Oak Park village attorney retiring after 36 years

Ray Heise drafted handgun ban, worked on integration programs


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Show/Hide Gallery

By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Almost 40 years ago, Ray Heise took a ride downtown to meet Oak Park's then-village attorney, Art Thorpe. Back then, Heise was just a young-gun in law school who sported an afro and a pair of bell bottoms.

With Oak Park's other legal staffer, Dick Martens, in the passenger seat, Heise was so nervous he proceeded to scrape the side of his Buick LeSabre against the bumper of another parked car.

"Very impressive," Heise said, looking back with a long laugh.

They went up to his office and shook hands with the legendary Thorpe, who drafted some of Oak Park's landmark fair housing laws. Thorpe didn't seem to give glowing approval of Heise's interest.

"He said you're lucky the village has anti-nepotism laws. Otherwise my son would have this job," Heise recalled. "I said, 'Thank you.'"

Thirty-six years later, Heise, 62, is on the other side of that handshake. He announced Friday that he's retiring from village hall after 27 years as village attorney. During his time in Oak Park, he has drafted his own set of landmark local laws, such as the community's ban on handguns (since overturned by the Supreme Court), the domestic partnership registry for gay couples, and a program that gave owners incentive to diversify their buildings.

Through it all, Heise built a reputation for working all hours of the night, telling funny stories and sometimes taking a little longer than expected to finish wording a new ordinance.

He started with Oak Park as an intern while finishing up at the Chicago-Kent College of Law. He grew up in Maywood as an only child in a blue-collar family.

One of his first memories on the job was the review of a draft of the "diversity assurance program" (which helped insure property values against decline as the village integrated). He learned, mostly by listening to the former village attorney of 30 years, and said more than anything he remembers being afraid of Thorpe.

If you walked in his office and started talking too much, Thorpe's knee would start bobbing up and down impatiently. Thorpe perfected the art of speaking succinctly so he could get back to work, something Heise admits he's not always good at.

"He scared me," Heise said with a laugh. "He was just this all-knowing fellow who wanted to get things done."

Heise quickly rose in the ranks at village hall, eventually becoming village attorney in 1984 after less than 10 years on the job. Virginia Cassin, 87, the village clerk from 1973 to 1993, said Heise had a propensity for working late hours. She often stayed late with him, gabbing about the workday and a "whole world of different things."

Sometimes Heise would get ribbed for the big piles of stuff in his office though he always seemed to know where to find every file, according to Cassin.

"He had to have things at his fingertips, organized in a manner that would be useful for him," she said. "I think those people who kidded him did it with affection. It wasn't critical as much as they were surprised Ray knew where everything was, but he did."

Heise admits he would often burn the midnight oil though it isn't as easy as it used to be. The long hours would sometimes get him in trouble. He recalls pulling an all-nighter to finish Oak Park's Historic Preservation Ordinance in the 1990s. He was so excited to have it done that he delivered it to each trustee's house "not realizing how bad I looked."

Village Manager Tom Barwin said Heise is often the first guy in the door at village hall and the last guy out. He described him as "tenacious," and he'd often tell funny stories that had a point, often whispered in his ear during long board meetings.

Barwin gave Heise credit for working to get pro-bono lawyers to defend Oak Park's handgun ban before it was ultimately struck down whereas most other communities just gave in.

"We didn't win the case, but we came probably as close as you could possibly come, and that partnership at least got us in the ballpark," Barwin said.

Local gay activist Alan Amato was struck by the amount of research Heise did in crafting Oak Park's domestic partnership registry. The village attorney was willing to listen to suggestions from residents on how to fashion the new law, and it showed in the results.

"The ordinance that was ultimately passed was exactly what we wanted," he said.

Village President David Pope calls Heise the "dean of municipal attorneys" in the state, and his peers looked to him for advice.

He wasn't without his occasional critic. Former Village Trustee Greg Marsey said he would occasionally get frustrated with how long it took for Heise to finish something, but "I never doubted the quality of his work or his commitment to the village," he added.

Assistant Village Attorney Simone Boutet will serve as interim village attorney in the coming months until Oak Park figures out what it wants to do with the position, according to Barwin. Heise's last day is June 30, but he expects to be available to give advice to the village whenever it's needed.

In his retirement, Heise said he expects to take some golf lessons, learn about oil painting and spend time with his wife Lynn. He doesn't have the "juice" he had that kept him up all night when he was a young gun, but he's learned to adapt.

"You get older and, hopefully, wisdom and forethought replaces enthusiasm and energy," he said. "It's kind of a tradeoff that happens."

Reader Comments

45 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy


Posted: May 17th, 2011 4:17 PM

Don Anderson- Original.

Art James  

Posted: May 17th, 2011 3:29 PM

Don, I understand your concerns but wonder if your demand for full disclosure would discourage a whistleblower from coming forward. Aren't you glad that Woodward and Bernstein were able to protect identity of "Deep Throat"? That information blew the lid off the criminal activities in the Nixon White House. If there is a problem at Village Hall, I'd want to know about it more than the name of the person providing the details.

