It was more than a year ago that Ray Heise, Oak Park's village attorney for three decades, retired. And finally last week the village announced the hiring of his successor in the person of Paul Stephanides, a 48-year-old private practice lawyer specializing in municipal affairs.
It took that long for multiple reasons, which are relevant to this decision. A village manager, Tom Barwin, was forced out by the village board just as decisions were coming near on how to possibly restructure the village's law department after decades of being dominated by Heise. The interim village manager, Cara Pavlicek, was not about to make a hire for what is typically one of a manager's most critical choices. And after Pavlicek was finally given the top job permanently late last winter, Oak Park was in the midst of a heavily contested village election.
Because the village attorney doubles as the legal advisor to the village board, there has always been some tension in the relationship between manager, attorney and village board/village president. That tension may have surfaced a bit in the final stages of this hiring process. Seems clear that Pavlicek made the hire she sought and that is a point of clarity worth noting. To be successful, this manager is going to need a top lawyer and legal department that clearly works for her and makes recommendations at an accelerated pace compared to Heise's last years.
We look forward to Stephanides' arrival next month and we offer thanks to Assistant Village Attorney Simone Boutet for her work during the long hiring process.