Flooded with well wishes, Trustee Ray Johnson looks ahead

'Incredible opportunity' will take Johnson to New York


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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Tuesday morning, 12 hours after he stunned Oak Park with the news of his coming resignation from the village board, Trustee Ray Johnson was "taking it all in" as messages flooded his Facebook page and the Journal's comment board.

"People are incredibly nice," said Johnson. "It's good, but it makes this hard."

The senior member of the village board with 11 years of service, Johnson announced his March 3 resignation at the close of a busy Monday village board meeting. Most of his fellow trustees learned the news earlier Monday evening that Johnson has gained a major promotion at his job with HSBC bank and would be moving to New York — Brooklyn specifically — in the months ahead.

Johnson said he told Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and Trustee Colette Lueck earlier in separate private meetings. Johnson and Lueck have been particularly close board colleagues.

The 50-year-old Johnson has worked at HSBC for 31 years. It was his first job out of college and he has stayed with the bank in various capacities since. Johnson said Tuesday that he worried about his job at the bank a few years ago when the economic crisis hit and the bank closed the marketing department where he had worked. He landed in the bank's community investment department and will become a vice president focusing on all of the bank's employee volunteer efforts in the U.S.

Owing to the retirement of other longtime members of the department, the position opened up and was offered to Johnson in mid-December. He took time over the holidays with his family in Michigan to discuss the move but said he was clear from the start that he wanted the new post.

"This is a great job. You don't say no to these opportunities. I know I will be successful, and it is meaningful work," he said.

Johnson said that until the economic crisis hit he assumed he'd stay in Oak Park forever.

"There was a time even a few years ago when I thought I'd be in Oak Park the rest of my life," he said.

After the great recession hit, he said, he knew it was time "to embrace change" if it came. And, he said, "I know I have a great place to come back to here in Oak Park."

Johnson took office in 2003. He has been an active supporter of the Oak Park Area Gay and Lesbian Association. In fact, in listing the five most notable transitions in Oak Park on Monday night, he included the village's strong support for the rights of gays, lesbians and the transgendered on that list.

Included on that list after Monday night was the remaking of the village government's economic development efforts which Johnson has long supported.

"I've been a skeptic and a critic of OPDC," Johnson said. "Not tonight. Tonight I'm optimistic."

While there have been tensions between Johnson and Abu-Taleb since the latter's election last April, Johnson said those disagreements had no impact on his decision to move to New York and to leave the board.

"I've learned from Anan in just a year. And I've seen the impact a leader can have," said Johnson.

And pointing to notable current issues before the village board Johnson said, "On economic development, on building and property standards, on parking issues there is no daylight between us."

In announcing his resignation Monday, Johnson tearfully said, "Serving on the village board for the last 11 years and prior to that as a commissioner for a combined five years on the community development citizen advisory commission and planning commission has been one of my greatest honors. Village government has been a highlight of my life."

Lueck said it was Johnson who inspired her to become involved in village government.

"Ray recruited me," she said. "I wouldn't be a trustee if Ray hadn't come to me and said, 'Colette, why don't you consider running?' I am tremendously grateful for his support and collaboration throughout the years."

Abu-Taleb has up to 60 days to choose an interim replacement, following Johnson's departure. It is the president's choice to make although the ratification of the village board is required.

The last trustee to resign from the board was Ernest Moore in 2008. Moore left after just over a year on the board to take a job in Texas. His seat was filled by Lueck, who was re-elected to the board in 2009 and 2013.

Dan Haley and Graham Johnston contributed to this report.

Email: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Ray Johnson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 8th, 2014 2:35 PM

Thanks for all the nice comments. I really appreciate everyone's well wishes.

Karen Kessler from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2014 8:02 PM

Congratulations. Thanks so much for your contributions to Oak Park. I've always been grateful for your voice on the board when I watched or read about the proceedings. Hope you love Brooklyn and your new job. All good things.

doug wyman from oak park  

Posted: February 5th, 2014 10:31 AM

Ray,,Congratulations. they chose the right man for the job. Your company is fortunate to have you.Oak park has been a better place becauce of you .We will all miss you. Barbara and Iwish you peace ,love and joy

Bruce Samuels from Oak Park  

Posted: February 5th, 2014 8:39 AM

Ray, I may have not agreed with you some of the time, but I never questioned your dedication to the Village. In addition, you are a perfect gentleman and I hope Brooklyn is not too hard on you. As for the negative anonymous comments below, as they say in Brooklyn these folks have no "cachachcas" so pay them no mind. I'll be in Brooklyn in May visiting friends and relatives, and if you have time, maybe I can buy you a drink.


Posted: February 5th, 2014 7:51 AM

Hey Tom you don't see any because he's a class act. Something you obviously are not. This guy spent over 10 years working for the Village, you may not like everything he did but there was no one more engaged. It was freakish to see how he was and you sir have nothing to complain about. What have you done for Oak Park in the past 10 year except whine and complain? If you can't say anything nice get off the thread with your foolishness.

j.oak park  

Posted: February 5th, 2014 6:42 AM

you didn't have to leave, Ray, to step down...something you should have done long ago.


Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:47 PM

Best wishes Ray and thanks for serving. Can you take Colette with you?

