Who is Peter Janko?
Let me start by saying what Peter is not. He is not a career politician He has always been his own person, never swayed by the status quo, doing what is right rather than what is expected.
A war refugee from Germany, Peter was brought to the United States at the age of 4 on a converted troop ship; a journey that taught him a lasting lesson about what means to be an American.
From a young age, Peter has been passionate about making the world a better place. Throughout his life, Peter has engaged in community service and activism. As a teenager growing up in Chicago, Peter was involved in the civil rights movement and the ecology movement (predecessor to today’s environmentalism).
Peter’s first career was with a leading Chicago marketing research firm. After a few years, he went back to school to study electronics leading to a new career in engineering, first in product design, then telecommunications. In 2002, Pete started a business in architectural historic preservation & restoration.
Peter currently sits on the Board of the Preservation Trades Network (PTN), a national non-profit organization which provides education, networking and outreach for the traditional building trades. He previously served on the McHenry County Historic Preservation Commission.
Peter and his wife Nancy live in Marengo in a house they built together, pioneer style, in 1989; they have two adult children.
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Meet Pete: Small Business Owner, Non-Profit Board of Directors, County Commissioner
You can say that I am the embodiment of the American dream. I am an Immigrant and a War Refugee. My family settled in Chicago where I lived most of my life.
I am a lifelong progressive Democrat as well as a lifelong activist/organizer. I began working toward a better planet in my teens by getting involved in civil rights, the Vietnam War protests, and the ecology movement. The first Earth Day was in 1970. The quest for alternative energy went mainstream. Yes, even back then, brought on by the 1973 oil crisis.
I am a graduate of Lane Tech, Chicago's premier high school. At the time, it had every shop class that you could imagine. During the early years of the school's operation, the school was a manual training school for boys, where students could take advantage of a wide array of technical classes. Freshmen were offered carpentry, cabinet making, and wood turning. Sophomores received training in foundry, forge, welding, coremaking and molding. Juniors could take classes in the machine shop. Seniors were able to take electric shop which was the most advanced shop course.
Lane Tech prepared students for high paying skilled occupations like auto mechanics and electricians. It got me where I am today. That is why to this day, I am a very strong advocate for bringing shop classes back into our high schools.
I went on to study engineering at Wilbur Wright College and then Northeastern Illinois University where I also minored in Behavioral Psychology. Already having a degree in Electronics Technology, I was recruited to be lab assistant. I set up many of the subject experiments. Many were new areas of research. At the time, subliminal suggestion was still all the rage.
Our family arrived in the US with pretty much just the clothes on our backs. Getting established and then my parents working to buy our first house meant a pretty frugal life for our family. Children were expected to carry their own weight fairly young. I began working when I was 12 for various mom and pop businesses on the near north side of Chicago.
Every few years, I have gotten the urge to do something new - something that I haven't done before - something appealing - something where my gut says, "I can do that.". I push the 'reset' button and just go for it. In my working life, I have made three major career changes.
My first real job was marketing research at Ernst & Young in Chicago. That's where I acquired the skills of polling and data analysis. After a few years, I got restless and went back to school to study engineering. I worked my way through school as a professional photographer doing fashion and some catalog work. At the time, I was a member of The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) in time worked my way up to editor of The Loupe, the journal of the Chicago chapter of ASMP.
Once I finished my degree, I went to work as a product designer for Motorola in Schaumburg. During my tenure there, I was involved in the design of around 100 new products and lead designer of 14 which led to several design patents.
Then came the big buyout in 1999. I jumped on it and went to work for Scientel where I was made lead engineer on a 22 million dollar communications (data, wireless, fiber optic) infrastructure upgrade for the Illinois Tollway. I finished my portion of the project 3 months early and significantly under budget on a two year project for which I received two letters of commendation from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority.
The completion of the project also coincided with the telecom bust in the early 00's. That is when I took my buyout money and started my own business, Lumenelle Lighting Restoration, Design & Mfg. Lumenelle was started from scratch and three years later played a key role in the largest hotel renovation ever performed in the US.
I have spent most of my life always involved in some civic/advocacy activity.
Over the years, I have been associated with various organizations involved in historic preservation/restoration: The Association for Preservation Technology International (APTI), Landmarks Illinois, and Frank Lloyd Wright Trust primarily with the Roblie House in Chicago.
Eventually, I found my real home on the Board of Directors of Preservation Trades Network, PTN, a 501(c)3 non-profit membership organization founded to provide education, networking and outreach for the traditional building trades, established on the principle that conservation of the built environment is fundamentally dependent on the work of skilled people in all of the traditional building trades who preserve, maintain and restore historic buildings, and build architectural heritage for the future.
I am also Commissioner on the McHenry County Preservation Commission.
In 1984, the state of Illinois passed the County Historic Preservation Act, giving counties the authority to establish historic preservation commissions. The Act called upon counties to:
- Identify, protect, preserve, and restore features of historic significance
- Foster educational interest and pride in the past
- Promote economic development through historic preservation and to Insure harmonious development