Eleven people have submitted applications to Oak Park Village President Vicki Scaman for the village trustee seat vacated over the summer by Arti Walker-Peddakotla. The person appointed will serve out the remainder of Walker-Peddakotla’s term, which ends this April. Those who have applied are not the only people being considered by Scaman, who hopes to appoint someone by Oct. 3.

“The application process was for me to open [consideration] up to people that I may not know,” she said. “I do retain the right to potentially appoint somebody who did not submit an application.”

Scaman said she has informally met with a few people to gauge their interest in the appointment but declined to give any names. 

Wednesday Journal obtained the names of those that did apply, as well as their applications, through a public records request. The applications have not yet been viewed by any sitting trustees, according to Scaman. Some applications took up multiple pages, while other applicants were briefer in their responses.

Related Stories

The application for Dante Allen, a 25-year member of the Illinois Army National Guard who would like to continue serving his state as an appointed trustee, was only half a page long, while attorney Mark Dunham Jr. submitted just a professional resume.

Some of the contenders are familiar names within the community, but others may not be so recognizable. Simone Boutet, a former village trustee, has applied. Boutet last ran for village president in the April 2021 election, but the community may remember her  being the candidate who dropped out of the race and then reentered, only to drop out again a few months later.   

As for her potential return to the village board, Boutet is now in competition with Stephen Morales, who was a village trustee candidate attached to her slate, along with Trustees Ravi Parakkat and Lucia Robinson. Unlike Parakkat and Robinson, Morales did not win a seat on the village board in 2021.

Morales has served on two of the village’s citizen commissions – the Community Development Citizen Advisory Committee and the Energy and Environment Commission. He also is the chair of Thrive Counseling Center and has been a member of its board since 2017. He wrote in his application that he is proud of Thrive’s partnership with Oak Park’s police and fire departments.

If appointed, his first priority, according to his application, is to get the “voices of our citizens into our village budget for 2023,” while his second priority is community safety. He also listed sustainability, a major platform of his trustee campaign, as an “existential priority.”

Mas Takiguchi, a past candidate for village clerk, also applied for the post. He said he hopes to lend his experience and input to the board as both a resident and as a member of the Asian community. Takiguchi has lived in Oak Park since 1988 and has served as the chair of both the Oak Park Residence Corporation and the village’s Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. His priorities include government transparency, safety and equal access.

Another applicant is Rev. John Edgerton, lead pastor of First United Church of Oak Park and president of the Community of Congregations. Edgerton found himself in the limelight this past spring for his church’s “fast from whiteness” Lenten theme. Reactions to the fast were mixed; the church received support, criticism and harassment for it.

Edgerton’s application states he believes strongly in the importance of elections and, therefore, does not intend to seek a full-term should he be appointed.

“I would seek to be a responsible public servant until the voters can elect a leader,” he wrote.

Other applicants include former Mann Elementary School PTA member Steven Shaw who is an executive director of a non-profit but has also worked in the private sector, where, according to his application, he led affordable housing development projects, managed budgets and worked with legislative bodies. He hopes to leverage that experience to make Oak Park a more sustainable and equitable community as a whole.

“Significant issues can rarely be sufficiently addressed in a policy silo, so

combining workforce with sustainability is a way to not only promote job creation, but also position Oak Park as an innovation leader within the broader region,” Shaw wrote in his application.

“In addition, good workforce policy should foster the growth of small businesses, and given the village’s racial diversity, we can be a prime destination for diverse entrepreneurs,” he wrote.

Shawn Joseph serves on Beyond Hunger’s board of directors and is most interested in policymaking regarding sustainability, safety and diversity. He wrote in his application that his dedication to the community makes him uniquely qualified to serve as an appointed trustee. Joseph is also a parishioner and volunteer of St. Giles Catholic Church.

“No one is truly qualified but must have a degree of passion for such work and possess a degree of intelligence to remain a fiduciary of the Village of Oak Park,” Joseph wrote in his application.

In his work with Beyond Hunger, Joseph’s application states that the food pantry has undertaken a large diversity, equity and inclusion project.

Timothy Boonstra, an executive at Dutch Farms Inc., has only lived in Oak Park for two years but has been very involved in school meetings and volunteer activities and has been active in his neighborhood and in Park District of Oak Park programming, according to his application.

He believes that the fundamental role of village trustees is to “represent the best interests of the citizens of Oak Park” by making “informed and timely decisions that will help local residents and businesses and thrive.”

Boonstra has previous local government experience in Michigan, where he has a second home. He stated in his application that he has been leading efforts and negotiating on the behalf of citizens looking to be annexed into the Village of Decatur, Mich. Boonstra also wrote that he has been working with Decatur village staff to get them authorized for state funding to offset the cost of annexation and installation of water and sewer lines.

Longfellow Elementary School PTA member Russell Hall learned about the trustee opening through Wednesday Journal.

He believes the role of the trustee is to direct funding toward projects and initiatives that are in line with the goals of the public as advocated for by constituents.

Chiropractor Mahmoud Lotfi wishes to support the village president and trustees in setting policies to ensure community safety, affordability, equity and COVID-19 business recovery. He wants to help “build a community representative of the world.” He provides internships to Dominican University students and mentors his staff, many of whom were educated in local Oak Park schools.

Marseil Jackson also listed mentorship in his application. He currently mentors a group of Oak Park and River Forest High School students involved in the youth entrepreneurship program, which He also created.

Jackson supports the village’s efforts to create a non-police emergency response team and believes the conversation surrounding racial equity must move away from “archaic, worn out” policies and practices that contributed to inequity by intentionally and continually reevaluating and changing laws and structures.

Join the discussion on social media!