Trustee Martha Brock announced her resignation from the Oak Park village board Tuesday morning, effective Jan. 31. Brock, who was elected to the board 21 months ago, cited deteriorating health and the stress of board service as reasons for her decision.
Brock is the second member of this board to resign. Geoff Baker, like Brock elected from the New Leadership Party slate in April 2005, resigned from the board in November.
Brock described her board service as a “really rewarding experience” and expressed her “deep respect for all the involvement” of members of the community. However, she said, she faces health issues which are “potentially life-threatening, and I have to get out of this [stress-filled] environment. It has caused my health to deteriorate, and I have to do what’s best to keep me alive.”
Brock was not more specific about her health issues, saying, “It is between me and my physician.” Brock, who has run a small photography business on Harrison Street, said she lacks health insurance and that her “medical bills are through the roof. It is wearing on me.” Brock will leave Oak Park by the end of the month and move to be near her sister, who will help with her recuperation. “I need the support of my family,” she said.
Brock is a long-time advocate in Oak Park, known mostly for her involvement in education issues. Therefore her slating and narrow election for a village board post was something of a surprise. As a board member, Brock was known for her tough questioning of staff and representatives of partner agencies, particularly in the area of affordable housing. She referred to that tone of questioning Tuesday and said, “There were a lot of things that I wanted to do. And sometimes the questions I asked may not have come out the way I wanted them to. But I asked those questions out of love for this community.”
Fellow trustees celebrated her advocacy and the unique perspective she brought to the board.
“She’s played a valuable role on the board and given voice to concerns that are important to her,” said Trustee Greg Marsey.
“Martha was at her best and liveliest last week when she emphasized the crucial importance of citizen opinions when the board evaluates development proposals,” said Trustee Galen Gockel. “Her comment that ‘I meet more citizens than commission members’ was a classic which should be the watchword of every trustee.”
Brock said she did not know what procedures would be followed in naming her replacement but said that she was not concerned that her departure would leave the board without an African-American representative. “But I am concerned about someone there representing the community. That person should be colorblind. I don’t care about their color or their [political] party. What will be missing though, regardless of color, is a person who raises challenges.”
Brock said she was proud of the job her board did “in coming together” to hire new Village Manager Tom Barwin. “We are on a path for good things in Oak Park with Tom Barwin if we don’t wear him down or micromanage him. Having him at the helm will help us shape diversity and improve services in Oak Park.”
In a statement, Barwin called the resignation unfortunate.
“I have a special fondness for her since she played a major role with the board that hired me,” he said. “I wish her all the best and hope she quickly recovers her good health.”
Brock said she told Trustee Bob Milstein of her intention to resign two weeks ago and informed Village Clerk Sandra Sokol of her plan on Tuesday morning. Village President David Pope and other trustees were to learn of her resignation when her letter was distributed to them by the manager’s office.
She credited Milstein and Sokol for their support, especially on a night in April 2006 when Brock passed out during a board meeting and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Milstein and Sokol accompanied her to the emergency room while the board meeting was reconvened.
The resignation comes too late for the remainder of Brock’s term to be filled in the April election. Instead, the village president will appoint–and the board will approve–someone to serve until April 2009.
Gockel, who learned of the resignation just five minutes before a telephone interview, and who returned to the board by appointment to fill former Trustee Baker’s term until the April election, said he hadn’t had much time to think about whether he would be interested in an appointment for the remainder of Brock’s term.
“I really don’t know,” Gockel said. “I would be very happy to defer to someone else who would be available.”
Brock is the second of three trustees elected by the NLP in 2005 to resign, while Milstein, who ran for president in 2005 on the NLP slate, left the party when the Village Citizens Alliance split from the NLP.
“I don’t think it says anything about the party in general,” Marsey said, calling it a coincidence that he could be the only remaining NLP member on a board that just two years ago had a 5-2 NLP majority.
He said that if he becomes a minority member of the board, it won’t affect how he serves. “I’ll be anxious to serve with any of” the candidates running for trustee, he said.