Bill D  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 7:38 PM

Oh, snap! Q, I stand corrected. You're right, there IS a dearth of stories about African Americans in Wednesday Journal. If you define "dearth" as "not a majority of the published stories." Get real, Q.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 6:35 PM

Bill D, both Django and Black Historian would like stories about African-American's, because they know Oak Park is suppose to be the trend setter in the World, when it comes to all races, and sexual preferences, etc.. This is an opportunity to place their message some where that it will get noticed, and in turn, you call them jerks. Ask yourself why there aren't more stories about African-Americans in the Wednesday Journal. Ray had political goals and he now has a better paying job.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 4:32 PM

Congratulations on your new job. You always seemed to respond to questions or requests that I put forward and I thank you for doing that and for serving on the board. Still not much happening on Harrison Arts district but maybe things will start improving soon.

Bill D  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 4:02 PM

You're both jerks, Django and Black Historian. Only a jerk would step on the well wishes of one of the people most dedicated to fairness and inclusiveness in the village. Just can't let Ray have his moment, can you? Do you two sit down with prehatredism and actively scheme ways to diminish the African American point of view in other's eyes?

Ray Jay  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 3:36 PM

Please don't call him Mister Johnson!

Mary Ann from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 2:56 PM

Wishing you all the best and thanks for your years of hard work and service.

Marge Greenwald from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 2:50 PM

Ray, Congratulations on a new, challenging position, and thank you for all your years of listening, leading, engaging and caring. And from one Brooklynite to (almost) another, it's a great place to be. Best wishes.

Dawn Ferencak from Chicago  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 1:41 PM

Ray, sending you hugs and wishing you a great start to a new beginning in the Big Apple.

Donna Peel from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 12:52 PM

Ray is the role model for any representative. He truly exemplifies what public service is about --responsive and educated on issues. He will be missed, but his leadership has inspired others to follow his example. Congratulations for a job well-done and good luck on your new endeavor.

June from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 11:54 AM

Congrats! Thank you for your hard work & dedication to OP. What will we do without you? You will definitely be missed!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 11:15 AM

I do not disagree with your concern about damage done to the village in the last couple of decades, but it is unfair to put the blame on Ray. He was one member of a seven person board. No one can say that Ray was not caring, honest, responsive to the public, hard working, and a man with a passion for the village. Things did not work the way he thought they would, but he never complained or quit. He deserves a thank you from the community.

Bill D  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 10:30 AM

Truly the end of an era. Best wishes, Ray. I hear they just elected your kind of mayor, so your timing is excellent.

Lori Malinski from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 10:24 AM

Congrats, Ray! Going to miss you. You were often a voice of reason amidst the din. Thanks for all of your time and hard work on our behalf!

Pauline Coffman from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:52 AM

Ray, Best wishes in New York. You have tried your best to represent Oak Park. I remember going door-to-door with you and others to canvass folks and find out what the issues were. And you did it during non-election years, too! Thanks!

Dick McKinlay from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:47 AM

Ray, your sincere, well-spirited commitment to the community has been greatly valued and very much appreciated, as has your willingness always to listen to the other side of the argument. You will be greatly missed on the Board of Trustees. Be well, and continue to do good work!

Karen Osborne from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:39 AM

Congratulations on the promotion. We will miss you, Ray!

Debby Preiser from River Forest  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:33 AM

Best wishes for more great success in the Big Apple, Ray! We first met at a campaign event when you and David Pope were running together. I liked you both very much from the start. And I appreciate your ever-present enthusiasm and passion for all you do! Oak Park is a better community for your service.

OP Resident #692 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 9:32 AM

I respect and appreciate Ray's years of service to Oak Park despite frequently disagreeing with his position on village issues. Congrats on the promotion and best of luck.

M Stewart from Oak Park   

Posted: February 4th, 2014 8:58 AM

Thanks for your many years of service to Oak Park! Best of luck in NYC.

aeschlemanp from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 8:53 AM

Ray, Congrats on the new assignment. Best of luck as you begin the new journey. It has been a pleasure to work with you on many issues and topics over the years, and I am sure you will be able to find some community group to help when you get to NYC.

KrisG from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 8:01 AM

I'm happy for Ray but sad for the village -- he's been a smart, dedicated, visionary and compassionate member of the board. You will be missed!

Carol from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 7:20 AM

Congratulations on the big move, Ray, although I'm sorry to see you go!

Dan Hefner from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 6:42 AM

Ray is a good man and a hard working, dedicated Village Trustee. I first met Ray on his first election campaign. he was knocking on doors introducing himself. He promised he would do his best for all people in Oak park and I believe he fulfilled his commitment. I wish Ray the best in his future. He will be missed.

Mary Darnall from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 6:22 AM

Congratulations, Ray! However, this is said with some sadness for our loss. I have felt so connected to Village Hall because of your responsiveness to my inquiries over the years. Your enthusiasm at meetings was inspirational. I wish you all the best!

Lanny Lutz from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 4:38 AM

Thank you, Ray, for your many years of dedicated service to our community. It was obvious from the outset that of all candidates on stage at election forums, you were by far the happiest up there to be there. Best of luck in your new direction.

Mary Rodrigo from Oak Park  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 2:19 AM

Thank you for your long service to the Oak Park community. Best of luck with your future endeavors.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 4th, 2014 2:04 AM

Ray has been a dedicated public servant for many years - and sometimes under appreciated. This is a great loss for Oak Park. I wish Ray well in his new role with HSBC and will miss him as a friend and a fixture of Oak Park good government.


Posted: February 4th, 2014 12:36 AM

Ray is truly a great and truly will be missed. He is always involved, actively looking for ways to make things better in OP.

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: February 3rd, 2014 10:57 PM

Congratulations on your new role, Ray. Best wishes, and thank you for your passionate service to Oak Park.

Mike Lennox from Oak Park  

Posted: February 3rd, 2014 10:34 PM

Didn't always agree, however thank you for your service.

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