Oak Park Public Library Main Branch

Want to serve in an elected capacity without running for public office? If you live in Oak Park, now is your chance. The Oak Park Public Library has begun accepting applications for the open board trustee seat. Half a dozen people have already submitted themselves for consideration, according to Matt Fruth, who was recently re-elected library board president.

The application was kept purposely simple. Candidates need only provide a home address and birthdate to satisfy legalities. Cover letters and resumes are entirely optional.

“The only real requirements that we can demand of people is that they are a resident of Oak Park and of age,” said Fruth.

The trustee seat was vacated by Saria Lofton, who won it in the April 6 election but effectively resigned by not taking the oath of office, requiring the library board to appoint a replacement. Whomever the library appoints will serve a two-year term — half the length of those elected as trustee. When the appointed trustee’s term ends in 2023, there will be a special election to fill the seat for another two years. After that, the seat will revert to a four-year term.

The application was posted on the library’s website May 26. Interested people have until June 15 to apply. The narrow window was intentional, according to Fruth.

“There’s not a benefit to dragging it out,” he said. “We’d like to get it behind us because we would like in July to start doing our strategic planning discussions.”

Strategic planning includes establishing the library’s budget, which the library board typically passes in October. By appointing someone quickly, there is time to acclimate the new trustee to the board before entering into budgetary discussion. 

A June 15 deadline allows the library board time to review any supporting documents submitted by candidates prior to the board’s meeting on Tuesday, June 22. Those who have applied for the appointment are invited to make a statement during that meeting via Zoom and each applicant’s name will appear in the meeting agenda. 

“We’d like to get as far into this process as we can and hopefully come to a decision at that meeting,” said Fruth.

Fruth told Wednesday Journal it is not yet clear if board members will have the opportunity to interview applicants during the June 22 meeting, as it is greatly dependent on the number of people who apply. Time will also factor into the decision to have or not have a question-answer period.

“If we end up with a dozen people and if we give them 10 minutes each, that’s two hours,” said Fruth.

The board could decide to have a special meeting for the sole purpose of interviewing, or it could find the statements made by applicants during the June 22 meeting sufficient. Fruth believes the best route to take will become clearer as the deadline nears.

“By the day after the deadline, we’ll have a sense of what definitive process we’re going to have.”

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