Don Anderson from Oak Park IL  

Posted: May 17th, 2011 1:43 PM

I have a suggestion for all of you internet tough guys. Get the guts to put your real first and last names on your messages, or take your hands off of the keyboard. Simple as that. Prove your tough talk by attaching it to a real person. Otherwise you are simply a troll.

Tom from River Forest  

Posted: May 17th, 2011 11:48 AM

Contrary to OP Resident's opinion that "Les is more," I think the past has dispositively shown that Les is too much.


Posted: May 17th, 2011 11:45 AM

???? Confused

OP Resident  

Posted: May 17th, 2011 11:41 AM

"OP" is still posing as OP Resident. What a waste of space!

OP Resident  

Posted: May 17th, 2011 11:25 AM

Les is more

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 10:22 PM

Come on, Jane. Eli Spencer is a real person and was a neighbor of Village President David Pope. Both Spencer and Pope have since moved away from the neighborhood. If you have any evidence to the contrary, prove it. What exactly is your complaint? Are you upset because of some criticism directed at Ray Heise? I think if you examined his personal conduct, you might be inclined to see things in a different light. Let's leave it at that for now.


Posted: May 16th, 2011 8:53 PM

There is no Eli Spencer-he hides behind that name so he can be nasty.You both are nasty so i can see how you would know him

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 7:31 PM

You are soakin' wet! I am not Les. From what I've read about him, Les Golden doesn't seem the type to hide his identity. He gladly seeks the publicity and infamy. I wouldn't know the guy if he sat next to me on a bus. Regarding Eli Spencer, even Ray Heise will tell you that he is a real person. In fact, Eli Spencer was a neighbor of David Pope. This OP Resident engaged in the debate over the DTOP TIF and got Johnson and Salzman on the record re: collective bargaining rights. Now grab some bench!

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 6:51 PM

I am so glad that someone finally fiqured out that OP Resident is the forever nasty les.Could The forever nasty eli spencer(no one in Oak Park by that name) be a former VOPer named Jim. Didn't les and Jim's mom ever teach them-if you can't say something nice don't say anything at all!Get a life both of you disgruntled people and bother some other town

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 4:51 PM

Quoting an honorable man does not provide you with the license to lie, "OP". You've tried to portray yourself as some kind of champion for the downtrodden but the serious flaws in your character reveal a lack of conviction. I remain convinced that this not some sophomoric stunt you are engaged with me. Rather, you are suffering from a lack of self-confidence and the need to seek revenge against your imagined enemies. Read the posts you placed on this forum. You attack any who dare to challenge.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 3:54 PM

"The only thing we have to fear....is fear itself"- FDR 1932

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 3:48 PM

You are a liar, "OP". That's what this is all about. I'm guessing you feel isolated and alone. The comments you've posted over these many months have failed to give you the recognition and respect you so desperately crave. That's why you strike back with such venom towards anyone who dares to disagree. I've read most of your postings and found it interesting that no one ever has offered support for your stated positions. No one! How does that make you feel? Angry? Frustrated? Weak? Scared?

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 3:15 PM

I do not lie. Now get back to picking up the litter.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 2:56 PM

That's another lie, "OP". There is no "sorry" in your behavior or attitude. You are a bully and a coward. Stalking someone and obtaining personal information about them demonstrates that you have no limits. I know you were hurt when I stated on 5/14 that I was shunning you but understand my position. You posted a blatant lie about me and I fought back. I know bullies like you cannot accept someone who stands up for themselves. There is nasty streak in your character and it is what defines you.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 2:30 PM

I've posted with OP Resident as well since the inception of OP.com. Sorry.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 2:11 PM

"OP", do you realize that you are committing a sin by bearing false witness? Allowing people to think "Les" is involved in your scam is a lie. It's been established that the truth is not not welcome in your home. How empty and sad must be your life. When you post as "OP Resident" this displays a lack of conscience and true cowardice. So, go on with your charade but understand you have achieved nothing. You should attend the May 17 bullying program at OP-RF HS. Seek help if you have the courage.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 1:09 PM

....and also OP is in favor of the Comcast Project which hopefully passes this evening

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 12:50 PM

The fraud post @12:03pm reveals that it is indeed "OP" who is using my dub. Notice the use of caps (LOVE). I checked other posts by "OP" and found numerous examples of capitalizing words. "OP" has used this forum more than anyone to express opinions that generate a lot of responses. That's fine and serves a purpose. But, engaging in a campaign designed to confuse and distort demonstrates a lack of conviction and a disturbed thought process.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 12:27 PM

Luke, you and I have tussled a few times on this forum. I don't know Les but doubt he would be involved with cyber stalking. More likely, this is the "work" of "OP". A post by "OP" last week included an outright lie about myself and several other regular contributers to this forum. I called "OP" out. As did Patricia O'Shea. This set "OP" off and these fraudulent postings began to appear. The intention is to cripple an open and honest exchange of ideas and opinions. We're dealing with a sad sack

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 12:03 PM

Can we all get along? Feel the LOVE Les.

