Who is this group called the VMA (Village Manager Association)? Who gets to gather in a small room, smoke cigars, and decide who should run for village president, trustee and clerk?

I have been involved over the past 45 years as caucus participant 10 times, and served on the VMA board (also as a past board president).

So when my friends and neighbors ask me to explain this group, I tell them:

The VMA was started in 1952 by a group of dedicated Oak Parkers — Republicans, Democrats and Independents — who were eager to rid Oak Park of a village government that was characterized by patronage, party factionalism, and corruption.

That year, the VMA was able to bring the question of village government reform to the people, and Oak Parkers overwhelmingly approved the establishment of the Village Manager form of government. Since then, Oak Park has been administered by a professional manager and staff, governed by a citizen board consisting of a president and six trustees elected at large, assisted by a village clerk who is also elected.

The VMA continues as a local, independent, non-partisan citizens group that directs itself to the job of seeking highly qualified candidates for president, trustees and clerk. This is done through a broadly-based selection committee of volunteers representing all segments of the community.

Every selection committee I served on (10), between 30-50 percent of the group I had never met before. All we ask is that you live in Oak Park and want good government. For over 60 years, that’s what we’ve had. Good government.

This past year, the selection committee had 46 members and 33 percent were new to the process and the VMA.

After interviewing all who wanted to come before the group, the following were selected: Glenn Brewer, Colette Lueck and Peter Barber, for trustees; Teresa Powell for village clerk; and John Hedges for president.

John Hedges has been an elected trustee since 2007 and a 32-year resident of Oak Park. He is broadly and deeply experienced in all aspects of village government and the important relationships with the other Oak Park taxing bodies — school and park districts, public library and township — and with numerous non-profit boards.

His history of civic engagement includes:

  1. Board member, Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust
  2. United Way and Community Chest, president and campaign chair
  3. Madison Street Business Association, vice president, six years
  4. Oak Park Council of Governments
  5. Pleasant Home Foundation, board president
  6. Oak Park-River Forest Rotary Club, president
  7. OPRF High School Citizens Advisory Committee on Athletics and Activities, chair
  8. Village and School District 97 Task Force on Diversity
  9. Oak Park Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, president
  10. OP-RF Gang and Drug Task Force, charter member
  11. OPRF High School Strategic Planning Committee
  12. Oak Park Education Foundation’s William Stazack Award recipient for service to youth
  13. Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, board member

John and his wife Jane have two adult sons, both OPRF High School graduates.

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