Meet Yumeka Brown: A Candidate for Election to the Board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

This is my third interview with candidates for the board of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District (MWRD) of Greater Chicago. The election will be held on June 28, 2022; early voting is ongoing. You can also read my interviews with board candidates Patricia Theresa Flynn and Daniel Pogorzelski.

You might ask…why is the MWRD important to me?

The MWRD plays a major role in treating wastewater, reducing flooding (increasingly important as Illinois’ climate becomes wetter due to global climate change), and reducing the amount of stormwater (which collects and transports animal waste, garbage, pesticides, fertilizers, oil, road salt, oil, grease, and other potential pollutants) into Lake Michigan. The district serves an area of 872 square miles, which includes the city of Chicago and 125 suburban communities. Because of the importance of clean water and the protection of our beautiful lake and all the Great Lakes, residents of our area deserve board members who will be strong advocates for environmental protection and water management in the Chicago area.

Yumeka Brown is running for an open seat for a six-year term on the board.  She is currently the Village Clerk of Matteson; the Senior Director, Governance and Operations for the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine; and a small business owner (she owns Redwood Luxe restaurant in Olympia Fields, Illinois). Yumeka holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is a 2020 graduate of the Illinois Women in Leadership Training Academy. She says that she developed a keen interest in environmental law, resources, and the Clean Water Act during her employment with the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources with the American Bar Association.

Yumeka was kind enough to talk with me about what inspired her interest in protecting the environment, her goals if elected, important environmental issues in the Chicago area, and some of her favorite nearby nature destinations. I’m voting for Yumeka, and I hope that you’ll consider doing so, too.

Q. Why is protecting the environment so important to you? 

A. This election is very personal for me. In 2019, my son was diagnosed with a waterborne environmental illness called Blastomycosis. A perfectly healthy 14-year-old boy excited about being a freshman in high school, playing basketball and video games with his friends, unexpectedly fell ill and started to deteriorate right before my eyes, all because of the air he breathed. For me, this race isn’t about political power or a stepping stone. It is about utilizing my education, strong governance background, heart for the people, and most importantly, turning my pain into purpose so that no mother has to endure what I went through. I am running to eradicate environmental injustices that are often seen in black and brown communities. This experience with my very own son has ignited a fire in me to be a crusader for water rights and environmental justice.  

Q. If elected, what are your goals for your first year in office? 

A. If elected, I will fight each and every day for clean water, clean air, and healthy and equitable communities throughout the entire county. I’ll be an advocate for the marginalized, underrepresented communities who do not have the means to incorporate stormwater projects in their community. If we have learned nothing else over the last two years, public health and safety are at the forefront of our very existence. My priorities are to create sustainable communities with green infrastructure to reduce flooding issues, increase public education so that residents know who MWRD is, and how it impacts their lives daily. I also plan to partner with schools and align with STEM programs to create future engineers and chemists who can be the next generation of leaders to advocate for their communities.

Q. What are three of the most pressing environmental (including water-related) issues in the Southland that must be addressed in the next five years? 

A. In the Southland, the most pressing issues are flooding, infrastructure, and resources. To fix these items, communities in the Southland need resources allocated. The needs in the Southland need to be highlighted, prioritized, and addressed. I hope to do this as a resident, community advocate, and voice in the Southland region.  

Q. What are a few of your favorite nature destinations in the area, and why? 

A. My favorite nature destination is the forest preserves that are located off of Cicero and Vollmer Road, as well as other preserves in the Southland. You can grab a pair of binoculars and see the most beautiful birds while walking and riding a bike on miles of beautiful trails. Honestly, the forest preserves in the Southland are hidden gems.  

Copyright (my text) Andrew Morkes; Yumeka Brown holds the copyright to her interview responses and photo

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Here are a few other stories about the Southland:

Visit to Lincoln Cemetery Reveals Rich African American Aviation History

Discovering Nature and Finding Peace During the Pandemic: A Story of Three Seasons in Chicago’s Southland

20+ Great Destinations on Chicago’s South Side and in the Southland to Check Out This Weekend and Beyond

A Personal Ghost Story, Ghosts of Chicago’s Southwest Suburbs, and 11 Spots for Post-Ghost-Tour Fun

Visit Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery Not Only for Spooks and Scares, But Also For Its Rich Local History

Looking for some great nature destinations in Chicagoland? If so, I just published Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit. It features amazing destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Click on the title to learn more. The book (306 pages, 210+ photos) is only $18.99. Click here to learn more and purchase the book.

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ABOUT ANDREW MORKES

I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job OpeningsNontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDsThey Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titlesThey Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.

In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering CareersWhat Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).

My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.

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