By Chuck Fieldman | Photo by Victor Hilitski
Longtime Oak Brook Village Board member Michael Manzo, who was first elected in 2011 and re-elected in April for a fourth four-year term, said the board has had a very different feel to it over the past two-plus years. “I think the board is more proactive now than it’s been anytime since I was first on it,” Manzo said.
“Ever since the board majority changed some with the victory of Herman, Nagle, and Reddy in the 2021 election, we’ve been much more proactive in trying to get things done instead of talking about things with not as much action. The combination of the proactive attitude among the board, along with bringing in Greg Summers as village manager (in January 2022), has made a big positive difference for the village.”
One huge factor, Manzo said, was the April election of longtime Oak Brook resident Larry Herman to take over as village president for the retiring Gopal Lalmalani, who decided not to run for a fourth four-year term.
Prior to the April election, in which Herman defeated Asif Yusuf and Suresh Reddy in the race for village president, Lalmalani endorsed Herman, calling him “an extraordinary civic leader and an honorable man.”
Lalmalani said he felt very comfortable leaving the leadership of the village to Herman.
“As trustee, he has smartly and proactively revamped our budgeting and accounting processes and, in the process, dramatically improved the village’s financial position,” Lalmalani said in his endorsement. “He has initiated technology advances that have vastly improved our safety and efficiency. Larry has done much more than what other trustees have done in over ten years.”
Herman is very supportive of the proactive approach to law enforcement that is preferred by Police Chief Brian Strockis, who was named to the job in June after 22 years of working with the Oak Brook department.
“Over the last year or so, Oak Brook has taken a decidedly more proactive approach to criminal apprehension and enforcement,” Herman said. “In partnership with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and his Organized Retail Crime Task Force, we have invested heavily in such resources as undercover police units, camera technology, drones, a K-9 unit, and GPS tracking systems.”
Herman said Oak Brook supports and loves its police, and in turn, officers enjoy doing their job. “Throughout this process, our police have deepened their working relationships with retail store loss prevention personnel,” Herman said. “Oak Brook has also partnered with neighboring police agencies, sharing resources as a force multiplier.”
Herman said the village promotes its crime-fighting successes to get the word out to criminals to stay away from Oak Brook and DuPage County.
“The results speak for themselves,” he said. “Over the last year, many major Oak Brook retailers are reporting that their shoplifting rates have dropped markedly in their Oak Brook stores, while the theft rate in stores outside of Oak Brook remains high. Meanwhile, sales at Oakbrook Center and other local stores and restaurants are booming.”
Another major focus for Herman has been the efforts to turn around the problematic financial situation of the village’s Sports Core. With help from others, that has happened.
” As part of that remarkable financial turnaround, with the guidance of the Sports Core Committee, allied village trustees, and village staff, we accomplished much,” said Herman. Efforts have resulted in:
• Implementation of a new pool management agreement with a leading pool management company;
• Establishing a dedicated Bath and Tennis Club website for the first time;
• Introducing new online registration and check-in system to better manage membership;
•Publishing ads and articles promoting the Club, which helped lead to near-capacity 2022 membership.
• Conducting a thorough membership survey at the end of the season, gathering feedback to improve the membership experience for 2023.
• Negotiating a new, more profitable soccer field management agreement
“As a result of these changes, the village increased net revenues from these operations by about $380,000 over the prior 2021 arrangement with the park district,” Herman said. He said for 2023, the improvement is forecast to be around $450,000.
“These substantially increased revenues will provide funds to make ongoing capital investments in the facilities, hopefully achieving the financial self-sufficiency that has been elusive for decades.”
Manzo said “Larry has a lot of really good ideas, and he’s working hard to bring long overdue accountability and transparency to the village of Oak Brook,” Manzo said. “Business as usual is no longer good enough for our new Oak Brook Village President/Board. The residents of Oak Brook deserve better.” ■