The Village Manager Association — the political party that has won nearly every election in Oak Park since the 1950s — announced its candidates last week for the upcoming April election.
Headlining the ticket is incumbent Ray Johnson, who will vie for a third term on the Oak Park village board. He will be joined by newcomers Bob Tucker and Adam Salzman, on a slate that's being dubbed "Citizens for Accountable Leadership."
Whether the VMA slate will face opposition is unclear. Gary Schwab heads the Village Citizens Alliance (VCA) which ran a slate of candidates in the last election. He said last week the group is still looking for potential candidates.
Tucker, 43, currently heads the Oak Park Community Design Commission, and has served on citizen boards and panels locally for the past 13 years. He works as the corporate general counsel and chief risk officer for the nonprofit Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago.
Tucker also chaired the downtown Oak Park "steering committee" back in 2005, which recommended to the village board that the controversial Colt building on Lake Street be torn down.
In his work life, Tucker has tackled issues related to housing and complex municipal budgets. So he thinks there will be a short adjustment period if he joins the board.
"If I'm lucky enough to become trustee, I can really hit the ground running," he said. "Oak Park and other communities now are facing difficult decisions, and I don't think you want a big learning curve for people who are starting as a trustee."
Salzman is a labor and employment lawyer who specializes in pension and administrative law. He now serves as chairman of the Oak Park Universal Access Commission, which is the liaison between the village board and people with disabilities.
At only 32 years old, Salzman believes he will bring a younger presence to the village board, and will speak on behalf of what he says is a growing number of young families that are moving to Oak Park.
"I think that it's time they took a larger voice in the process, and I think there are some definite factors pertaining to young families that deserve some special emphasis in this election," Salzman said.
Johnson, 47, was first elected as a VMA-endorsed candidate in 2003, and has worked for banking services and financial giant HSBC North America for 28 years. He was enticed to give a third term a go because he feels the village board needs continuity while traversing rocky financial waters.
Some of the important issues in April, he said, will include holding the line on taxes, cooperating better with other local governmental bodies and providing quality services affordably.
After endorsing the candidates, the VMA will step aside and let them campaign as an independent slate, said Brad Bartels, president of the organization. The VMA's board unanimously endorsed the three men, he said, because they have good intentions.
"I think they're running for the right reason," Bartels said. "They're not running because they want to be an Oak Park village trustee. They want to run because they think they can help the village be a better place."
April will mark the end of the terms of Jon Hale and Jan Pate, VMA candidates who have chosen not to run for a second term. All seven members of the village board were elected after being picked by the VMA.
Answer Book 2019
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