Notable Native: Frank Gardner


Angela Conners

Frank Gardner

By Metro Editor

Frank Gardner, a 2012 Columbia film alumnus, is taking his lifelong passion for the environment to Chicago’s political sphere by running for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which manages the Chicago Area Waterway System. He has been campaigning for the March 18 election since September. Gardner said his brief and enjoyable time as a volunteer at the Forest Preserve District of Cook County during his senior year of college sparked his desire to take his love for nature beyond forest hikes and turn it into a job that he thinks can really make a difference.

Gardner spoke with The Chronicle about his time at Columbia, vision for Chicago’s environment and desire to spread his message.

THE CHRONICLE: What sparked your interest in running for a commissioner position at the MWRD?

FRANK GARDNER: My passion [and] my zeal for the environment have always been great and I thought, ‘What better way than actually getting involved and getting actual hands on experience?’ [Also], with the cleanup activities [I did] at the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, I feel that’s something I offer that makes my candidacy unique. I always had a great deal of respect for treating this planet right. We live here. I think we should all participate [and] just do our very best to make sure we don’t trash it up.

CC: Why did you decide to major in film at Columbia?

FG: I always enjoyed movies. Upon entering Columbia, my focus was on directing and I realized I preferred writing screenplays. I consider that to be my area of expertise among film. I found that to be the most interesting, so that is what my focus was on when I was at Columbia.

CC: What do you enjoy about living in the city?

FG: I think when people think of America, they really think of Chicago and I just want this city to be the best it possibly could be. By getting involved in the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, I thought that is obviously the best solution to better it, and I hope that I can do my best.

CC: Have your parents been supportive throughout your candidacy?

FG: They have always been very supportive. I cannot thank them enough. My parents have definitely inspired me. They have always been very passionate about environmental protection, so I’ve taken after them in that regard.

CC: How did your time at the forest preserve impact you?

FG: [It] shaped me into the man I am now, in addition to my time at Columbia College because attending college is when you really become the person you were meant to be. I believe that’s what gave me the push for my candidacy for office.

CC: What would you like to see improved?

FG: We need to rectify the issue with the Asian carp [and] the deep tunnel project. I would also advise we cut the staff, [specifically] the board of commissioners. Currently there are nine commissioners and they rotate with every election. Three will be elected this upcoming election, and I believe that we really only need three. We can save taxpayers a measurable amount of money.

CC: Do you think there is enough awareness about environmental issues?

FG: There is certainly always room for improvement. As far as awareness is concerned, I think the awareness is there. As far as involvement, obviously that’s what we need to push for and that’s what the emphasis needs to be on.

CC: What do you hope for the future?

FG: Just the betterment of Chicago [and] the ever growing improvement of this great city.