The Highland Park Borough Council has selected resident and long-time community volunteer, Tara Canavera, to fill a vacancy on the governing body, created following the July 3 death of Councilwoman Susan Welkovits.
The five remaining members of the Council chose Ms. Canavera Tuesday night, following a series of interviews with several applicants. She was one of three finalists recommended to the Council by the Highland Park Democratic Committee following a broad applicant pool that party leaders said solicited an unprecedented level of interest.
State law requires the party of the vacancy, in this case the Democratic Party, to select three candidates for consideration for appointment to the Council seat. The mayor does not vote.
Following Councilwoman Welkovits’ death on July 3, the Highland Park Democratic Committee sought residents and registered Democrats to apply for the seat. The Committee interviewed each applicant on July 16.
Ms. Canavera has lived in Highland Park since 2007 with her husband, Eric, and two children, daughter Samantha (21) and son Jared (12). Since moving to Highland Park, she has been an active volunteer, serving on the Commission of Universal Access, the Human Relations Commission, and the Recreation Commissions. She is also a founding member of the Borough’s Public Information Committee.
Ms. Canavera has also been involved in the public schools as the co-president of the Special Education Parent Advisory Council and PTO board member. She served as a parent representative to the hiring committee for the school district and served on the Highland Park Board of Education’s special Communications Task Force in 2014.
Professionally, Ms. Canavera holds a master of social work and works with adult clients with severe mental illness, running group and one-on-one therapy sessions. She said she uses that lens to address the social, racial, and economic divide in town.
“I am passionate about Highland Park and I believe that our community can be truly inclusive, but it takes a solid vision, hard work, and community engagement,” Ms. Canavera said. “I am so honored for this appointment and understand that I have big shoes to fill when it comes to Susie’s drive and commitment to Highland Park.”
As a member of the Council, Ms. Canavera said she looks forward to promoting environment protection, tax stabilization, and downtown development.
“Councilwoman Tara Canavera has shown her commitment to Highland Park and has spent her time empowering others as a community leader and in her professional life. She will continue to serve the town well in this capacity and we were delighted to see so many new faces and hear fresh ideas about the issues facing our town,” said Democratic Chair Bruce Morgan. “Replacing Councilwoman Welkovits would be impossible, but we think Tara will work hard to carry forward her legacy.”
Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler said she anticipated Ms. Canavera’s presence to bring about new voices and perspectives. “Tara has consistently advocated for low-income residents, and particularly renters, which represent the majority of Highland Park residents. I truly thank all of the residents who expressed interest in this appointment, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Councilwoman Canavera.”