Charna was born in Chicago, raised in Evanston, and spent significant amounts of time living/working/playing in the Middle East, Central America, and on the East Coast. Over the last 10 years Charna has spent the majority of her time working at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights as the Director of Crisis Prevention, Resettlement, and Disaster Recovery. In this role she oversaw all refugee and immigrant community services programming (refugee resettlement, workforce development, housing, education, youth & senior services, etc) and all disaster preparedness and recovery work. Notable accomplishments include: the Katrina Relief Initiative – the successful resettlement of over 10,000 evacuees from the Gulf Coast to Chicago, the Haitian repatriation effort, the Put Illinois to Work statewide stimulus project, the development of refugee resettlement operations to Chicago, and the development of the first ever Chicagoland public/private partnership for disaster preparedness and recovery (CCOAD). This year Charna was awarded the 2011 Red Cross Hero Award for Disaster Relief. She is also proud to be the recipient of the Mary Fran Myers Scholarship Award from the Natural Hazards Center in Boulder, Colorado. Charna attended the University of Chicago for graduate school. She has a Master of Science degree in Threat and Response Management (2009) and a Master of Arts degree in Social Service Administration (2005). She attended Brandeis University for undergrad. Charna is currently finishing the writing of a textbook with Ameya on a new framework for emergency management and she has a really cool American Pit Bull Terrier (a rescue of course) named Baby who aspires to be the 47th ward Public Service Office mascot.
Director of Constituent Services
Hailing from the 48th Ward, Ernie was an aide to Alderman Mary Ann Smith for over 13 years — accomplishing major streetscapes, cutting-edge environmental initiatives, many new park improvements and dazzling community-designed murals. He has been passionate about his community since becoming a local block club leader soon after moving into Edgewater in 1989. Founding the Greening Ridge Improvement Project in 1995, he coordinated hundreds of community volunteers in building over 50 large planter boxes along Ridge Avenue for which he fundraises and organizes annual plantings of flowers. Ernie has also assumed leadership roles at the Edgewater Community Council and the North Lake Shore Earth Day steering committee. His past job positions have included Director of Research and Computers Systems at a Chicago City College, teaching at the college and gifted junior high school level, program evaluation and statistical analysis, and gut-rehabbing two apartment buildings. Born in the Philippines and raised in San Francisco, Ernie credits his college experience at Cal-Berkeley in developing his open and critical mind. His knowledge of social policy and its impact on human development was further refined in grad school at Northwestern University. Outside of work, Ernie is a world adventure traveller, loves the outdoors and is known for his homemade pies.
Bill Higgins is the Program Analyst & Coordinator for Chicago’s 47th Ward Public Service office. Before joining the Alderman’s staff, Bill has worked as an urban planner for a consulting firm on projects in Illinois and across the country, helping facilitate public involvement and the planning process on local, state, and federal transportation projects.
Bill is a two-time graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, first receiving his bachelors of Liberal Arts in Anthropology, during which time he was very active on campus as a member of the UIC Jazz band, a resident assistant, orientation leader, and production director of WUIC Radio. He returned to UIC to complete a Masters in Urban Planning and Policy. Reflecting his passion for the environment, as part of his coursework at UIC Bill was a contributor to the Palos Park Green Downtown Development Plan in which he applied the many sustainable development principals, designing a bike friendly mixed-use downtown district. Also, drawing from a project experience gained as an intern, Bill’s master’s project was a plan for redevelopment of an abandoned saw mill site on the Navajo Nation in Arizona to promote a green-collar industry to help revitalize the blighted region.
Bill has lived in the Chicago area for his entire life and within the city for the past nine years. Having lived in the 47th ward for over a year he is excited to apply his skills to support the Alderman’s office and our community. Bill is an avocational musician and has performed with a number of bands in festivals and venues across the midwest.
Jim Poole is proud to call the 47th Ward home. As a residential counselor in both Louisville, Kentucky and Baltimore, Maryland, Jim helped teenagers and adults with behavioral issues and chronic mental illness improve their lives and increase their self-sufficiency. After working for several years in ground-level social services Jim decided that he wanted to help shape policies that were impacting his clients. He returned to school at the University of Chicago where he focused on studying policy and decision analysis techniques and policy advocacy. Jim is particularly interested in housing. During his studies, Jim worked at Inspiration Corporation in Uptown and at the Corporation for Supportive Housing. He also worked with After School Matters in their downtown office coordinating an inclusion program for teens with special needs. Jim was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky and received a Congressional scholarship to study abroad in Germany during his junior year of high school. Jim graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2006 with a BA in History and German and received his Master’s degree from the University of Chicago in Social Service Administration.
Dara Salk has lived in the 47th Ward for 35 years. She is a member and volunteer of the Riverbank Neighbors, volunteer at PAWS Chicago and previous volunteer at Chicago Waldorf School. She is also a founding member of Waldorf High School Exploratory Group. Dara developed and marketed the Waldorf Calendar fundraising program; a co-founder of One More Check Annual Fundraising Committee and co-founder Chicago Waldorf Parent Teacher Organization. Dara has also worked as an Executive Recruiter, Life Coach and Personal Mentoring Consultant. Dara is most proud of being a wife and mother of 2; both of whom live in Washington, DC; having taken up the family interest in Public Service and Government.