Debbie Van Sickle is the Economic Development Manager for the Village of Schaumburg where she manages compliance of TIF redevelopment agreements, small business grant programs, and business attraction and retention efforts. She is a graduate of the Northern Illinois University Master of Public Administration program with a local government management emphasis. Her B.S. degree in Geography focused on Urban and Economic Systems and Geographic Information Systems.
Debbie spent five years traveling the world as an International Flight Attendant, where the majority of her flights were for the Military moving U.S. troops. She has a special interest in Community Development and a long history of volunteer service for organizations including Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Parent/Teacher Associations, and the Business and Professional Women’s foundation.
She serves on the Illinois Tax Increment Association Board of Directors and is a member of the International Economic Development Council, Illinois City/County Management Association, and International Council of Shopping Centers.
1. As a female in local government, what do you feel has changed over the last several years?
I have seen more effort to look inward as an organization to reflect on hiring practices by questioning how they contribute to a lack of diversity, equity and inclusion, and also more effort to act on it. It’s up to us to continue the dialog and ensure representation for all our constituents.
In regard to economic development, the impact on small businesses due to COVID-19 led to more business owners reaching out to local government for assistance. For many, this was the first time they either interacted with their village or felt the village was there to help them rather than issue fees, fines, or violations. This helped to establish more open communication and a positive relationship between the village and business community.
2. Did you see yourself becoming a public servant when you were growing up? If not, what else did you picture yourself doing? What is the favorite part of your job?
No, I did not see myself becoming a public servant, as I never had much knowledge of the inner workings of local government, nor the opportunities that are available. As immigrants, my parents grew up in a country with deep seated distrust of government and we never felt integrated into the communities we lived in. It was expected that I marry and have children, but there was never any conversation about a career. It wasn’t until I started renovating houses and obtained my first building permit that I took notice of what local government touches. Then, as I traveled around the world, I was always looking at the connection between people and where they live and work. It was during my travels that I learned to appreciate the impact that local government has on the members of its community. I chose to get my MPA in local government so that I could help bridge any disconnect between the members of community with the local resources available to them. My favorite part of the job is the opportunity I have to shape that connection and improve quality of life.
3. Has there been a local government leader or local elected official who made a difference in your career or life, whether a close mentor of someone that you looked up to? What did they teach you?
I am grateful to my NIU MPA professors in general and Dr. Zeemering in particular. They taught me how seemingly mundane decisions can negatively affect those most vulnerable in our communities and how to frame programs to be reflective of the community’s needs. I am also grateful to my former classmates, most of whom were millennials. The intellect and investment in their chosen field made me aware of how media and perception skews our perception of the millennials. I have complete confidence that this generation will be competent and compassionate leaders.
4. What advice do you have for people who are looking to work in a public service role?
There are many directions you can go in the public service sector. It’s important that the core focus and responsibilities within the role you are considering brings you fulfillment, and then align your efforts with that through learning, networking and volunteering. I was always passionate about increasing people’s access to education, jobs, and home ownership. In some small way, I do all of this within my role.
5. What accomplishments, big or small, have you celebrated recently?
My biggest accomplishment recently has been the purchase and renovation of my home. It took me over twenty years to finish college while raising my kids and my home is a reminder of how hard I worked and how fortunate I am that I had the opportunity to accomplish all that I have.
I was also just offered a part-time teaching position at NIU in the MPA department where I will get others excited about economic development. As a teenager I never thought I would be a college graduate, let alone a teacher!
6. How long have you been part of the Legacy Project? And what do you hope to obtain while being a part of this organization?
I have been a part of this organization since 2018. My first interaction with the Legacy Project was by attending the annual conference. It didn’t take long to realize the importance of this group, and as a result I started to attend the quarterly lunch meetings. I have found the mentorship and networking to be critical to my professional growth and hope to inspire others in the same way.
7. Briefly describe, the best part of being part of economic development you think everyone should learn or know about?
The best part of economic development is the ability to affect many people in a variety of ways. It’s exciting to see projects and programs come to fruition that provide people with jobs, homes, and community connection.
There are many facets to economic development. Here’s a really great video that highlights this in a fun and clear way. And remember, enjoy some ice cream!
Past Member Spotlights
Village of Beach Park