Laura Lencioni, chair of the Oak Park Farmers Market Commission, received word her term would be allowed to expire in March despite her willingness to stay in the role through May 22 — opening day of the market’s 46th season.
Lencioni’s term has officially ended according to village staff and it does not appear an extension is under consideration. The departure comes as village staff continue to search for a market manager to oversee the upcoming season.
“The village attorney delivered the message that Laura’s term was up and that means she is no longer on the commission,” said Vicki Scaman, village clerk and current candidate for village president. “Unless I receive notice that something has changed, her term has officially ended. I have no idea who will be the next chair.”
The news, delivered by Scaman, came as a surprise to Lencioni who had been a farmers market commissioner for four years serving three years as chair.
“It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t understand,” said Lencioni. “There are changes in government coming because it is an election year, and the market does not have a manager. Unless I had been grossly negligent, I just don’t see how I wouldn’t be seen as an asset to the market at a time like this.”
It is the decision of the village president to add an agenda item to appoint, re-appoint, or name a chair to a commission. The farmers market commission ordinance does not allow for a commissioner to float in their role indefinitely, but there is nothing contained in the document that would specifically disallow a temporary extension.
“It would be in the best interest of the village, the commission, and the market to extend Laura’s term for the two short months until the market opens,” said Frank Pond, acting chair of the Citizen Involvement Commission and liaison to the Famers Market Commission. “Not extending is not beneficial.”
Despite the fact Lencioni’s departure feels sudden, she reflects fondly on her time leading the commission.
“Being on this commission for the past four years has made me a more confident person,” said Lencioni. “It meant so much to me that I was able to work side-by-side with people I consider to be my mentors while serving my community and supporting small family farmers.”
Lencioni will miss hearing the details of how the market comes together and seeing the joy the market brings to people when it opens but also acknowledged the value of Oak Park commissions in general.
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“I feel strongly that citizen commissions are a vital part of Oak Park that makes it a vibrant and engaged community,” said Lencioni. “I hope our next president understands that active commissions and civic involvement make the democracy in our village stronger.”
The next meeting of the Farmers Market Commission is scheduled for April 14. Applications for a farmers market manager and assistant managers are still being accepted according to the village website.