the near-constant runs for re-election for a two-year seat. Attorney general candidates run for four-year terms.

While the campaigns would be fewer, they are statewide and often intense, she said. Nekritz ultimately decided against a run.

Kreloff and his second-in-command, Don Frey, both have positions in Muhl’s committeeman campaign, and Muhl said she’s been endorsed by State Sen. Julie Morrison.

Muhl is “a very strong personality, and she’s using a lot of the younger energy that’s out there and (volunteerism has) already increased dramatically,” Kreloff said.

Muhl has been on the spearhead of several local initiatives, including backing the successful drive to convince the Northbrook Village Board to approve her friend Stephanie Zwilling’s Providence Farm sober living house. She also advocated for the board to allow a $10 minimum wage. She was also an advocate for her school district’s new full-day kindergarten.

She said that the elections of President Donald Trump and Gov. Bruce Rauner energized Democrats, and continue to drive support of progressive politics and the local Democratic party.

“We’ve worked hard to build up interest and to get people involved,” Muhl said.

Twitter @IrvLeavitt

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