Metro East news briefs

Chimneys are nice to deck with holiday decorations but the Illinois Emergency Management Agency is reminding residents to make sure fireplaces and chimneys have been inspected and are properly working. (Photo courtesy of city of Hennepin)

IEMA highlights holiday safety in December

With the holiday season in full swing, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) is offering tips to help people stay safe now and into the new year.  From decorating the tree to traveling to grandma’s house with a sleigh full of new toys, be sure to take simple steps to keep your family safe.

Decorating —Whether decorating for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or New Year’s Eve, candles and strings of colored lights create a festive atmosphere but it’s important to be careful when using them.

Candles should never be left unattended, and placed far away from flammable materials.

Candles should also be placed on stable furniture in fire-safe holders that will catch dripping wax.  Holiday lights and electrical decorations should bear the name of an independent testing lab to prove they were safety tested.

 Heating —Chimneys, fireplaces and wood and coal stoves should be regularly inspected and cleaned when necessary.  Additionally, furnaces should be checked every year by professionals to ensure mechanical parts are functioning properly and that nothing is blocking the flue.

Malfunctioning furnaces increase both the fire and carbon monoxide risks.

Under Illinois law, homes should be equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors within 15 feet of each sleeping area.

The detectors should be tested monthly to ensure they’re functioning and the batteries are still good.  Never use a gas or charcoal grill inside your home or attached garage because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Shopping — Whether shopping online or in the store, be sure to utilize smart shopping techniques this holiday season. If shopping online, connect with care.

Make sure your home wireless network is password protected, and set strong passwords that make it hard for cyber criminals to guess.

During the holidays, scammers may send fake emails requiring you to click a link for a special offer.  Shop online through trusted retailers to avoid these scams, and do not click on links from unknown senders.

Travel — When traveling, whether by car, train or plane, be sure to utilize smart travel tips.

If traveling by car, remember to pack an emergency supply kit with essentials for all your passengers.

Fill out an emergency communications plan and let your in case of emergency (ICE) contact know your plan.  Also, before you hit the road, check local road conditions and avoid traveling during winter storms.

If traveling by plane for the holidays, be sure to review the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) security screening tips.

When packing for your flights, consider a small emergency kit that includes a flashlight and spare USB power bank.

Follow IEMA on Facebook ( and Twitter ( for additional #HolidaySafety preparedness information. You can also find additional information on emergency preparedness at

Pilot project helps self-represented litigants

The Illinois Third Judicial Circuit this month begins offering an innovative new program to help litigants in Madison County pursue legal action without a lawyer.

The move comes amid a “dramatic” increase in the number of self-represented litigants each month, according to a statement from Third Circuit Chief Judge William Mudge.

The circuit’s pilot family law mediation program will make certified, third-party mediators available to help settle divorce and family law cases involving two self-represented litigants.

“This is a great opportunity for families in Madison County to meet with a certified, neutral third-party mediator and attempt to reach a mutual agreement regarding issues pertaining to their children and/or their property,” said Mudge

The program is funded through a grant from the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice.

Associate Judge Maureen Schuette, the Supervising Judge of the Third Circuit’s Family Division, applied for the grant in early October, after seeing the need for additional family mediators to assist litigants who are proceeding through the court system without an attorney.

In charge of the program is Self-Represented Litigant Coordinator Angela Wille.

The pilot project marks the Third Circuit’s second effort in two years to help litigants pursue legal redress without an attorney.

The circuit was awarded a grant in 2018 to expand self-represented litigant services in Bond County.

The same grant was used to renovate the Edwardsville Courthouse law library, making it more user-friendly for both self-represented litigants and attorneys.

Chris Doucleff

Madison County appoints new development chief 

The Madison County Board, Dec. 4, appointed Chris Doucleff as the county’s new planning and development administrator.

Doucleff replaces Administrator Matt Brandmeyer, who left the county on Nov. 8 to take a job as the community development director for the Village of Skokie.

County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler opted to forgo a formal search for a candidate to replace Brandmeyer, and instead nominated a replacement selected from within the department.

Doucleff has been serving as deputy administrator for the planning and development department.

“I’m confident Chris is qualified to take on the role as administrator,” Prenzler said. “Chris has done a great job during his three years with the county. He brings an invaluable range of experience in real estate and zoning and has great organizational skills.”

Doucleff also has an exceptional record of accomplishment in project implementation, strategic planning, budget and financial management and fostering public and private partnerships, Prenzler said.

Doucleff is an Alton native and a 1987 Alton High School graduate. He holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Butler University in Indianapolis and brings with him a background in business and real estate.

Prior to working for the county, Doucleff was a partner in Doucleff Real Estate Appraisal Co. He also worked as the general manager of Emerald Brick Co., a demolition and architectural artifacts dealer. While growing up, we worked for his family’s business, Duke Bakery.

“I’m excited to take on this new role,” Doucleff said.


Accreditor honors E. St. Louis Superintendent Culver

A non-profit accreditation agency, changed with making sure schools meet state standards, is honoring the superintendent of East St. Louis School District 189.

District 189 Superintendent Arthur Culver received the Excellence in Education Award last month during the 2019 Midwest Region Cognia Connect Conference in Chicago.

Culver has demonstrated “unparalleled leadership during a time when systematic change was desperately needed.  Facing many challenges in leadership, learning, and resource, Superintendent Culver took to task the necessary steps to improve the district’s climate and culture, reaching out to stakeholders to provide data and feedback that would help inform the improvement journey for the road ahead,” Dr. Lori Hopkins, Cognia regional director, said

The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) placed Culver in the charge of the East St. Louis District in 2011; after the state took control of the district for repeated failure to meet federally-set criteria.

Since that time, Culver has improved high school retention, graduation rates, the number of students enrolled in advanced placement classes and college, and other academic performance measures, Hopkins said.  He has established a new system to monitor educational program effectiveness, balanced the district budget, and eliminated wasteful spending, she adds.

Earlier this year, Cognia, which provides academic review and quality improvement programs for District 189, restored the district’s academic accreditation.

Atlanta-based Cognia, formerly AdvancED, is among about seven accreditation organizations, across the U.S., that review school districts to ensure compliance with state standards

Diane Rehm

NPR’s Rehm to speak at Mannie Jackson Center

Award-winning radio host and bestselling author Diane Rehm will be the featured guest speaker for the Mannie Jackson Center for the Humanities Foundation’s (MJCHF) Fifth Annual Distinguished Leadership Dinner and Fundraiser, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

As the host of National Public Radio’s (NPR) “Diane Rehm Show,” the 30-year public radio veteran interviewed newsmakers, journalists and authors — including then-Sen. Barack Obama, and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter — attracting a weekly on-air audience of more than 2.8 million.

In 2014, President Barack Obama presented Rehm with the National Humanities Medal.

In 2010, Rehm won a Personal Peabody Award, considered among the most prestigious prizes in electronic media, for her 30-plus years in public broadcasting. Rehm has been also named “Washingtonian of the Year,” and one of the “150 Most Influential People in Washington” by Washingtonian magazine.

She’s been included several times on the magazine’s list of the “100 Most Powerful Women,” and as the daughter of Arab immigrants, was selected as Arab American of the Year in 2013.

Over her final eight years on the air, Rehm conducted her broadcast despite spasmodic dysphonia; a neurological voice disorder that causes strained, difficult speech.

The MJCHF Fifth Annual Distinguished Leadership Dinner and Fundraiser will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the SIUE Meridian Ballroom; doors will open at 6 p.m.

Tickets, which include dinner and a program, are $200 each and are available online at The event has sold out in past years.