It’s been decades since the village of Oak Park had a mayor, and it appears that it might not be long before it has one again — even if only in title. 

Village President Anan Abu-Taleb, the village of Oak Park’s chief elected official, says the title of village president does not carry the same weight as title mayor and it frequently confuses those outside the village.

He said the responsibility of village president also warrants the establishment of a dedicated office at village hall and an assistant to help with scheduling and other tasks. Abu-Taleb also says the position should pay more than the current $10,800 a year stipend, but he believes the pay raise should go into effect for the next mayor.

“People in town already address me as mayor,” he said in a recent interview, adding that others outside the village also often use the title.

Abu-Taleb noted that he is not the only elected official who has suggested the title change; his predecessor David Pope made the same recommendation in his last speech before leaving office in 2013.

Other trustees appear to be on board with the informally proposed changes. Trustees Bob Tucker, Adam Salzman and Glenn Brewer all said they have no problem referring to Abu-Taleb as mayor and creating a special office and assistant for the position. None of the three opposed the idea of exploring a pay increase for the village president.

Salzman said changing the title would have no effect on the village manager form of government in Oak Park. 

“The council-manager form of government can exist whether he’s called village president or mayor or grand poohbah of all things Oak Park,” Salzman said.

Brewer said other surrounding communities — Maywood and North Riverside are examples — have a village manager form of government and refer to their chief elected official as mayor. 

“Really it was his way of saying it would be a lot easier to explain his position to people if he was mayor,” Brewer said.

Tucker, who said he supports the title change, said establishing an office at village hall also makes sense, because the village president frequently meets with residents, business owners and others but does not have a dedicated office. The president currently shares an office with other trustees, but Abu-Taleb said it does not give the same impression as would a mayor’s office.

“You need to be aware that people want to talk to the mayor and the mayor needs to be available 24/7 to hear their views,” Abu-Taleb said. “When I receive people at village hall, I’m receiving them on behalf of the village of Oak Park. That should carry prestige.”

Abu-Taleb said the job of village president is full time and should have a dedicated staff member in village hall to assist with scheduling and other day-to-day duties.

Salzman said trustees and the village president already share a secretary with the village manager, and any proposed change would simply formalize that role, rather than spending money to establish a new position.

Other than new business cards and a different sign on the door of the mayor’s office, the proposed changes are not likely to cost much, but Abu-Taleb said trustees should also consider a pay raise for the village president. 

The position usually keeps Abu-Taleb busy seven days a week, and the annual stipend means the president must either be retired or independently wealthy, Abu-Taleb said.

Abu-Taleb, a local restaurateur, said the pay increase should happen after his term in office. A pay increase would attract more candidates, he said, adding that he still has not made up his mind on whether to run for a second term. 

“We need to attract people who are energetic, visionary,” he said. “I don’t know what is the appropriate amount, but it’s not $150 a week and it’s not $250,000 a year.”

A review of nearby municipalities shows that some are paid more than double the amount that goes to the Oak Park village president. The mayor of Maywood, for example, earns $25,600 a year. Berwyn’s mayor earns $50,000 annually and the mayor of Forest Park gets $40,000 a year — $10,000 for fulfilling the duties of liquor commissioner and $30,000 for the mayor’s position. North Riverside pays its mayor $8,400 a year, but the village president of River Forest receives no compensation.

Brewer said the stipends given to Oak Park trustees — $7,200 a year — is just enough to cover the admission to various events and community fundraisers they are expected to attend during the course of the year. 

“It helps support us and support all the various asks that come our way,” Brewer said, noting that organizations often request trustees attend their event, but tickets to those events can cost hundreds of dollars. 

“The village president gets asked to many more of these things that any of [the other trustees],” he said.

Tucker said the stipend given to trustees usually gets spent on such events, but acknowledged that the village president spends much more time with constituents and those in the business community than other trustees.

“It’s not a volunteer job because I get a couple of bucks for it,” Tucker said. “But you’re not doing it for the money — you do it for public service.”

Tucker said it makes sense to revisit compensation for the village president and trustees, but discussion of a pay increase should not get in the way of the board’s business.

“I don’t want it getting in the way of the important work I have as a trustee,” he said.

* The story was updated to correct the annual pay for the mayor of Forest Park.


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