While the nation had its eyes glued to television and computer screens, anxiously anticipating the results of the 2020 presidential election, Oak Park’s municipal election this April had taken a backseat. However, that hasn’t deterred candidates from campaigning. Current District 97 school district staffer, Lou Anne Johannesson has joined Deputy Clerk Christina Waters in the race to become the next village clerk of Oak Park.
“I have always recognized that it’s a vital and essential support system for the community, you know, serving as a bridge, basically, between the village board and the community,” Johannesson told Wednesday Journal of her decision to run.
For the last decade, Johannesson has served as an administrative assistant in Oak Park Elementary School District 97, working with student services and supporting committees of the district’s board of education. The role of village clerk, Johannesson called, a “perfect extension” of the work she does with D97.
Such similar responsibilities include recording of meetings in compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act, disposing of records and handling meeting logistics, according to Johannesson, who loves performing such activities.
“I’m kind of a dork in that way. I love the work,” she said. “People are always like, ‘How do you not find this stuff boring?’ And I’m like, ‘I find municipal governance to be actually very exciting.'”
Johannesson said she is passionate about the Oak Park community and has been her whole adult life. Having grown up in neighboring River Forest, Johannesson attended Oak Park and River Forest High School.
“As soon as I was finished with college, I moved officially to my first apartment in Oak Park, which I got through the Oak Park [Regional] Housing Center, which I find to be one of our biggest treasures in the community,” said Johannesson.
Her daughter worked for the housing center as a college student. Johannesson’s three children, now grown, all went to OPRF as well. Her kids have helped their mother collect petition signatures – a process she’s enjoyed.
“I’ve met so many people that I would never have met, if I wasn’t out there hitting the pavement getting signatures. And, you know, win or lose, I’m super excited about the process,” Johannesson said.
If elected, Johannesson brings with her multiple relationships she’s cultivated while working with the Intergovernmental Body of the Village of Oak Park (IGOV). In concurrence with her position with D97, Johannesson has worked for the past five years as executive assistant to IGOV.
“The mission is basically to support and encourage more collaboration and cooperation between the six taxing bodies in Oak Park,” said Johannesson.
If elected as clerk, Johannesson would like to continue her work with IGOV in an unpaid capacity if allowed.
“A lot of times the collaboration can save money for the taxpayers,” said Johannesson. “Irrespective of that, it always seems to add to the quality of life for the community, when we all work together.”
This is the first time Johannesson has sought a public elected office, which she said she never considered doing until current village clerk, Vicki Scaman announced her campaign for village president.
“I really see myself as a support person,” Johannesson said. “I’m the behind-the-scenes person and I really see the clerk as the same kind of thing.”
Scaman, Johannesson believes, has done a great job filling the role and broadening government transparency.
“I do not stand alone in the admiration of how Vicki has handled the clerk’s office for the last four years,” said Johannesson. “But you know, we can always improve.”
Johannesson wants to build upon what Scamen did in her tenure as village clerk, continuing to promote transparency and accessibility. The responsibilities of village clerk, Johannesson believes, suits her.
“This fits my skillset; it fits my passion for the community and desire to be in service in a larger capacity than I am now.”