By Terry Dean
If there were ever a more candid, straight-talking Oak Park public official, Peter Traczyk, this year's runner-up for Villager of the Year, is probably the leader. A financial planner by trade, Traczyk was first elected to the District 97 school board in 2007, taking one of that year's uncontested seats.
Traczyk and the board have had a busy year, hiring a new superintendent, Albert Roberts, and finally—after more than 20 years and a decade of position—deciding to seek a tax hike referendum in this April's election.
Though finance is a main strength, Traczyk, a Beye School parent and former member of its PTO, has also focused on education and the classroom, improving technology use for staff and students, and addressing the ongoing equity issue at the eight elementary and two middle schools. He became board president in 2008.
Among his first expressed goals was to tighten up how meetings are conducted and how long they take. The board's twice-a-month meetings have gotten under more control since. He also guided the board last spring in finding a new superintendent after former Supt. Constance Collins stepped down to take a similar job in Round Lake.
Faced with either putting off a search for another year and installing an interim or expediting a search, the board went with the latter and hired Roberts within a couple of months.
But Traczyk has cultivated a reputation for candidness in addressing issues publicly, including the ongoing tiff over TIFs (tax increment financing) between Dist. 97, Oak Park and River Forest High School and the village of Oak Park.
That skill has been helpful at the board table and in public settings, including last year's State of the District event and the referendum forum from November 2010. Traczyk announced late last fall his intentions to run for re-election.
A married father of three children, two of whom are enrolled in District 97, Traczyk has served as co-president at the Beye PTO and on the Dist. 97 Finance Advisory Committee.