*EDITOR’S NOTE: Candidates submitted their own biographies
I have lived in the community my entire life. I graduated from OPRFHS, as my father did before me. My three children attended Lincoln, Brooks & OPRFHS. I have been a homeowner in Oak Park and currently am a renter here. I have worked for District 97 for 18 years, have had many responsibilities, and worn many different hats. I have been fortunate to work with and support the standing committees for the Board of Education.
As Board Liaison, I have facilitated effective and clear communication required of these important citizen-led committees, thus ensuring that the public can exchange information and goals. These are the same duties I will have as Clerk; recording of meetings, compliance with the Illinois Open Meetings Act, disposal of records, and handling logistics for meetings. I have also had the pleasure of working with a multitude of our fellow community members and organizations over the past several years including:
• Executive Assistant to IGOV, The Intergovernmental Body of the Village of Oak Park, for the past 5 years.
• Planning and execution of the District 97 Legislator’s Forum for the past 7 years
• Master of Ceremonies of the Multi-Cultural Festival for the past 12 years, and most recently, Co-Chair
• District 97 CLAIM Committee & Community Engagement Committee, Facilities Advisory Committee, Financial Oversite Committee
How do you intend to increase access to public records and information for the public and what does transparency mean to you?
Transparency to me means honesty and thorough communication. Transparency is the government’s obligation to share information in a timely and thorough manner with the public. To that extent, it is the primary responsibility of the Clerk, as the official record-keeper of the Village to provide that transparency.
I will be independent of the board and will strictly focus on the needs of the people of Oak Park. I view the Village Clerk not as a political position, but as a position that provides support to the people of Oak Park. I envision many opportunities to increase access to public records and information. I would start by conducting a forensic deep-dive into the user-friendly accessibility of the current website of the Village of Oak Park.
Do you believe all Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and responses should be made publicly available on the village website and why?
I absolutely do believe that all FOIA requests, as well as their responses, should be made publicly available on the Village website. There are many reasons why I think this is the case.
First of all, when a person is interested in a FOIA request, it’s because they are seeking data. It is not unreasonable to assume that another member of the community has already requested the same information. If the archived FOIA requests were made available to the public in an easily accessible format on the Village website, citizens could save the time of filing an additional FOIA request and have immediate access to the data. An easy-to-navigate website would relieve frustration by the public when trying to access important information and data, and would thereby reduce the number of FOIA requests.
Secondly, the redundancy of multiple FOIA requests for the same information is a drain on the Village staff’s time and lowers productivity. Making the FOIA requests and responses available on the Village website also promotes increased transparency.
What do you want to accomplish as Clerk and why are you motivated to pursue this office?
As Clerk, I want to create an environment where all members of our community feel welcomed, valued, and supported when reaching out for help or information. This includes renters, homeowners, business owners, as well any potential newcomers.
I am motivated to pursue this office for many reasons. First and foremost, I love Oak Park. I am so fortunate to have spent my whole life here and have purposefully stayed here to raise my children.
For the past 18 years, I have had the privilege to work with our K-8 schools in District 97 and for the past 6 years with IGOV. It has offered me the opportunity to learn so much about how our Village operates when it is at its best and when it’s striving to be better. I want to continue this path that I am on in a greater role by serving this community that has given me and my family so very much.
As the village clerk participates in village board meetings but does not have the authority to vote and as such remains a neutral party, will you allow your personal opinions and values to hinder your ability to carry out the duties of the position? How?
I utterly believe in the independence and neutrality of the Clerk’s role. The Village Clerk of Oak Park is responsible directly to the people of Oak Park, not the Board, and not to the Village Staff. The Clerk is not an advocate of policy. The Clerk does not propose changes in ordinance or law, but rather ensures those policies are being implemented according to their original intent, and that the Board and their meetings operate in accordance with state law and statute.
I vow to promote transparency, equity, inclusion, fairness, and assistance to the residents that I represent. I will not allow the opinions of the Village Trustees or my own opinions on matters before them to get in the way of that mission. I know first-hand the vital importance of remaining independent, that all viewpoints must have a voice, but that remaining independent of the Village Board is crucial to ensure that the community remains the priority.
How do you intend to expand engagement between citizens and the village clerk?
I believe the ability to listen and the willingness to hear and learn are keys to community engagement. How we reach out to the individuals must be an ongoing conversation. I would like to expand our capacity for texting information to the community members. For some, texting is their primary mode of communication, for others, it is through social media. We need to meet people in their place and in their space.
I feel that one of the barriers to communication in the Village is the structure of the website. Many people find it difficult to navigate and not user-friendly. I would work with the communication department to explore ways to make the website easier to use and navigate. I would also work closely with the other taxing bodies to disseminate information, but equally as important, share the concerns raised by the community with them. Lastly, I would as a clerk be “boots on the ground”, attending community events, utilize block parties and civic events to share information, and garner responses.
Do you believe the role of clerk should change from a full-time job to a part-time job with a reduction in salary? If no, why? If yes, what responsibilities of the clerk should be moved to a different department?
No, the role of the Clerk is dictated by state statute. It is a professional position. The statutory responsibility, which also includes the facilitation of elections, responding to the public, signing off on contracts, managing FOIA requests, managing board meetings and minutes is full-time work.
To alter that would alter the neutrality of those functions. To change this role from full-time to part-time would eliminate many from the community to seek the office. Many in our community would not be able to afford taking on this position on a part-time basis.