While many people are aware that Oak Lawn voters have begun to vote for Mayor and three Village Trustees not everyone knows that there are hotly contested races for the Oak Lawn Park District, which is a separate distinct government overseen by five elected commissioners.
While the village race has all the lights shining upon the candidates, it almost appears that the ten contenders for three park district seats are stuck in the dark trying to be seen.
Three candidates are running for one four year term while seven candidates seek two six year terms. Julie Cooper, one candidate for the Oak Lawn Park District Board four year term, wrote in an email that she is “passionate about what our Park District does, and can do, for Oak Lawn families and especially children.”
Cooper graduated from Northern Illinois University with a BA in Interpersonal Communications and minor in Music. Her husband, Tim, and her have two daughters, Kaylee and Sara. Cooper is an Account Manager for Single Path, a technology company.
Cooper called herself an “active member of the St. Linus parish.” She served as President of the St. Linus Ladies Guild in 2014-15 and Vice President in 2015-16. During these terms, Cooper helped establish the St. Linus Turkey Trot & Kentucky Derby non-profit fundraising events, which grossed more than $100,000 to help fund technology & music education for our school.
Cooper said that she is running in an attempt to invest time back to the community. She also said the Park District’s programs create opportunities that are critical because many of these recreational programs attract new families to come to the community. Cooper said that she will be “prudent with expenses and mindful of the tax burden.”
Cooper wrote, “the Park District has given much to my family. Now, it’s time for me to give back to our community and I look forward to the opportunity by preserving the well-established and fantastic programs offered while encouraging growth and creative new programs for all children and families.”
Jim Buschbach is another candidate running for the four year term. He has been an Oak Lawn resident and business owner for over 50 years. As an experienced community leader, he noted various accomplishments and positions including:
– Board Member of Oak Lawn Parks Foundation
– Founding Member of Oak Lawn Children’s Museum
– Board Member of Advocate Christ Medical Center
– Past President and Active Member of the Oak Lawn Chamber of Commerce
– Member of Business Development Commission
– Member of the Oak Lawn Community Partnership
“I feel the residents and businesses in Oak Lawn are very fortunate to have such a large and well-run Park District. I would be honored to be a part of this great organization and build upon its programs for Oak Lawn residents of all ages. I feel my business experience, board experience, and ability to work with others, as well as knowledge of Oak Lawn, will be helpful in being a good Park District Commissioner,” wrote Buschbach.
Thomas DeMatteo is a third candidate running and he did not respond to our request for information. DeMatteo is endorsed by Tom Phelan and serves as the Treasurer of a political action committee associated with Phelan.
Mary Pat Coughlin is running for one of the two six year terms. Coughlin is a former athletic director and varsity volleyball and softball coach at Maria High School. She previously served on the St. Linus Athletic and School Boards. Coughlin was a part time instructor at Moraine Valley Community College in the Physical Education Department for 17 years.
Currently, Coughlin is the Kindergarten through 5th grade Physical Education teacher at Kolmar Elementary School in Oak Lawn. She wrote “The Oak Lawn Park District was instrumental in my children’s development as they were growing up. We are fortunate in Oak Lawn to have an outstanding Park District and I want to see it continue to offer the highest quality programs and activities to residents of all ages.”
Other candidates running for the six year term include Douglas Sweetser, Lisa Boland, Vernon Zumhagen, Jason Hilger, Bryon Martin, and Steve Loulousis.
Boland appears on lawn signs with Cooper. Boland graduated from NIU with a BA in Child Development and from Lewis University with an MA in Organizational Leadership and Non-for Profit Fundraising. Boland was raised in Oak Lawn, and her parents still reside in in St. Catherine of Alexandria.
She and her husband, also a lifelong resident of Oak Lawn, have four children and are a part of the St. Linus Parish. Boland has been an associate of Advocate Children’s Hospital for the past 18 years, providing support to children and their families as they try and balance their hospital experience while still maintaining normalcy in their lives.
In addition she has responsibility over major projects involving process improvement and programming for the hospital. She wrote that she is the co-founder of the Running for Hope 5K, which has raised over $800,000 the past 9 years to benefit the Ronald McDonald House and Advocate Children’s Hospital.
Boland has written, “The Oak Lawn Park District has been a part of my life and my families for the past 42 years and I truly embrace their Mission of promoting a strong sense of community by providing leisure opportunities and the preservation of natural resources that enhance the quality of life and wellness for everyone.”
The other candidates did not respond to the Oak Lawn Leaf for information but are running varying degrees of campaigns. Steve Loulousis is a former park district commissioner. In 1993, the Park District passed an ordinance that provided a “pass” known as the gold card allowing commissioners and appointed personnel to play golf or use other programs for free. The Better Government Association reported about the program noting that Loulousis had played 76 free rounds of golf since 2014, which was the most of any user. Loulousis has also served previously as Worth Township Highway Commissioner.
Vernon Zumhagen, moved into Oak Lawn three years ago from Berwyn and is a Sandra Bury appointee to the Village’s Planning and Development Commission. Zumhagen voted for the controversial Anthem nursing home project that is to be built in a residential area. Zumhagen also operates two Facebook pages spending hours a day monitoring the pages as an “administrator”. He has been criticized for deleting comments on the pages that disagree with Mayor Sandra Bury and for terminating individuals from the pages if he disagrees with their opinions. Zumhagen has six children and would be entitled to free park district programs for himself and family if elected. Zumhagen has attacked both the Oak Lawn Patch and Oak Lawn Leaf at various times.
No information could be found about the other individuals running who did not respond to the request for information.