By Anna Lothson
Trustee Colette Lueck said being a village leader is about balancing decisions between what your head says and your heart tells you.
Lueck is running for reelection on the Oak Park Together slate, which is backed by the Village Manager Association. The slate includes three trustee candidates, a village clerk candidate all of whom are unopposed and John Hedges, who is running for village president in a contested race. The slate has used the phrase "experience matters" as its campaign slogan.
The trustee roster includes incumbent trustee Glenn Brewer, and Peter Barber, a newcomer to village government but the current District 97 elementary school board president.
Also running for reelection is Village Clerk Teresa Powell. Each of the candidates have backed Hedges' position that being part of the village board is a unique venture and one that needs people who understand the innerworkings of local government.
"There's a steep learning curve," Brewer said at a recent candidate forum. "It's not like any other endeavor you engage in."
Being civically engaged through participation in boards and commissions, and understanding how to smoothly and efficiently implement policy is also needed, the group has said. Mainly, the slate emphasizes the need to look at issues from a broader perspective.
Barber said he's motivated to run to enhance collaboration across government bodies. He wants issues to be looked at through a comprehensive perspective and get the "board out of the weeds" of issues and trust village staff more.
"Board's make decisions by coming together," Barber said. "I learned that. I have been part of boards that have been functional and boards that have been non-functional."
The slate has tackled this campaign on a united front, with Anan Abu-Taleb being its only challenger in his battle with Hedges for village president. In the campaign they've highlighted that business districts on average are 92 percent full and more than 100 new businesses have opened in the past year. Oak Park is a landlocked village, but the village has key parcels that are ready for development, the group says.
"The time is now to develop Oak Park," Lueck said. This includes addressing needs in all business districts and creating a unified message to encourage economic development across the community.
Brewer said the board is working on improving processes and efficiency. He also touted the coming hire of a new economic development director, a position that's expected to be filled in the coming months. More coordination and collaboration is also a theme the group is stressing.
"There doesn't seem to be a lot of coordination between business districts," Barber said. "We need more forward thinking."
Oak Park has had its share of challenges in recent years, including tackling longstanding debt in the parking department, restructuring of the budget process, and reviewing how economic development is approached.
But the slate candidates feel confident the team in place, two of whom are already on the board, will continue the leadership necessary in Oak Park.
Learn more about the Oak Park Together slate on its website voteopt.org.