*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
Ade Onayemi is a 37 year resident of Oak Park. His children attended the public schools. He was a board member on the District #97 Board of Education for two terms, serving as Vice President and President. Ade is a practicing architect and taught construction technology at Triton College.
His contribution as an architect on the board was fortuitous in constructing the two middle schools and renovating the eight elementary schools for safety. The construction work was on time and under budget.
Ade has extensive board leadership experience with several organizations in Oak Park and the Austin Community. The organizations include the West Suburban Medical Center, where he was the Board President, Bethel New Life, AAABNA, Opportunity Knocks, and the Rotary Club. Ade also volunteered in advisory roles for NAMI and Infant Welfare Society. He is a member of Grace Episcopal Church, where he has served in leadership roles.
A Rotarian, Ade practices the maxim of ‘Service above self.’ He served on IGOV and believes in working collaboratively with other governing bodies. He is currently providing Architect Peer Review for the Community Recreation Center being built by the Park District.
As a trustee of the Oak Park Township, he provides leadership in setting policies, program development, and funding for the non-profit organizations providing youth services, mental health services, senior services, and general assistance to the community. At the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, Ade participated in the Special Council of Governments bi-weekly municipal governments meetings. The meetings facilitated by the Village coordinated services, partnerships and shared vital information.
The pandemic revealed the inequities in our society. The emotional toll on all age groups with varying degrees of loss, isolation, and debilitating stress will increase the demand for our mental health and social services. We must manage the need for social services while maintaining fiscal restraints.
Following protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, Oak Park Township expressed opposition to injustice and oppression in its many forms. Ade supports and encourages discussions with the taxing bodies and the community to facilitate an equitable social justice system. He advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion in all undertakings at the Oak Park Township.
His leadership focuses on the Township’s vision to be “a well-known and respected community partner and the leading provider of proactive, responsive, and relevant supportive services for all residents at every stage of life.” He is committed to the responsible use of funds for all residents’ social and mental health and addressing the Township’s importance by ensuring that we develop equitable opportunities to reach all residents.
A consensus builder, Ade strives to build working relationships with board members, staff, and the community. He understands governance and has the track record to prove it. His tenure as President of the School Board and leadership as Board President of the WSMC are good examples. Ade’s desire to serve his community is what motivates him to seek office. He is honored to serve and asks for your vote to continue to do so.
Outside of campaigning to serve as township trustee, what experience do you have working or volunteering with the township?
I am completing my 2nd term as a township trustee. During my tenure, I was a liaison of the board to the Youth Services Committee, Senior Services Committee, and the Community Mental Health Board (CMHB). Participation on the committees and the mental health board requires auditing organizations that receive grants from the Township and CMHB. My experience includes working with the community volunteers on our committees, and mental health board, and the non-profit organizations that we fund.
Additionally, I have served in various capacities with several of the non-profit organizations as a board member or volunteer. Some of the organizations include Opportunity Knocks, Infant Welfare Society, Elementary School District #97, and NAMI Metro Suburban’s IPS Steering Committee (helping people with mental health in their recovery through work). I assisted in fostering the partnership between District 97 Oak Park Elementary School, The Rotary Club of Oak Park and River Forest, Youth Services, Oak Park Township to expand Cargo Peace Circles in Oak Park Elementary Schools.
What areas of service provided by the township need expansion and how do you intend to carry that out, while keeping taxation reasonable?
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inequities in our society. The emotional toll on all age groups with varying degrees of loss, isolation, and debilitating stress will increase the demand for our mental health and social services. We anticipate an increase in all service areas; mental health, youth services, senior services, and general assistance. With the opening up of the schools, our youth interventionists are receiving more referrals from the teachers.
We have strong partnerships and collaborations with the other taxing bodies. Our competent staff has an outstanding record of obtaining grants and funds from state and federal agencies. We seek grants through the Community Foundation and other foundations. The Township has a remarkable history of working within its budget. This year the Township was recognized for its Fiscal Year 2020 budget for April 1st, 2019 to March 31st, 2020. It is the 16th time that this Distinguished Budget Presentation Award has been given to the Township, since 2003. In 2018, we established the Financial Advisory Committee to the Township (FACT) to provide a structured, systemic review of the organization’s governance, risk management, and internal control practices. The FACT Committee includes residents with knowledge of advisory roles, finance, IT, the law, risk, and internal controls.
How as trustee can you help the township address and overcome the novel challenges of operating mid-pandemic and post-pandemic? What are those challenges?
At the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, I participated in the Special Council of Governments bi-weekly municipal governments meetings. The ongoing sessions facilitated by the Village coordinate services, partnerships and share vital information. Residents’ needs are discussed and prioritized openly, resources are discussed collaboratively, and an action plan is implemented through partnerships. The Township is up to the task.
As a trustee, I will continue to listen to the community and our capable staff on fair means and methods of delivering service. We have to quickly adapt our processes to demand. Our Youth Services Team adopted best practice in “tele-health” methods to support our youth clients and their families. In March last year, Senior Services met the challenges of delivering over 20,000 meals while having in-person home visits. We continue to provide transportation for critical needs.
I appreciate the numerous volunteers, including the PTO Council members that pitched in. Cook County reimbursed the Township for COVID-19 related expenses covering installation of glass barriers, upgrading filtration in the HVAC system, and enhanced cleaning of the facilities and PPE for staff and clients. We are working on reimbursement for other expenses through FEMA. Senior Services has a partnership with Beyond Hunger to provide groceries to seniors. The Village of Oak Park is funding the program with CDBG funds (granted to the Village in response to COVID-19). I will work with all elected officials at the county, state, and federal levels to assist us in meeting our challenges.
How will you increase community engagement and awareness of township services?
The Township is in the process of upgrading and rebranding its communication processes. The versatile and collaborative manner of service delivery through partner agencies and non-profits has the unfortunate disadvantage of invisibility. Our partners run programs funded by the Township. In some cases, the beneficiaries may not make the linkage with us. The proposed plan to move the CMHB into the Park Districts’ new Community Recreation Center will provide public exposure for our mental health, senior services, and youth services. In addition to the rebranding efforts, including social media, the Township holds fairs and open house events at our Oak Park Avenue location.
Forty social services agencies have set up an account with Archive Social, which will help the Township maintain and organize its social media posts and discussion threads. CMHB staff have been the keepers of the COVID-19 Social Services guide throughout the pandemic. Post pandemic, CMHB will reactivate the regular resource guide that directs people to the Health Connections Hub. I am open to holding Town Hall meetings with the community at the schools and the park district.
How can the township increase the equitability of its services, considering the many different facets of equity?
In the wake of protests surrounding the murder of George Floyd, Oak Park Township expressed opposition to injustice and oppression in its many forms. I support and encourage discussions with the Village, the Library, the Park District, the School Districts, and the community to facilitate an equitable social justice system. I am an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in all undertakings at the Oak Park Township. We are currently working with our staff on diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization. We must inculcate the practice in all aspects of service and engagement in the community.
How can the township improve its reach and grow its service offering without increasing the tax burden on citizens?
As previously stated, we have a strong record of partnerships and awards for prudent fiscal responsibility. We are working on communication and branding to engage everyone effectively. Our partnerships and grants are a vital source of savings and funding.