After each election, outgoing officials are given an opportunity to address the residents, their fellow board members and anyone who may tune into the board meeting on cable television.
Over the last 28 years, elected officials have come and gone in Oak Lawn but one official, Robert Streit, remained as the lone indepenent Trustee. Unfortunately, most officials who lose their elections pass on the opportunity to address the residents and skip the meeting.
On Tuesday, Streit had his opportunity to address the residents, employees and his fellow elected officials. Streit, who is known for making direct comments, didn’t disappoint the crowd earning an ovation at the end that may have reminded him of the many battles he undertook on behalf of residents in his district who often flooded the board room for some particular issue.
Tuesday night was not a fire and brimstone speech but rather a factual reminiscence of Streit’s service and an obvious love for a position he held as long as any other elected official in Oak Lawn history.
Streit, appearing comfortable and at ease, noted that he was first elected in 1991 as an independent candidate in a crowded field that included an incumbent backed by the Coalition Party, which was the dominant party in the village for decades.
Streit stated that his first election, and many thereafter, were fueled by issues such as the 4 a.m. liquor license, a lack of transparency in government, insider contracts, and of course, high taxes.
Streit noted that he wasn’t shy about taking a position on those issues or four years later when the majority of the board attempted to put a housing project in his district. Streit worked with the third district residents to put a referendum on the ballot and defeat the idea while simultaneously defeating the machine in his second election. In his third election against the same candidate, the Daily Southtown ran a banner headline “Streit pulls Hat Trick” with a photo of Streit celebrating with his volunteers.
Streit praised the employees of the Village, noting that many had contacted him since the election to thank him for his service over the years. He called them dedicated servants who are trying to make Oak Lawn better every day.
Streit noted that he was a true independent who worked with the residents and didn’t just call himself an independent at election time. He said that he and the residents weren’t always successful but that they disrupted “the status quo” for the betterment of the community.
Perhaps answering critics over the years about his style, Streit said, “I never thought of any of my policy positions or decisions as “personal” insults or attacks against other officials. It was always the business of being an independent. If I didn’t speak up and help the residents, who would do so?”
Streit thanked the residents for electing him to seven consecutive terms and didn’t leave out a note of congratulations for his successor, Paul Mallo, who he called a gentleman while praising his campaign.
Streit called Mallo’s succession a “new chapter” for the third district after his 28 years. He noted that Mallo has signed up for a big time commitment because while Trustee is a part-time job he said it requires full-time hours if you want to do it right.
Streit called Oak Lawn residents “amazing people” and touched upon the fact that he is a lifetime resident of Oak Lawn and chose to raise his family in Oak Lawn. He said that for 28 years the people of Oak Lawn wanted a true independent in the district and “even the people who disagree with me would admit I was a true independent.”
Streit is the Managing Member of Illinois Energy Aggregation LLC, which is located in Oak Lawn on Southwest Highway. He said that he will now be able to devote more attention to that business.
After making his comments, Mayor Sandra Bury presented Streit with a plaque for his service and the two one time adversaries shook hands and posed for a photo. Streit joked, “snap away” to someone with a camera and Bury said, “you’ll never see this again”.
While you may or may not see Streit and Bury ever pose for a photo again, you won’t see anyone serve 28 consecutive years as Trustee. It is an end of an era but Streit left amid handshakes and best wishes from employees, residents and most of the other elected officials.