Oak Park Village President David Pope will nominate Ernest J. Moore, a Northwestern University professor, to fill the village board seat vacated by former trustee Martha Brock last January.
Moore, a 12-year Oak Park resident, researches auditory response to find drugs that will overcome hearing loss. He will be formally nominated next Monday night at the board’s regular meeting.
Moore, who has served on the board of directors of the Oak Park Residence Corporation since 2001, was one of several people interviewed by the full village board during a closed-door meeting last Wednesday. Pope said Monday afternoon that he’s certain the nomination will be met with acceptance.
“My board counterparts were favorably disposed and impressed with what he brings to the board,” said Pope, who added that he believes Moore’s skill set complements those of current board members.
Pope also said he was pleased with the quality of the talent pool he chose from.
“There were some very capable, highly qualified people ready to serve,” he said.
One vote Pope can count on is Trustee Jon Hale’s. Moore worked with Hale on two VMA campaigns, and Hale, along with ResCorp President Wayne Pierce, suggested Moore to Pope.
Moore grew up in a family of sharecroppers near Memphis. He probably would have stayed on the farm, he said, if his family owned the land they worked. He said a friend raising a deaf child brought his attention to studying hearing.
Among his priorities as trustee, Moore said, will be affordable housing, the effects of the departure of the YMCA on single-resident occupancy (SRO) units, and being supportive of efforts to effectively address the achievement gap in village schools.
Moore added that through his ResCorp experience he developed familiarity with various village departments, including finance, building and personnel.
Though not yet confirmed or sworn in, Moore got his feet wet Monday night during a two-hour executive session to discuss property acquisition or disposition, followed by a continued board meeting to discuss goal setting. Moore, a scientist by training, noted that the heart of the scientific method is observation, and he plans to do a lot of observing over the summer.
“I plan to be in listening mode for a couple of months,” he said. His first taste of board service was a good one, he said.
“I thought it went well,” Moore said. “I learned of a few things that I wasn’t aware of before.”
Besides holding a doctorate, Moore is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, where he was an audiologist. Since moving to Oak Park in 1995, he has served on various school committees with APPLE (African-American Parents for Purposeful Leadership in Education), and on the VMA selection committee, where he worked closely with Hale. He said he and his wife considered a number of potential communities before moving here, including Hyde Park, Winnetka and Evanston.
Chief among Moore’s priorities is tackling the issue of affordable housing in the village. He said that defining the term as it relates to Oak Park was part of the challenge.
“I really don’t know [how it should be defined]. We need to discuss that as a village,” he said.
Moore also is concerned with diversity issues and with finding effective ways of dealing with the vexing issue of the educational achievement gap in the village’s schools.
Moore said he intended to operate as a trustee in the same manner he operated as a ResCorp director-stick to policy decisions and avoid micromanaging in order “to see the big picture and provide assistance and guidance and oversight.”
Moore noted the current all-white makeup of the board and called the presence of an African-American “an important issue.”
“I think African-Americans should play a larger role in the governance of the village,” he added. “I certainly wish to be a liaison, a conduit to the African-American community in Oak Park. I want to listen to concerns and help to problem-solve issues.”
Moore’s appointment would complete a board that Pope clearly hopes can gain traction in dealing with issues he introduced during his campaign for village president.
“The board is in a position to make significant progress on the things I made priorities two years ago, and that were the platform of the four trustees [recently elected],” Pope said.
Moore agreed, saying he feels comfortable stepping onto a village board that he believes is ready and willing to work well together.
Those who worked closely with Moore at the Residence Corporation say he will play an important role on the new board.
“It’s a loss for ResCorp, but clearly a gain for Oak Park,” said ResCorp President Pierce, who called Moore a board member who always came prepared and always offered insightful comments on issues.
Executive Director Ed Solan called Moore “an outstanding, involved and willing participant” who would be an asset as trustee.
“Stepping up to the village board is always a challenge,” said Solan. “But Ernest Moore is more than up to that challenge.”