Three Independent candidates filed for Village Trustee races on Monday, which was the last day of filing, setting up races against loyalists of incumbent Mayor Sandra Bury.
Predictions on social media by allies of the Mayor that the incumbents would not have any challengers proved to be false with the three candidates filing together and being named the “next generation” of leaders by Mayoral candidate, Robert Streit. While the three candidates may be new to politics they are apparently not new to community service.
In District 2, Glenn Schlesser, an Oak Lawn homeowner, husband and father of two young children is challenging three term incumbent Alex Olejniczak. Schlesser is an active father, which he proved on Monday when he was balancing his duties as a father and candidate. His two young children were with him as he filed the paperwork to become a candidate.
Schlesser is no stranger to public service as a former 911 dispatcher and in his current employment as a Captain in the Village of Thornton Fire Department. He even has a link to police work since his father served as a police officer.
Schlesser has been concerned with the many village issues and wondered how he could best serve his community. As a firefighting professional he has paid attention to the long and expensive battle between the Bury administration and the Oak Lawn Firefighters union. Schlesser disagrees with the Olejniczak’s votes to cut the fire department personnel and rely on overtime. The village has cut 22 firefighter/ paramedic positions but has paid millions in legal fees and overtime costs to make up for the cuts.
Schlesser notes that the National Fire Protection Association Technical Committee that produced NFPA 1710 reviewed numerous studies, evaluations, and reports containing empirical data on departmental response and fire mitigation. According to Schlesser, these studies clearly demonstrate that for safe, effective and efficient fire suppression, the activities involved in controlling and extinguishing fires and rescue operations departments need a minimum of four firefighters.
In addition to threatening public safety, Schlesser said the minimum manning issue has also proven to be too costly with the village spending millions on lawyers to defend the position. As far as his opponent’s decision to run for a fourth term after being an outspoken supporter for term limits, Schlesser said, “the people will have to decide if they can trust a politician who says one thing and does another.”
District Four features lifelong resident and homeowner John Koss challenging one term Trustee Terry Vorderer. Koss, a married father of six children, has served on the St. Germaine School Board and its athletic board. He owns his own business, Creative Door and Window, works full time as a BNSF railroad freight conductor and still finds time to coach youth sports teams. He has also served as Cubmaster for the scouts for the last 9 years and has been an active member of the Knights of Columbus.
Koss, remembers what Oak Lawn was like while growing up and knows how it has changed. “I grew up in Oak Lawn and chose to raise my family here, ” he said. “It’s a great place to live but it isn’t what it used to be,” he added. He cites recent high profile armed robberies of homeowners in District 4, trouble at Chuck E. Cheese and other violent incidents that have him and his neighbors concerned. “I never worried about going to the park in the neighborhood when I grew up here but now I worry about the safety of my children,” he stated.
Koss isn’t one to sit on the sidelines and when friends urged him to consider running, he and his wife said that you have to be willing to take on the responsibilities of community service if you want a strong community for your children. Friends have marveled at his ability to juggle his business, community activities and family events. One friend said that an old saying, “if you want something to get done, give it to a busy man” fits Koss perfectly.
As a father of six, public safety is an issue that is always on his mind. He would like to see more police patrols in the community noting that the Oak Lawn police officers are great but “we need to see them in our neighborhood on a consistent basis”. Koss said that he’s ready to do his part to make Oak Lawn “a safer more tax friendly community”.
The third new challenger, Jozettemarie “Jo” Palermo, also stands out for community involvement more than political involvement. She provides a sharp contrast to her challenger Tom Phelan, who served 8 years as a Trustee and 4 years as Mayor Sandra Bury’s chief political adviser. Palermo would be the only woman on the board if elected, which does not worry her at all.
Palermo, a mother of a seven year old son, is quick to point out that she has accepted challenges in the past and running against Bury’s political adviser is “just one more challenge”. Palermo is a self employed commodities trader but she started in the pits trading. “As a young woman, I was told I wouldn’t last in the pits but I worked hard and accepted the challenge.”
After starting as a runner on the trading floor she advanced to help manage and run one of the most successful livestock futures and options operations on the trading floor for over 20 years.
Palermo, who has lived in Oak Lawn for 21 years, and owns a home, has been the Co-Chair for fundraising for the Family Teacher Connection Board at St. Linus School. She’s also has served the Outlaws Football Youth Organization as “team mom”. “I chose to raise my son in Oak Lawn and I’m concerned about the decisions that are affecting us,” she stated.
Palermo cited the 300 percent utility tax increase, which she notes has a disproportionate affect on seniors. As a mother, she said she realizes that public safety is really provided by sound board decisions and the hard work of the fire department, police officers and dispatchers. She was especially critical of the board’s decision to fire twenty two 911 employee dispatchers and outsource the jobs to people “who don’t know Oak Lawn and don’t know our streets”. She said she worries as a mother that the seconds lost with “mistakes” could cost a loved one’s life.
All three of the candidates are running with Mayoral candidate and current Village Trustee Robert Streit. Village Clerk Jane Quinlan is running unopposed for Clerk.