Teresa Powell on government service and the “chicken ordinance”
Oak Park Village Clerk Teresa Powell is finishing her fourth year in office and is running unopposed in the April 9 election. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:27AM
OAK PARK — Village Clerk Teresa Powell is completing four years of service. This April she is running unopposed for a second term.
As clerk Powell is responsible for an array of things, including keeping records of the proceedings of all Oak Park Village Board meetings. She is the village’s FOIA officer, and as such monitors village compliance with the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.
The clerk’s office is the local election authority and oversees the actual voting process. They handle all business licenses and other permits, and inspect weighing and measuring devices under the auspices of the state. Her office also prepares information on violations of Village ordinances for the Circuit Court.
Powell, a 36-year resident of Oak Park, graduated from the University of Chicago and has three master’s degrees. She came to the clerk’s job from a service background, including an eight-year career in the insurance industry and public outreach jobs at Dominican University and Alcuin Montessori. The four years prior to becoming clerk, she was a consultant to the Arts and Business Council of Chicago.
In her spare time, she also serves as secretary of the North Northwest Cook County Municipal Clerks for the 2012-2013 years.
Q: You speak a lot about service. Why?
A: “I think that’s the key thing people look to in a village clerk. That is the trusted public official able to provide information and provide resources to people.”
Powell said she also serves the “trusted public official” function for all village documents and actions taken by the board.
“I attest to everything that is a (formal) village board action. It completes the link to the person who purportedly signed the document.”
Q: What’s your favorite part of being clerk?
A: “I’ve gotten to know so many people I didn’t know before. I like to help people get together and collaborate. I’ve learned so much through helping other people. I’m always learning something new. . . . I brought a wealth of experience (to being clerk) but not in municipal government. This has been like a graduate course in municipal government.”
Q: What was the most challenging thing you’ve done?
A: “You never know what will happen,” Powell said, such as when she was asked to research the village’s “two-chicken ordinance.”
“We couldn’t locate anything on it. So we asked Frank Lipo (head of the Oak Park Historical Society). He’d handled a request on it before. It was originally a Cicero Township ordinance (when Oak Park was part of that township.) It allowed chickens everywhere. That gradually got modified, and in 1955, they amended it to allow just two chickens per yard.”
(That law is still in effect today, by the way.)
Q: What’s your least favorite part of being clerk?
A: “The long village board meetings. I think we’re finding our way toward a more concise review of topics. I believe that’s due to the new village manager (Cara Pavlicek) over the past year.”
“Sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed, just staying organized and staying on top of things. I do carry it home somewhat.”
“Also, I am always the clerk, even when I’m with friends just sitting around talking. I’ve had some long conversations about parking, which I can’t do anything about.”
Q: What’s a priority the next four years?
A: “We’ve kind of been in a holding pattern (with the economy). I believe we can move forward with technology issues related to connectivity and better record supports. That’s an issue I’m anxious to address. I know it’s something (village manager) Cara Pavlicek wants too.”
Q: Any plans to run for trustee?
A: “I don’t know. I may retire. I certainly have thought about it. (But) I like my role (on the board). I’m equally involved in the (board decision making process) even though I don’t vote on the final decision.”
“I’m happy with producing the historical record. To me that matters as much as being a decision maker.”
“I bring information to the trustees to help them make their decisions with the best information.”