David Pope wraps up a decade of public service

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

David Pope has seen his share of challenges and accomplishments.

But when he departs his post next week as village president, the Oak Park native said leaves with a feeling of overwhelming gratitude for the community he's dedicated himself to for the past decade.

"I feel incredibly fortunate to be a resident of Oak Park, much less to be the village president," he said in a recent interview. "Given my background as a child who was born into Oak Park and immediately given up for adoption, it's sort of a small-scale miracle to end up as the chief elected official in this community."

It was his "loving and supportive family" that nurtured him with a solid foundation, he said, but it was the evolution of Oak Park into an economically and culturally diverse community that made him come back as an adult to raise his own family.

"I've also really tremendously enjoyed the opportunity to be able to work with some very talented people who give a great deal to our community both as employees, elected officials and volunteers," Pope said. "There is no place else like Oak Park. And when you serve as village president you have an opportunity to see the very best of the unique community that we all share."

Pope said it's hard for anyone to imagine what it's like being village president until you've stepped into the role; this was something he learned as he moved from serving as a trustee for two years into the president's post. From the myriad of organizations and leaders that keep the wheels turning to the interrelationships among municipal bodies, Pope said what he realized most was how connected everything in the town is.

"What's happening with the schools impacts public safety, which impacts commercial districts, which can impact neighborhoods," Pope said. "And I think you get a deeper appreciation of many different aspects of life here in the village."

Opportunities and challenges

Eight years later after taking office as president, as Pope finishes his second term May 6, he's ready to "hand the mantle off." Pope's civic involvement — from his interactions locally, regionally, statewide and nationwide — are ones that have reminded him why he chose Oak Park to be his hometown. This includes his ability to represent the needs of residents and be an advocate for them when it comes to policy making.

"Given our history and a lot of the innovative efforts that have been initiated here, Oak Park is in a position to be a model for the region and in some respects for the nation and beyond," Pope said. "Sometimes, living here we lose sight of that. But it's been really fulfilling to be able to engage with people both inside Oak Park and outside Oak Park regarding ways to help enhance overall quality of life and to strive to improve the experience that people have here in our community."

Pope didn't tread through eight years as president without a few hiccups. Starting in 2005 when he was freshly elected, Pope was met with a divided board with strong opposition on many matters. That made for long nights and "approaches to issues that were probably not optimal," Pope said. In the end, Pope said he was proud of the group for putting aside differences and finding common ground for the sake of the community.

The challenges got worse with the economic crash in late 2008, which followed with two years of tough budgeting decisions that included village government salary freezes and layoffs. He believes the board came together that year, despite the tough reality, and led Oak Park through a historically tough time. Today, however, Pope recognizes that the growing tax burden on residents of varied economic backgrounds is taking a toll, and is an issue that must be addressed in the coming years under new leadership.

"I think that's clearly a message that resonated with residents during this most recent campaign season," Pope said. "And not just for the village but also for the other jurisdictions as well."

Looking back, moving forward

Since Village President-elect Anan Abu-Taleb was elected, Pope has been showing him the ropes and introducing him to key players in the local government sphere. Pope has valued creating strong relationships in and outside the village, but said he's ready to step aside and let Abu-Taleb lead.

"Oak Park benefits if we have a village president and a village board who are successful in their ability to be able to reach out and establish those connections. And so I'm committed to do everything I can to be able to help provide those introductions for Anan as he steps into the role of village president," he said. "It's really just to help facilitate a transition and handoff to Anan, but at this point, it will be his role going forward and not mine."

Pope doesn't have plans to run for anything else at this time and he's still weighing options for what his next venture will be. He's worked in the private sector, the public sector and the nonprofit sector, and he's enjoyed different characteristics about each of them. He wants to stay involved with his wife in the community in interests they've already established, but he's not sure where else his role may extend. Pope was a private consultant until 2006 when he set aside his business to be village president full time; he doesn't anticipate going back to the private sector though.

So after a decade being part of village government, what will Pope miss most? The long meetings that crept into the next day won't be on his list.

"I think the opportunity to serve and have a positive impact in a way that crosses so many different disciplines. Oak Park is a community that is so incredibly fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers for not-for-profit entities and government entities," he said. "At the same time, the breadth of perspective you get as either the village president or a member of the village board I think goes beyond any other role you can fill in the community in terms of understanding those interrelationships and also the tools that can be employed to help move things forward."

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Love the Journal?

Become our partner in independent community journalism

Thanks for turning to Wednesday Journal and OakPark.com. We love our thousands of digital-only readers. Now though we're asking you to partner up in paying for our reporters and photographers who report this news. It had to happen, right?

On the plus side, we're giving you a simple way, and a better reason, to join in. We're now a non-profit -- Growing Community Media -- so your donation is tax deductible. And signing up for a monthly donation, or making a one-time donation, is fast and easy.

No threats from us. The news will be here. No paywalls or article countdowns. We're counting on an exquisite mix of civic enlightenment and mild shaming. Sort of like public radio.

Claim your bragging rights. Become a digital member.

Donate Now

Reader Comments

6 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 6th, 2013 11:09 AM

Thanks for your vision and your leadership David. I'll be there tonight to thank you personally!

Thankful Villager  

Posted: May 3rd, 2013 10:08 AM

Thanks Mr. Pope for doing a fantastic job!

Chris Walsh from Oak Park  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 11:25 PM

Thanks for your many years of service to our community, David.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 1:32 PM

You're right, Sheila but I doubt that applies to David Pope. The Village President receives a rather small stipend. He may be able to trade on contacts he's established during his tenure but that does not mean he will realize any significant benefits.


Posted: May 1st, 2013 12:22 PM

With all due respect Dan, pols make MORE $$$ when they leave office than when in!

Dan Hefner from Oak park  

Posted: May 1st, 2013 10:57 AM

Like him or not at least he had the good sense to not run for office after two terms. (A self imposed term limit) Unlike our career politicans, who hold themselves out as "public servants", grabbing all the power and/or pensions, to enhance their lives. I wish Mr. Pope the best in his future endeavors.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Classified Ad