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By Megan Dooley
In a touching sendoff ceremony Monday night, members of the Oak Park Village Board of Trustees bid farewell to two departing trustees and welcomed their two replacement members to the board.
Each member of the board, both old and new, spoke of the four years past and the transition to come.
"It's just been an extraordinary time, and I'll always remember it," said Jon Hale. He praised the board for using the past four years to "get Oak Park moving again," and put the village "on more sound fiscal footing," despite a crippling recession and housing crisis. "When you go to downtown Oak Park today, you go to a more vibrant, happening place," he said.
Hale also spoke to the new board, saying that he is confident that he is leaving the board in the hands of highly trusted colleagues.
"We do live in a special place where so many people care so deeply for their community," he said. "So many people give so much of their time and energy to make Oak Park a better place. Thank you, to all of you that do so much to make Oak Park the community it is today."
Next up was Jan Pate, who thanked each board member, along with the village president, manager, and attorney, individually.
"It is really an awesome and awe-inspiring responsibility, and I thank all of you for making it a reality," she said of her time on the board.
Pate said she often looked to others for answers to her numerous questions, and thanked fellow board members for their patience, and flexibility. She said that despite disagreements, discussions were always civil and agreeable, and conflicts didn't go beyond the board table.
In closing, she praised the village itself. "We live in an incredible place, but we should be careful not to take ourselves too seriously," she said, adding that residents shouldn't forget people in other communities with far less to be thankful for than Oak Parkers.
Newly elected officials Adam Salzman and Bob Tucker, along with re-elected trustee Ray Johnson, also spoke after taking the oath of office.
"I'm humbled, and I'm also, frankly, thrilled to be starting my term as village trustee this evening," Salzman said. "I've already learned a great deal from you, and I expect to learn a lot more over the next four years."
He continued: "Now that I am a public official, I feel some responsibility to say something about the news we all woke up to this morning," he said, alluding to the news of Osama bin Laden's death. Salzman said he was working on his first political campaign, the primaries for mayor and city council in New York City, when the World Trade Center attacks occurred. Those elections would be cancelled due to the tragedy, but Salzman said the events of that day sparked in him a deep commitment to public service. "It was as though the danger and the uncertainty of that time demanded a greater level of civic commitment of all of us, and I really have not shaken that belief since," he said.
In closing, he spoke of his commitment to the community. "I love Oak Park, and I am keenly aware of our village's unique and historic legacy," he said. "I will do my very best to maintain, and to protect, and to honor that legacy," he said.
Salzman was followed by Bob Tucker, who said that his primary goal on the board will be to monitor taxes for Oak Park residents. "These remain very difficult times for many and people are struggling," he said. "I believe that I've been elected to watch like a hawk how Oak Parkers' tax dollars are spent."
Tucker also pledged to maintain transparency on the board, and open lines of communication with community members. "Government works best when citizens can communicate and interact with government officials," he said.
Johnson followed, with parting gifts for Hale and Pate, followed by words of thanks to his former running mates, in the 2007 election. "We ran a campaign. We made promises to the public and we kept those promises. That's powerful because that doesn't happen in politics too often today," Johnson said.
"I realize that a third term is an honor. I am humbled, but it's not about me," he said. "It's about Oak Park. With that, on to another term and thank you so much."