Monday's choice by Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb to appoint Andrea Ott to the Oak Park village board made some history but also neatly affirmed some traditions in village government.
At age 32, Ott may well be the youngest person ever to serve on the village board. That's the history and it confirms Abu-Taleb's promise to turn the village toward a new generation of younger people, younger families. He's made that pledge and has been joined by other village board members who have worried over the graying of political activists in town.
The tradition seen in the appointment is that Ott comes to the board from chairing a village government commission — the Disability Access Commission. Viewing the commissions as a minor league training system for village board membership is a cherished tenet of local government though Abu-Taleb has sometimes shown disdain for the plodding nature of some commissions.
In the wake of Trustee Ray Johnson's resignation from the board, the Journal called for Abu-Taleb to actively search for the most qualified candidate but to favor the addition of a woman to a board heavily dominated by men.
Talking to those who have worked with Ott and in reviewing her resume, it seems clear that she is capable and talented and has built a legal career much in sync with the values Oak Park holds close — fair housing, civil rights, citizen advocacy. And her experience in housing related to people with disabilities — both on the commission and in her practice — gives her a particular insight into the issues surrounding Oak Park's current response to housing discrimination matters raised in the HOPE Fair Housing report.
Ott, whose appointment will most certainly be ratified by the village board next week, will serve as an interim trustee, filling out the final year of Johnson's term. Sorting the politics of this appointment we'd note that trustees Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman have terms expiring and neither has so far announced certain plans for seeking re-election. We'd expect that to change shortly. As Abu-Taleb's strongest allies on the board and Ott enthusiasts, for Salzman and Tucker there is an element of building a new team at work here.
This will be interesting to watch.
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