After what has been a rocky few months regarding leadership and morale, the Historical Society of Forest Park appeared to bounce back as awards were presented and officers were elected at their yearly membership meeting Oct. 29. Around 30 members attended.
The meeting began with Interim Board President Augie Aleksy’s president’s report showing his pride for the organization and hope that its troubles over the last few months do not repeat themselves.
“To quote a historical novel by Charles Dickens: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,” he said.
Starting with the good news, Aleksy praised the measurable sales from the “Forest Parkopoly” game and “Des Planes River Anthology” book. He listed events held during the year like tours of cemeteries and educational lectures. He mentioned the Historical Society exhibition of artifacts at the First United Church of Christ.
“These achievements…have helped to gain this society notoriety and put its name on the lips of our neighboring communities too,” Aleksy said. “Members and leaders of the historical society in our neighboring community to east [Oak Park] have consulted with our Executive Director to find out how she achieved various successes.”
Aleksy then reflected upon the ills recently plaguing the Historical Society. He explained the organization had faced setbacks including the resignation of former Board President Bob Cox and Member Ernie Hines in early October. Cox resigned after fiscal and personal conflicts with other board members, Hines followed suit, saying he did not like the conflict.
“We had an executive [Cox] and board members who dwelled on what they felt were the necessary and mundane aspects of our operation,” Aleksy continued. “Although I know these individuals may have thought they were sincere in their concerns, they drained the enthusiasm, the energy and the creativity of this Board and divided it with almost minute by minute, if not hour by hour communiqués via email and Facebook.”
Since those problems are now behind the board, he urged residents of Forest Park to step up and invest their time into the Historical Society.
“For this society to survive, we need members, committee members and board members who can share the work and the joy of this society,” he argued. “Forest Park residents need to belly up to the bar. If you as citizens don’t become part of it, how can we know what Forest Park appreciates and [in] what it’s interested?”
Aleksy honored Village Administrator Tim Gillian and his wife Dorothy and Mayor Anthony Calderone for providing a village-owned space for the society’s offices. Gillian was honored for helping renovate the village space at his own expense.
Executive Diane Hansen presented the Dr. Orland Award for dedication and service to volunteers John Cline and Rick Wagner. The award is named for Historical Society founder Dr. Frank Orland.
After nominations from the audience, current board members Jerry Lordan, Jean Lotus and Elizabeth Carpenter were reelected. Newcomers Brian Kuhr and Jill Wagner were elected. Carpenter, Lordan, Lotus and Wagner will serve until October 2016. Kuhr was elected to finish the one-year term of Robert Cox, and will serve until Cct. 2015.
Board members Aleksy, Herman Ziebell and Lawrence Broughton are slated to remain on the board until their terms end in October 2015.
Former President Box Cox did not attend, but his friend, Member Michael Roti, raised bylaws questions more than once involving the succession from vice president to president.
“Are you offering any solutions?” asked newly elected director Jill Wagner.
Jerry Lordan acknowledged the organization’s bylaws were inadequate and said the board was proposing a bylaws makeover with a consultant, possibly someone recommended by the Community Trust, who could work pro-bono.
Since Kuhr and Broughton were not present at the meeting, the board will internally vote on officer positions at their next meeting on Saturday, Nov. 15.
This article has been updated to clarify the term length of newly elected board members and to correct the spelling of Brian Kuhr’s name.
Editor Jean Lotus is a member of The Historical Society Board.