River Forest Trustee Tom Cargie

Tom Cargie looked forward to the challenge of becoming a River Forest village trustee.

What he has found in his first year is that the position is not significantly different from his six years as a park board commissioner. The chain of communication and the method decisions are made are fairly consistent. 

“The park board equipped me to take office,” he said. “There hasn’t been that steep a learning curve.”

The biggest distinction he has found is that the issues are vastly different. They are more complex, there is more to learn about.

“We had no unions to deal with (in the park district). Here we have police and fire and it’s challenging being involved in that. The challenge is being fair to police and fire, and yet we have an obligation to protect our residents’ tax dollars. We have to make sure that the services that are provided are delivered in the most cost effective manner possible.”

Some related things also are dissimilar. Village board meetings are much more formal and less free-flowing than the park board sessions. Trustees are not on a first-name basis with each other at the board table. Park board meetings were more informal and a little more conversational; commissioners were on a first-name basis. 

The rarified air of a board meeting could to novices seem stuffy. There are disagreements, albeit cordial ones. The board, though, still gets along. “If we all agreed on every topic, there would be no point to having a board at all,” he said. “We all come with different goals. That’s what democracy is.”

One issue, though, did lead to a little bit of hostility, and that was the township and village relationship. Cargie said he was surprised when Trustee Tom Dwyer back in February first endorsed HB 4425, the bill allowing residents to decide by referendum whether to merge the village and the township, and then two months later flip-flopped. 

“I can’t figure that out,” Cargie said. “It’s not that difficult a topic. Administrative costs could be seamlessly folded into the village. It’s a no brainer without any loss of programming. It’s all about administration.”

Cargie came in wanting to look at consolidating some similar functions of government, “wherever it made economic sense and practical sense,” he said. “I don’t know why we could not have an HR department that provides services to everybody. Payroll could be done by one person.”

During this past year, he has been part of some interesting matters. The village approved the Northside Sewer project, the biggest public works effort it has ever done. Two administrators were brought on board. He has found the hiring process fascinating and unique. In most villages that he knows of, the board of trustees hires the manager and the manager hires those who report to him. In River Forest, the board of trustees ratifies all major hiring recommendations.

Cargie has become most impressed with how Village Administrator Eric Palm carries out his responsibilities day in and day out. Palm is logical, organized and is the best communicator he’s ever worked with because he keeps everyone in the loop and knows the value and importance of information. “He identifies priorities. He explains processes. If I bring an issue to him, he sends an email back really fast…It’s pretty impressive.”

He also had been most impressed with Village President Catherine Adduci. He saw how organized she was and how hard she worked during last year’s campaign. 

“She never stopped working; she just continued that as village president,” he said. “She develops a plan, she’s flexible with it if it doesn’t work out. She lets trustees have a voice. Cathy keeps everyone in the loop. She’s a very good leader.” 

CONTACT: deb@oakpark.com

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