Former Forest Park Review editor Maria Maxham, left, gets sworn is as village commissioner by mayor Rory Hoskins on Friday, July 16, 2021, during a special meeting at the Forest Park Village Hall. | ALEX ROGALS/Staff Photographer

The Forest Park village council voted unanimously to appoint former Forest Park Review Editor Maria Maxham to fill a vacant commissioner seat at a special meeting on July 14. Maxham replaced former commissioner Dan Novak, who resigned his position last month, because his family is moving out of the village.

Maxham said she made the decision to take the appointment over the July 10-11 weekend after being asked by Forest Park Mayor Rory Hoskins, who consulted at least two other board members.

“Everything came down to [that weekend],” said Maxham, who effectively resigned her position as editor of the Review on July 12 — before a regular council meeting that took place later that day. Maxham did not cover the meeting.

Maxham said she had conversations with Hoskins and Commissioners Joe Byrnes and Jessica Voogd — all of whom indicated that the board would vote in favor of her appointment.

“About two weeks ago, after Novak resigned, the mayor said he would prefer to appoint a woman, because as far as he knows, there have never been two women commissioners serving at once,” Maxham said.

“He gave me the name of somebody he was considering and he said I’d be a good candidate, because I’m intimately knowledgeable about the village. I thought about it, but it wasn’t any serious consideration until [that] weekend,” she said.

Moments after her swearing in, Maxham was selected to become the commissioner for public health and safety, which means that she’ll work with the village’s building department on issues like code enforcement, the issuance of building permits and restaurant inspections. 

“We felt like the person we selected needed to have an understanding of the village’s issues and Maria certainly covers the issues for the paper and she meets the statutory requirements to serve,” Hoskins said during an interview on Friday. “In this case, her knowledge and understanding of the village and its current operations was the decisive factor.” 

Hoskins said this is the first time “we’ve ever had two women on the council at the same time,” adding that “in the history of the village, there’s only been, maybe five or six women who have served [on the village council].” 

Hoskins also laid out the process for appointing someone to a vacant council seat. 

“It doesn’t happen often,” he said. “If Novak had resigned after a year of service, there would have been time for a special election, but because he resigned past the midpoint of his term, the law allows the mayor to make an appointment with the council’s approval. So in this case, I had a 60-day window to make an appointment and then it required approval at a full board meeting from a majority of the commissioners attending that meeting.”  

Maxham, an 18-year resident of Forest Park, was hired to edit Forest Park Review in September 2019. Before that, she had built a reputation as a well-regarded romance novelist. 

During her tenure with the Review, Maxham earned several journalism awards and accolades, including the Top Journalist award from the Illinois Association of Park Districts. 

The award, which Maxham received in January after being nominated by Jackie Iovinelli, the Park District of Forest Park’s executive director, is given to a news entity or individual journalist who “has  provided responsible and comprehensive coverage of Illinois park districts, forest preserves, conservation, recreation, and special recreation agencies at the statewide or local level.”

While at the Review, Maxham was a fixture at Duffy’s Tavern in Forest Park, where she would go on Tuesday afternoon, once she had finished deadlines. 

“I’ll still go to Duffy’s every Tuesday afternoon, so people will know where to find me,” Maxham said. “I plan to keep that tradition alive.”