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A Fresh Perspective: New Oak Brook Trustee is first woman on Village Board in ten years

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By Chuck Fieldman | Photo courtesy of the Village of Oak brook

The June appointment of Melissa Martin checked some open boxes for the Oak Brook Village Board.

Martin, 43, is the first woman to serve on the Board since Elaine Zannis opted not to seek re-election ten years ago. Martin is also the only trustee with children in elementary school, and she brings a strong background in finance to the table.

“As the only village trustee with children in elementary school, she represents a diverse perspective that is needed within the community,” said John Anos, chairman of the village’s Sports Core Advisory Committee, on which Martin served before being appointed to the Village Board.

Anos said it was a pleasure serving on the Sports Core Advisory Committee for six years.

“During that time, Melissa collaborated with the committee through difficult financial times, and she was an invaluable asset to our work,” Anos said. “When previous board liaisons tried to turn over the management and revenue to the park district, Melissa presented an alternative view to the village that demonstrated this was not a sound financial decision. I believe Melissa is a valuable appointed trustee for the Village of Oak Brook.”

The appointment of Martin to the Village Board came about two months after she ran unsuccessfully to become a trustee on a slate headed by two-year Board member Larry Herman, who was elected Village President.

Martin said she wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t elected to the Board in April.

“Local government and the election process was not a natural transition for me,” she said. “While I made every attempt to eloquently provide my position on the issues at hand, I did not engage in many of the political agenda items. In this way, I probably limited my visibility.

“I am a strong believer in collecting all relevant information on a given topic and speaking only when an informed opinion can be provided. I hope to show the community this type of reserved and informed decision-making throughout my term, instilling a sense of trust with the community.”

Herman didn’t hesitate when he was elected village president to recommend Martin to fill the remaining two years of the four-year trustee term he won in 2021.

 


“I will continue to look for ways to innovate and modernize Oak Brook through sound financially minded decisions that pay homage to the rich traditions of the village.”

– Melissa Martin, Oak Brook Village Board Member


 

“In a short period of time, Melissa has proven to be the fantastic addition to the Village Board that I expected when I endorsed her candidacy,” Herman said. “Anyone who has watched our recent Village Board meetings can observe that she is a quick study and asks thoughtful questions that get to the heart of the issues we address.”

Martin’s profession as an Associate Professor of Accounting at the University of Illinois-Chicago gives her an impressive and helpful knowledge of finances.

“Her financial acumen is an invaluable asset to the Board,” Herman said. “While we are fortunate to have a woman back on the Board, the more salient asset she brings is her representation of the young families that are the future of our village. We are on the cusp of generational change in Oak Brook, and Melissa is the perfect Board member to help us navigate it in pursuit of Oak Brook’s continued greatness.”

Martin said that in her role as a university professor, she has considerable experience understanding governance within a public institution.

“In addition, my background in accounting provides a solid foundation for fiscally grounded decision-making,” she said. “I will continue to look for ways to innovate and modernize Oak Brook through sound financially minded decisions that pay homage to the rich traditions of the village.”

“I pair this more global knowledge with specific experience serving the village. As a six-year member of the Sports Core Committee, I gained an understanding of village operations, ranging from public works, administrative staff, budgeting, and public safety. I look forward to furthering my knowledge of village operations to inform my decision-making as a trustee,” she added.

Village Board member Michael Manzo, who successfully ran for re-election in April while supporting Herman and Martin, said the new Board appointee was a great choice to fill the vacant seat.

“She already has experience working with village staff and budgets as a member of the Sports Core Committee,” he said. “Her background as a Certified Public Accountant, as well as being a widely-published tenured professor of accounting at University of Illinois-Chicago, is impressive, too.”

Martin said she didn’t expect to be asked to take Herman’s spot on the Board.

“I did not expect to be asked, but was delighted when it came,” she said. “Larry was such an engaged and influential trustee, and you can see this in the start of his term as president. He has provided large shoes to fill, and I hope I can be an outlet for voices from the community and be a trusted official engaged in continuing to improve Oak Brook.”

Martin said she is glad to have the opportunity to serve on the Board, both as the first woman in several years and as the parent of school-age children.

“I hope to increase the representation of these groups in village matters and motivate my peers to serve the community as well,” she said. “I do think it is a shame that there has been such a long gap between female trustees.

That being said, I think it is important to have a set of trustees that responsibly advocates for the interests of our residents. I bring as much the perspective of a younger working resident and a parent of school-age kids as I do a solely female perspective. The former are probably used much more in shaping my opinions on village matters.”

Martin believes her experience on the Sports Core Advisory Committee will be helpful in her new role as a Village Board member. “I absolutely believe this experience has and will continue to help me in my role as a trustee,” she said.

“In the Sports Core Committee, we regularly interact with a large portion of village staff, including the village manager, public works, etc. Having first-hand experience with these functions of the village was a great primer to the trustee position.”

In her limited time on the Board since being appointed in June, Martin said the experience has been relatively close to what she expected.

“I am still generally surprised sometimes by the parties who overly politicize benign issues, however, I think this is inherent in the nature of government,” she said. “I hope to continue to make ethical decisions that build the community’s trust in my leadership.”

Hearing from community members about issues of interest to them is one of the aspects Martin said she most enjoys about being a trustee.

“I have also enjoyed learning more about aspects of the village I was unaware of before,” she said. “President Herman also asked me to serve as a trustee representative to the library, which has been fantastic. We are frequent users of the library, but I have enjoyed learning much more about the leadership team and future plans.”

Between her Board service and occupation, Martin’s schedule is pretty full. But her family — husband of 19 years, D. Erik Martin, and children, Charlie, 11, and Everett, 8 — remain her top priority and interest.

“My kids are probably my greatest hobby, but I also love to cook and travel,” she said. “You will also likely find me exercising or walking our giant dog.” ■

 

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