Sally Higginson had a lot of homework to do before her first City Council meeting.
The Highland Park native and former Transportation Commissioner was sworn in as an interim Councilman on Monday night. She took the seat of former City Councilman Steve Mandel, who won a spot on the Lake County Board in November .
With votes on a tax levy increase, a controversial redesign of Rosewood Beach and a partially-city-funded water plant upgrade, Monday night's City Council meeting was packed to say the least.
All in all, there were 110 documents to be read before Monday's meeting.
"I didn't get a lot of sleep over the weekend because I was so busy preparing," Higginson said.
The newly appointed City Council member voted in favor of the tax levy increase, the beach redesign and the water plant upgrade. She had met with members of the Ravinia Neighbors Association earlier in the day, who explained their opposition to the Rosewood plan. Though Higginson left the meeting with a deep respect for the community group, she felt strongly about voting in favor of the beach redevelopment.
"If my vote to save Rosewood counts, then I have added value to the city," Higginson said.
The tax levy increase and water plant upgrade votes were tougher for Higginson to decide on. The two percent property tax increase means the city will be able to put money towards its pension obligations, what Higginson called "keeping the non-glamorous parts of the city functioning."
"I think a little bit of incremental tax increase now is far easier than a big surprise in a couple of years," Higginson said.
The water plant upgrade was the toughest vote of the night for Higginson, but once she read that the city would be able to fund half of the project by selling water to other communities, she decided she supported it.
"The City of Highland Park is only on the hook for half of it," she said.
A warm welcome
Higginson, who is not running for City Council and will only serve until the 2013 election winners are sworn in next May, was approached by Mayor Nancy Rotering about the position while the two were at lunch together at Country Kitchen.
"At the end of lunch, before she left, I reached across and said, 'Mayor, I want to thank you for putting me on Transportation Commission. I have really enjoyed it," Higginson said.
Rotering started to leave, turned around and came back.
"Oh my gosh," Rotering told Higginson. "You might be value added to the City Council."
Higginson was formally offered the spot after Thanksgiving. She was happy to accept.
"Once you're tapped by the mayor, how can you say no?" she said.
In a statement issued by the city, Rotering said Higginson was bright and passionate about the community.
“[Higginson] will undoubtedly work very hard to make decisions in the best interests of the City, its residents and its businesses," Rotering said.
After accepting Rotering's offer, Higginson used the next week to learn everything she could about what she would be voting on during her first meeting. She took a tour of the water plant, met with Rotering several times and gleaned the documents.
"It's like transportation commission on steroids," Higginson said about her new role. "Instead of worrying about parking on a single block, I'm worried about taxes for an entire city."
Higginson said she's been warmly received by the other member of the City Council, even those who didn't share her votes at Monday's meeting. Though the new position is keeping her busier than ever, she's thrilled with the opportunity.
"I'm feeling tired and I have way too many emails, but I'm proud," Higginson said. "I'm proud to serve my city."
And while she's touched that Rotering would think of her for the City Council spot, Higginson has her fingers crossed about getting called upon by another, slightly more prominent political figure.
"I'm waiting for Michelle Obama to tap me," Higginson said with a laugh. "Nancy is the next best thing."