Blessed by our time here in Oak Park

Opinion: Columns

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Tom Barwin

It has been a true honor to serve as Oak Park's Village Manager for nearly six years. My wife Margaret and I chose to come to Oak Park in 2006, largely due to the community's past achievements and contributions to integration, diversity, fair housing, and great neighborhoods. We expected that the community's commitment to innovative public policy at the grass roots level, under the council-manager form of government, would continue.

We leave feeling blessed that we arrived in time — to have come to know many of the bold, historic local leaders, social pioneers, activists and visionaries who achieved something unique here in Oak Park, which much of America continues to struggle with.

Although the past six years demanded that village hall respond to large deficits, local ramifications of the great recession, and unfortunate intergovernmental litigation, progress continued in terms of extensive capital improvements, innovative housing programs, crime reductions, and nationally acclaimed achievements through the village's commitment to renewable energy and environmental sustainability. Thankfully, the community's historic commitment to diversity and fair housing continues.

The great challenges of community-building and retaining a safe, attractive, and high quality of life community never ends. Despite the good work and efforts by many, community well being is somewhat fragile, and can never be taken for granted.

Some days, it seems, our fast-changing, complex and often cynical world drive people away from seriously considering public service. But as we depart Oak Park after many wonderful experiences as residents, for me as village manager and my wife as a volunteer at the Conservatory, I am confident the community will continue to be strong and one of America's shining stars.

Oak Park's magic ingredient has been and must continue to be its people. From planning board commissioners to volunteer laborers at A Day in our Village, Oak Parkers have come to know that some degree of community involvement at some point in one's life is a good thing — and kind of expected here.

As a side note, research has shown that community involvement has also been proven to be good for one's health and social network. A community must share in doing the work that needs to be done and what better place to pitch in than one's hometown at the local level, in our laboratory of democracy and petri dish of commerce.

So as our moving van pulls away from the curb, we salute and will be forever grateful to the hundreds of Oak Parkers contributing time and resources to so many good organizations throughout town who we have come to know. We will forever be grateful for your friendship and collaborations during our time in Oak Park. We will miss you and your passion for this terrific and special urban place.

Thanks and best wishes to all. If you ever happen to be in Sarasota and have an extra couple of minutes, please stop by to say hi.

You'll know where to find me: City Hall is on Main Street.


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Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: August 29th, 2012 5:36 PM

Best of luck to you!

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