When Oak Park Village Manager Carl Swenson met with his staff last Wednesday, the morning after the New Leadership Party sweep of three trustee seats, he said he had a simple message: "Our job is to help the incoming trustees be successful."
Swenson said he has already called and congratulated each of the newly elected trustees and offered his help in their transition to office. He said he has had a lengthier discussion with President-elect David Pope, in part to help plan the series of "transition committee" meetings the new board will hold beginning this week.
Swenson, who along with his staff was sometimes criticized by the NLP during the campaign, expressed no concern about the election result, saying, "I am accustomed to having contended elections." He did say, though, that the continuing turnover of board members was something of a surprise to him. "This election continues a trend of a lot of turnover in Oak Park. Irregardless of slates or parties, in this election there would have been a lot of turnover."
Neither the VMA's Oak Park First slate nor the NLP slate had a single incumbent candidate. "The reality of this situation with the high turnover is that we don't have a lot of institutional knowledge. We'll have to go through some history," he said.
The new board, said Swenson, "will have a desire to change policies or direction. That's normal. No matter who wins, we're objective professionals [on staff]. I've told our staff that they are in their positions because of their professional skills. And under our [village manager] form of government, we don't get drawn into the political arena."