The atmosphere at Oak Park Village Hall Monday night was solemnly celebratory as the village board transitioned, welcoming the newly elected and reelected trustees, while wishing farewell and giving thanks to outgoing Trustee Jim Taglia.
“Please remember the choices you make today will have lasting impact on the village, possibly for generations to come,” said Taglia, who received a service award for his six years on the village board.
As he exited the board table, Taglia’s seat was ceremonially taken by Trustee Cory Wesley. Wesley, who received the most votes at 5,110 during the April 4 election, will serve his first full four-year term on the board, having won reelection after previously being appointed in October to fill a vacancy. He acknowledged his appointment during his remarks Monday, while recognizing his family and friends for their support.
“I’ll spare you the long speech; I gave a great one back in October,” Wesley joked.
Wesley thanked his wife Mechelle for putting up with him as he chased this dream, his 13-year-old son Aiden for encouraging him to be a better civil servant by always tuning into each board meeting and his 11-year-old daughter Yani for inspiring him to put in the work that would see him elected. All three were seated in the audience.
Trustee Susan Buchanan, who brought in 4,654 votes, vowed to continue the village’s efforts to mitigate climate change and promote sustainability in her second term on the board. That was reflected in her choice of attire; Buchanan wore a shirt with a section of stripes that transitioned from blue to white and finally, red, representing the rising global temperatures in recent years.
Buchanan reaffirmed her promise to promote racial equity, public safety and police accountability, admitting that she will never understand what it is truly like to be a Black person living in the U.S.
“But I ask that you not discredit the lived experience as a woman,” said Buchanan. “We live in a society in which men rape us, humiliate us, impregnate us when we don’t want to be pregnant and murder us.”
She continued, stating she’s been catcalled by men, jeered at by men, belittled by men and paid less than men in her career as a medical doctor.
“I’m committed to racial equity because I want equity for all of us,” Buchanan said.
The newest member of the village board, Trustee Brian Straw, took the oath of office with his daughter on his hip and his son by his side. Straw, who had never run for public office before, received 4,983 votes in April’s election.
“I’m honored by the faith that our voters have put in me,” said Straw, matching his son in wearing a navy-blue suit and rainbow madras tie. “But I want to acknowledge that the election results are not about me; they’re about the ideas that we talked about during the campaign.”
Those ideas, Straw said, are safer streets and sidewalks, climate change action, gun violence prevention, affordability, tax fairness, equity and inclusion. He told the board he looks forward to taking on each of those issues while in office.
Familiar faces such as former village trustees Dan Moroney and Deno Andrews were seated in the audience. Former village clerk Theresa Powell also came, as did several high-ranking members of village staff, including Police Chief Shatonya Johnson, Fire Chief Ron Kobyleski and Danielle Walker, the village’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. A representative sent on behalf of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle brought sparkling cider to be served with the Sugar Fixe cake brought in for the transition ceremony.
As is tradition, the ceremony ended with a vote to adopt the village’s diversity statement. The statement, with modest updates made by DEI chief Walker, was accepted unanimously in the first vote taken by the newly formed village board.