Profile of Village of Summit Trustee Mayra Ortiz
Mayra Ortiz loves Summit, and has little time for those who don’t. It’s more than her speaking as an elected official. It’s from the heart.
“I take great pride in being born and raised her. And, I’m not going anywhere. I want my kids to be a proud as I am. When I go to meetings, my daughter asks ‘Mommy, where are you going?’ I tell her, ‘I’m going to build the future for you, to make things better for you’,” Ortiz said.
“I want people to say ‘Oh, Summit, they’re right across the street from Chicago. It’s a great village.’ I hate when people criticize Summit. That makes my blood boil,” she said.
Ortiz, 30, is the youngest of six trustees and only Hispanic woman on the Summit Village Board. She was appointed in August 2015 and won a four-year term in 2017. She had run for the board and lost in 2013.
“We were pretty close. So, we ran again 2015. That’s when they challenged our petitions. We want downtown to hearings. I learned a lot. And they denied our appeal, so I ran as a write-in candidate. That’s hard to do. But they saw I wasn’t going away. I still showed up at board meetings. I never gave up,” she said.
Sergio Rodriguez, who had moved from trustee to the mayor’s office to replace the late Joe Strzelczyk in 2015, was so impressed with what he saw in Ortiz , he appointed her to fill the trustee vacancy left by his move.
“I felt her heart was in the right place and she wanted to make a change. She wanted to grow and learn. She has extensive family here, grew up here, went through the public school system, was a very successful soccer player and won a college scholarship. I was looking for some new young talent and felt she’d be an asset to the board,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez likes her “perseverance and how she’s always asking questions. She’s done some very instrumental work with community agencies on immigration, and is eager to be involved.”
When asked what would happen had she not been appointed to the board in 2015, she laughed and said, “I would have ran again anyway.”
When she’s not tending to village business, she’s busy with her job at NICOR in Bellwood where she’s in charge of restoration projects. She and Jose Ortiz, her husband of eight years, have two young daughters, Emma, 3, and Elisa, 1. They live in the house where she grew up.
“I got married young, but my life changed a lot when my mom, Margarita Camacho, passed away. I had to grow up really fast. I just turned 21,” Ortiz said.
At the time, Ortiz was a senior in college. She’s one of eight children, and has a twin sister.
“When my mom passed away, there were still five girls at home. It was hard on my dad, Prospero. It was a very hard transition. I tried to be the mom. It was hard. I was mom for a year, which was a lot for a 21-year-old,” she recalled.
She thinks the village has good leadership now.
“Growing up, I feel the leadership lost control of the community and we’re such a small community. I think we can do better in certain areas. A big thing for me is appearances. You want to walk around and take pride in our homes. It’s about getting the right ordinances in place and enforcing them,” she said.
“And we’re small enough where we should all know each other. I think a family atmosphere here is very possible,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz is a 2005 graduate of Argo High School, and is a 2009 graduate of Dominican University in River Forest, where she majored in business administration.
“That’s helped me as a trustee. I’m big on processes. It helps you offer something to the village on how we administer things.”
During this interview at the grand opening of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in Summit, Ortiz said she thinks fellow trustees and and Rodriguez are doing a good job of attracting new businesses.
She thinks highly of Jack Hynes, the village’s economic consultant, calling him “a great asset and huge part of our success.”
Ortiz never imagined she’d be a village trustee, let alone the only Hispanic woman on the board.
“It means a lot. I tell the Hispanic community they have to get involved. We have a lot to offer. Don’t be scared. I think a lot of people are intimidated and insecure. It’s just the learning aspect of things. I love to learn,” Ortiz said.
“I’d like to see the community improve. I think our village employees deserve better resources. Our buildings are really outdated. A new village hall and police department would be nice. We need the money for that,” she said.
Ortiz, who is working on a master’s degree in organizational leadership, would like to see a new train station in Summit and more daily trains stopping. She likes Rodriguez’ idea to improve the closed boat launch into a recreational center.
And, she does enjoy working with former rival Rodriguez, Summit’s 40-year-old mayor: “He really listens. That’s key.”
The toughest part of being a trustee is learning to bide her time. “I’ve learned it takes time. The mayor tells that to me constantly, you have to learn to be patient.”
Before the interview ended, Ortiz smiled and said, “you may not know it, but I’m a big soccer star here at Argo High School.”
She still holds the career goal scoring records at Argo High and at Dominican University. She was elected to the Hall of Fame at Dominican in 2015. A knee injury her senior year ended her goal of playing pro soccer.
“I’m very competitive,” she said, adding that her new sport is politics. “I’m excited for the future. It looks like we’re on the right path.”
(Feature profile contributed by writer Steve Metsch)