Luke Scottwalker from Oak Park  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 11:56 AM

No doubt one of those using the "OP Resident" moniker is local gadfly Les CTT. Can you guess which one? The other is using Emanual/Stephanopolpus/Axlerod tactics...very effectively I might add. Obviously they've got Les' (I mean OP Resident's) goat.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 11:37 AM

Fraud post @12:10am. Stalking continues.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 16th, 2011 12:10 AM

Lots of exciting things have happened under Mr Heise. I hope your retirement brings you everything you desire and more. It will be hard to fill your shoes.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 15th, 2011 6:56 PM

The phoney is stalking. Again! Say it what you want but refrain from trying to link your comments to those of the original OP Resident. The fact is I know Ray Heise. He is not a person one should consider to be a "moral voice". The response addressed to "Les" was not mine. This ongoing harrassment began shortly after "OP" was caught posting an outright lie about some of the folks who have commented on the Comcast proposal. Coincedence?

OP Resident  

Posted: May 15th, 2011 6:12 PM

OK Les. Give it up


Posted: May 15th, 2011 5:57 PM

An obstructionist always, who saw himself as the the final arbitrator, no matter what village managers and citizens desired. I always wondered why he didn't have a real lawyer job, but obviously no firms wanted him.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 15th, 2011 11:42 AM

Villager is lost if he is using Ray Heise as a moral compass.

Villager from Oak Park  

Posted: May 15th, 2011 10:19 AM

I have worked with Ray Heise for many years and I always found Ray to be an unwavering moral compass for the village of Oak Park.Through many boards and managers he was the one constant moral voice.With so many village government leaders involved in scandals,Oak Park never had to deal with such issues, becuase of the fine people involved in OP government and ever vigilant Ray Heise.Thank you Ray and I am glad you will continue to be a part of the Law department.


Posted: May 14th, 2011 10:46 PM

Ray Heise did show integrity and ethics when he told Tom Barwin not to cut those numerous checks for under $25,000 to the PeopleSoft consultant.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 14th, 2011 10:28 AM

Does Galen Gockel want to read a factual account or a fairy tale?

eli spen  

Posted: May 14th, 2011 10:21 AM

Villager from Oak Park - even more sad you apparently feel the need to comment on things you obviously know nothing about.

What is really in the public interest?  

Posted: May 14th, 2011 9:08 AM

Feeding at the public trough for thirty years isn't necessarily in the public interest, especially, in a position like this where an official might be easily manipulated by money and influence. Even Mayor Daley knew to quit after 22 years! Don't tell me how much someone could have made in the private sector! And if Prince William would have met me first, I could have be the future Queen of England, too! Tough break! A change could be a breath of fresh air, or it might be more of the same.

Jim from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 10:46 PM

I have served on many boards and commisions with Attorney Heise and there is not a finer man. I was always struck by his insight and thoughtful perspective on issues that were brought before us. His love for the village of Oak Park and his integrity always struck me. Attorney Heise-you will be missed.I hope it is true you will continue with the law dept in some capacity.

OP Resident  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 10:24 PM

People offering high praise to Ray Heise don't know the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me, Rhonda!


Posted: May 13th, 2011 7:21 PM

Eli, "You cant always get what you want"- Mick Jagger

Galen Gockel from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 6:17 PM

Ray Heise could have made significantly more money if he had joined a private law firm. Working for a municipality is not a way to amass a huge retirement income. I look forward to Ray's book maybe titled "Oak Parkers I Have Known", or a more provocative title thereof.

Villager from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 5:52 PM

"Eli Spencer", you have never said anything positive about anybody.How sad!!!!

Oak Parker  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 5:42 PM

Congratulations Mr.Heise. Thank you for guiding the village through some of its most historic moments.I have had the pleasure of woring with you for many years and found you to be most gracious, knowledgable and intelligent. PS I don't know anything about Ray's pemsion, but I can quarantee you this man would only do what is best for the VOP.He dedicated his life to the village.Thank you

Municipal lawyer from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 5:35 PM

I work for a municipal law firm and have worked with many attorneys and I can tell you that Ray Heise is the most honarable, ehthical village attorney I have had the pleasure to work with.His dedication to the ideals of Oak Park was an inspiration to everyone in our firm.Congratulations Ray and I am glad that you will continue to be involved with the village during the transitions.

Eli Spencer from 7088488581   

Posted: May 13th, 2011 4:14 PM

Yes. J.M. Mr. Heise has affected a lot of people in Oak Park. People who work for the Village have told me many stories and let me tell you: He has really given the employees a wonderful gift - his resignation.

john walsh from wooddale  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 2:41 PM

he was a good attorney but not too swift in our football pools

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 1:15 PM

I don't even want to know what Mr. Heise's pension is going to be. And I can only imagine how his pay and benefits have been jacked to make for a nice retirement.

J.M Konecki  

Posted: May 13th, 2011 12:57 PM

All the best to Ray Heise. Oak Park has been the beneficiary of his 36 yrs of knowledge, insight, dedication and above all-service. I'm know he will be missed by many, not just at Village Hall, but in our community. Thanks Ray for everything.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad