Lovely transition in Northbrook from Frum to Ciesla

  • Incoming Village President Kathryn Ciesla, center, is sworn in by Cook County circuit court Judge Grace G. Dickler at the Northbrook Village Board meeting Tuesday.

    Incoming Village President Kathryn Ciesla, center, is sworn in by Cook County circuit court Judge Grace G. Dickler at the Northbrook Village Board meeting Tuesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Incoming Northbrook Village President Kathryn Ciesla, right, is hugged by outgoing president Sandy Frum shortly after Frum's arrival at the Northbrook Village Board meeting, during which Ciesla was sworn in, Tuesday.

    Incoming Northbrook Village President Kathryn Ciesla, right, is hugged by outgoing president Sandy Frum shortly after Frum's arrival at the Northbrook Village Board meeting, during which Ciesla was sworn in, Tuesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Flanked by her family, new trustee Joy Ebhomielen was sworn in at the Northbrook Village Board meeting Tuesday.

    Flanked by her family, new trustee Joy Ebhomielen was sworn in at the Northbrook Village Board meeting Tuesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Board President Kathryn Ciesla leads the Northbrook Village Board meeting after being sworn in Tuesday.

    Board President Kathryn Ciesla leads the Northbrook Village Board meeting after being sworn in Tuesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

  • Outgoing Village President Sandy Frum waves as she leaves her seat at the Northbrook Village Board meeting Tuesday.

    Outgoing Village President Sandy Frum waves as she leaves her seat at the Northbrook Village Board meeting Tuesday. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/12/2021 4:38 PM

The Northbrook Village Hall lobby -- decked out with brownies, cookies, refreshments and a sheet cake whose green icing spelled out "Thank You Sandy!" -- made it clear this wasn't the usual board of trustees meeting.

Neither did Tuesday's spillover crowd, at least not for the past year, or the number of ovations befitting a concert.

 

All were warranted. More than 70 attendees of Tuesday's board meeting, many wearing face coverings with "Sandy" written on them, were there to witness the transition from retiring Village President Sandy Frum to Kathryn Ciesla, and the installation of reelected trustees Muriel Collison and Dan Pepoon plus Northbrook's first African-American trustee, Joy Ebhomielen.

The principles, including sitting trustees Johannah Hebl, Bob Israel and Heather Ross, all seemed to want to get to the good stuff. The typically fast-acting board handled two brief agenda items -- one extending outgoing Village Manager Rich Nahrstadt's contract up to three months -- in lightning-round fashion.

Adjourning "sine die," indefinitely, Frum came down from the dais to her first standing ovation, and got a hug from her husband, Northbrook Library board President Carlos Früm, in the front row.

Ciesla, a 12-year trustee and an attorney who specializes in representing children in divorce cases, selected the Judge Grace Dickler, who presides over the Domestic Relations Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, to swear her in as president.

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"If Kathryn only does half as good a job as president of the Village of Northbrook as she does in representing families in their worst possible situation, then we are in for a very prosperous future," the judge said as Ciesla's daughters, Jenna and Kylie, and partner, Heidi Lapin, stood with her.

The presence of loved ones in the proceedings, such as Collison's father, Ted, a former Northbrook trustee; and Pepoon's wife, Paris, and daughter, Laney, was a nice touch.

Village Clerk Debbie Ford, herself sworn in again after more than 21 years, gave the oath to Nigeria native Ebhomielen as the new trustee was surrounded by her husband, William, and children Philip, Nathan and Christine.

"It means a lot, it's a huge honor, and I don't take it lightly," Joy Ebhomielen said after the meeting.

"I am the first African-American woman on the board here in Northbrook. Northbrook has under 1 percent Black and brown people -- it's under a percent. This is a huge achievement. For me the whole purpose of joining this board is to help out my community," she said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's something of joy to me," said William Ebhomielen, no pun intended. "She's always wanted to serve. I'm sure that it's something that she will put everything she has in it. She will succeed. She's always been a go-getter, and I'm very happy for this phase in her life."

Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, who attended Glenview's transitional meeting the previous Tuesday, recited a resolution to the retiring Sandy Frum, a three-term village president with 34 years on the board and longer still with village commissions. Britton said her name is "synonymous to genuine, heartfelt service and leadership with honor and distinction."

Now in charge at the center of the dais, surprised new board President Ciesla exclaimed, "Oh, gosh," as her brother, Andrew Kucienski, approached to speak.

"People want to be in politics for glory, fame, whatever. Kathryn wants to help," said Kucienski, seated with their parents, Jim and Nancy. "I think you're honored to have her here. You may not agree with her at all times, but in the end, she really wants to help Northbrook."

Ciesla's first act was a motion to approve a resolution recognizing Frum, a document chock-full of her myriad posts and accomplishments in Northbrook over her 44 years there with Carlos.

"Future public leaders, in Northbrook and throughout Illinois, will do well to follow her example," Ciesla read from the resolution. "She possesses extraordinarily clear civic vision."

Ciesla said Frum had asked her to join the Northbrook Caucus in 2008, and starting with a solemn Israel, several of the trustees mentioned similar origin stories.

Collison, a fourth-generation Northbrook resident, recalled seeing Frum volunteering at swim meets when Collison was 6-years-old. Like Ross, Ebhomielen sent Frum an email expecting only a cursory response if that. Instead, they recalled long chats with Frum over lunch and coffee, which apparently is a Sandy Frum thing.

"I remember leaving that meeting thinking, 'Wow, that's a leader.'" Ross said. "That's somebody who really cares about the community and the constituents and is open-minded. And I felt like in addition to being a leader that's just a really good human."

Hebl provided the subtly powerful compliment critical to success in any venue: "You showed up."

Ciesla suitably had the longest address to her friend and mentor, "a bittersweet moment to us both," she said.

"Perhaps the best lesson you taught me is the balance between allowing people to be who they are and pursue their passions while sticking to your own," Ciesla said. "Sandy, you're a humble and steady force within our community and one whose legacy will last for generations."

Ciesla then described several gifts to Frum: a tree to be planted in Freedom Park outside Village Hall; a scrapbook filled with resolutions, proclamations and letters from Northbrook institutions and dignitaries such as U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider; a video with well-wishes from family, friends, officials and residents.

And the dedication of the Sandy Frum Board Room.

"To all who enter from this day forward, let it be known that this is a room that we will listen and do our absolute best for the Village of Northbrook with diligence, dignity and civility as embodied by the example of its namesake," Ciesla said, causing a choked-up Frum to shake her head and Collison to dab her eyes.

Taking the podium, Frum thanked the gamut of village employees and officials she's worked with over the years, people like Nahrstadt, village attorney Steve Elrod, her late mentor and former trustee Troy Miller.

"And thank you to the Village of Northbrook," Frum said. "Thank you for your constant support throughout the years I've been on the board. Thank you for holding me accountable, for not giving up on me. Please do the same with the new board. Thank you for letting me know what you wanted to see, and from the community. You are my home, my neighbors, my friends."

She cited the strengths of each sitting trustee, finishing with Ciesla.

"Thank you, Kathryn, for being by my side these last 12 years," Frum said. "For challenging me and pushing me. For asking the hard questions, for always looking for answers. For never giving up.

"And Kathryn, I have every confidence in you. You will be a great leader. From now going forward remember to listen, to disagree without being disagreeable, to criticize the idea, not the person."

She thanked "my arm candy," her husband, Carlos, and noted her children, Alex, Josh and Daniella, and their children.

After thanking Northbrook residents for the "absolute pleasure" of working with them, stressing she's always up for a cup of coffee, she closed with song lyrics she'd previously recited before the board -- from John Denver's "Friends with You."

"Friends, I will remember you, think of you, pray for you; And when another day is through, I'll still be friends with you."

Frum turned, hugged Carlos, and heard the last and best ovation of the night.

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