Kadner: Bury ready to begin her vision quest
By Phil Kadner email@example.com May 14, 2013 10:40PM
Sandra Bury, candidate for mayor in Oak Lawn. poses along 95th Street in Oak Lawn, IL on Thursday March 14, 2012. She owns Complete Vision Care, which in the area. Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 16, 2013 6:14AM
“It’s a wonderful day, a wonderful opportunity. A wonderful city.”
“I guess you can tell I’m walking on air,” said Sandra Bury, hours before her swearing-in ceremony as Oak Lawn’s new mayor Tuesday night.
Bury defeated Mayor David Heilmann in the April 9 village election, promising a new era of teamwork and ethics reform.
“Ethics reform will be my top priority,” Bury emphasized again. “We will try to pass an ordinance (Tuesday night) creating a committee that will study, among other things, limiting the amount of money that vendors can donate to elected officials in Oak Lawn.
“I don’t think we can prohibit such donations under the law, but I believe we can restrict them.”
Bury said she would not propose any specific reforms herself.
“That’s not how I want to do things here,” she said. “I believe in teamwork. And I believe we have a wonderful team in place already with the new village board members, the returning village board members and the department heads.”
Unlike many newly elected mayors, Bury said she has no desire to replace village officials with people loyal to her.
“It’s the job of the village manager to hire and fire department heads, and I believe we have a very competent village manager,” she said.
She emphasized that contrary to some comments she’s seen online, “I have no hit list. I have none.”
Although village manager Larry Deetjen has been a focus of controversy in the past, Bury consistently praised his “professionalism” throughout the campaign and did so again during our conversation Tuesday.
In addition to ethics reform, Bury said she wants to bring a new transparency to the village government. She specifically cited a 10-point transparency checklist put together by the Illinois Policy Institute.
Orland Park was the first village to score 100 percent under the institute’s guidelines.
That checklist requires contact information for elected and administrative officials online, information about upcoming village meetings, copies of the minutes of meetings, information packets from previous meetings, publication of financial audits and budgets, salary and benefit information of public employees and access to public records through Illinois’ freedom of information law.
Bury said that in coming weeks she hopes to attend the meetings of local civic and church groups and school boards.
“I want to give people an opportunity to meet me and get to know me,” Bury said. “I think that a mayor should be available to the people she serves.”
The owner of Complete Vision Care, which employs five optometrists at 6209 W. 95th St., Bury graduated from the Illinois School of Optometry after receiving a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University.
I asked how she planned to divide her time between her business and village government.
“Right now, I am off on Wednesdays, work a half-day on Tuesdays, and those off hours will probably now be the village’s time,” she said. “I don’t work (as an optometrist) in the office on Monday or Thursday mornings either, so I think we will be fine in terms of the amount of time I can devote to village affairs.
“But I want to emphasize that we have professional staff in Oak Lawn, and I’m going to let them run the business of the village.”
However, Bury envisions having a larger role in representing Oak Lawn outside the village limits.
“I recently attended a mayors forum of the Illinois Municipal League down in Springfield, and that was very exciting for me,” Bury said. “The subject of Cicero Avenue corridor development and transportation was discussed, and I would very much like to see the (CTA’s) Orange Line expanded down Cicero to Oak Lawn at some point.
“You know I grew up near Marquette Park taking the old Archer Avenue Express bus downtown,” she said. “And I always wondered why we didn’t have an el line going to the Southwest Side of Chicago back then.
“Now, I look at the public transportation available to the west and northwest suburbs and the growth and development there and wonder why we in the southwest suburbs seem to be the stepchild. I look forward to representing my community and fighting for it at meetings like that one.”
Bury is the first woman elected mayor of Oak Lawn but said she feels the time has passed to celebrate such events.
“I think we’ve arrived at a place where I can be viewed as simply a person now, not a woman mayor,” Bury said. “While I appreciate the accomplishments of those who came before me and made it possible for a woman to be elected mayor, I don’t think it is the type of thing people should get all excited about any more.”
Bury said she is excited about bringing harmony to a village board that has been bitterly divided during the last four years.
Village trustees, who once were Heilmann’s running mates, eventually turned against him and claims of secret deals and illegal activities were hurled by both sides.
The animosity continued throughout much of the mayoral race, and Bury said she has neither reached out to Heilmann, nor he to her, in the five weeks since the election.
“I’ve had great meetings with village department heads, the manager and the clerk, and I think I’m ready although I realize there are still challenges ahead,” Bury said.
“Right now, I’m just very excited about getting started, and, maybe it sounds Pollyannaish, but I think the future is very bright.”