Two members of the citizen-led Environment and Energy Commission are running for Oak Park village trustee in the April 2021 election. Commissioner Ravi Parakkat announced his candidacy Oct. 1 and is joined in the race for trustee by his fellow commissioner Stephen Morales, who announced his own candidacy in late September.
Noticing division in the community, Parakkat has entered the race to bring unity to the village of Oak Park.
“We are increasingly getting divided and that may be a reflection of what’s happening nationally,” Parakkat told Wednesday Journal. “Problems can be solved if we put our minds together, but we cannot solve them if we are divided.”
A digital and sustainability consultant, Parakkat is also an industrial engineer with a master’s degree in business administration. Throughout his career, Parakkat has honed his ability to harmoniously work with multiple people of various backgrounds.
“I personally have some background in working across cultures, languages and then also bringing diverse teams together in my consulting role,” said Parakkat. “Bringing people with different talents and different thought processes together to solve problems.”
Parakkat joined the Environment and Energy Commission in December 2019 and is also a founding member of the Oak Park Climate Action Planning Team, a community group focused on addressing climate change.
“It is an ad hoc team that was founded outside the purview of the village to really take a step forward in terms of what a climate action plan would look like,” said Parakkat. “Essentially trying to look at the planning aspect of it from a short-term standpoint, as well as a long-term view.”
Parakkat is also an energy efficiency ambassador with Illinois Green Alliance and sits on the board of the not-for-profit Urban Prairie Waldorf School in Chicago, where his daughter attends. His other daughter is a graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School
Parakkat has not decided whether or not he will run as a part of a slate, but said he is definitely considering it.
If elected as village trustee, Parakkat will work to make Oak Park more affordable, sustainable, safe and inclusive for all by collaborating with his fellow board members. He believes his learned experience and dedication will allow him to understand all sides of issues facing Oak Park and to build bridges among the community as a trustee.
Parakkat moved to Oak Park in 2006 with his wife and family. The village’s inclusivity and diversity struck a chord with Parakkat.
“I felt included. I have a mixed family and we have always felt at home here,” he said.
Diversity and inclusion are important to Parakkat, who was raised in Kerala, India. Kerala is a major hub in the spice trade and has been for centuries. Consequently, Kerala is very diverse politically and religiously.
“Growing up in that environment, everybody was accepting,” said Parakkat. “The dominating thing that I remember from my childhood is the fact that we could all get along.”
Parakkat also understands how important feeling included is when moving to a new country and takes it upon himself to make others feel welcome.
“If I don’t stand up and get involved and push for inclusion, it won’t come,” said Parakkat. “I put a lot of onus on myself to do that.”