Bonnie McDonald joined Landmarks Illinois as its president in June of 2012 and, in that role, advances the vision, mission, and programs of Illinois' only statewide preservation nonprofit organization. She provides leadership to place Landmarks Illinois in the vanguard of the preservation field by envisioning strategic programs and partnerships in collaboration with its 37-member board, nine staff, committees, interns, members, and colleagues. In her five years with Landmarks Illinois, the organization has grown its capacity to help people save places by adding four staff, opening its first regional office in Springfield, publishing several economic studies on preservation, and playing a visible role to save several key properties and policies. She has been twice named to the Newcity “Design 50” list of the 50 people shaping Chicago design.
Bonnie’s expertise in policy and development through historic preservation has emerged over her 19 years working and studying in the field. Her first executive director position came at the age of 26 running the Anoka County Historical Society in Anoka, Minnesota from 2002 through 2005. She became the executive director of the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota in November, 2005, and quadrupled the organization’s capacity in seven years. This included re-launching the Minnesota Main Street Program within the Alliance, as well as starting the Investment Partnership Program, a real estate partnership where the Alliance invests in development projects.
Bonnie is most proud of her role assisting with the passage of legislation to provide incentives for preservation in Illinois and Minnesota. In Illinois, Landmarks advanced the passage and re-authorization of the River Edge Redevelopment Zone State Historic Tax Credit. As the Alliance’s lobbyist, she advocated for the passage of the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Act providing millions of dollars annually for preservation grant funding. She was also a key leader in the passage of the Minnesota state historic tax credit in 2010, which has since incented over $500 million in economic activity through the sustainable reuse of historic assets. She was named a “Minnesotan on the Move” in 2011 by Finance & Commerce, as well as being called to meet President Barack Obama at the White House that year in recognition of her work to help solve the nation’s employment crisis. The Preservation Alliance of Minnesota was honored in 2012 with the National Trust for Historic Preservation National Award for Organizational Excellence in recognition of its success.
Bonnie’s leadership positions have included service as vice chair of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago Redevelopment Corporation Board, vice chair of the Partners Network of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and chair of the public policy subcommittee for the Building Jobs Coalition in Minnesota. She serves as an ex-officio board member of the Friends of the Charnley-Persky House in Chicago, the Glessner House Museum in Chicago, and the Hegeler-Carus Mansion in LaSalle.
Bonnie graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History (Summa Cum Laude) and received a Master of Arts in City and Regional Planning - Historic Preservation Planning from Cornell University.
She resides with her husband, Michael, in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago in a 1907 home being restored one small step at a time. In their free time, Bonnie and Michael are avid travelers, as well as growing their organic urban farm, keeping bees and chickens, and giving away produce to neighbors and friends.