By Dan Haley
The third and last sitting Oak Park village trustee up for election in 2015 put her name in the hat last week. Andrea Ott, appointed to the board in March of this year, told the Journal that she will seek election to her seat and that she will present her credentials to the Village Manager Association political group and seek its endorsement.
Ott now joins trustees Adam Salzman and Bob Tucker in announcing election plans for the April 2015 voting. More immediately, the VMA will begin its selection process early this fall.
"Yes," said Ott, "I respect the VMA process. It has worked for decades."
She echoed the comments of Salzman, though, in urging a greater turnout of the citizen volunteers who make up the VMA selection process. Any resident is eligible to be part of the VMA process so long as they pay the group's modest dues and commit to take part in a series of weekly interview sessions with candidates.
"It is a really good idea to reinvigorate the VMA. New faces. Younger faces," Ott said.
Ott, 32, an attorney, acknowledged there is a learning curve in joining the village board. "I have worked hard the past few months. It helps that I'm a person who really likes learning about lots of different things. This is perfect for that."
She said her previous service as the volunteer chair of the village government's Disability Access Commission was a boost to her transition. "It helped that I was a volunteer. I understood how village hall works, some of the interpersonal dynamics."
Ott said that long time Trustee Colette Lueck told her that a board member's job is "to take the pulse of the community" and that it was "a hard job." Ott said she actively works at that process. "I enjoy getting out and talking to people. I've met a lot of people one-on-one. I like to put myself out there," she said, noting conversations at her church, with neighbors and at her kids' daycare.
"I haven't been blindsided" by anyone's comments, she said. And "I haven't had an epiphany. But talking to people does help shape my opinions."
Six months into office Ott said she is still struck by the "silos" that local organizations and government bodies work in and pledges continued effort on collaboration. On specific issues she said she was focused on public safety, on environmental sustainability and on economic development.
"There's been a lot of discussion about Madison Street. We need more walkability, more businesses that young families will go to. And I'm talking about more than just building the tax base. The right development can bring vitality, energy and a sense of greater safety."
Ott was positive about Anan Abu-Taleb, the village president who appointed her to the board. "He has created a lot of momentum. And he has worked hard to create cohesion on the board. I know he is working with Oak Park's best interest at heart."
Looking ahead, she said, "I'm very excited to run. I bring a lot of energy."