Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins will have to get used to smaller office space — whether she likes it or not.
Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. has finally acted on a 2014 request by trustees to move the mayor’s office, long located a floor above the Maywood Police Station and beside the village’s council chambers at 125 S. 5th Ave., to the village’s administrative building at 40 Madison St. The new space would be at least half the size of the old one.
In June 2014, against the recommendations of then Acting Village Manager David Myers and Perkins, the village board voted 4-3 to direct village staff to relocate the office.
Trustees Audrey Jaycox, Toni Dorris, Ron Rivers and Melvin Lightford voted in favor of the proposal; while Mayor Perkins and Trustees Cheryl Ealey-Cross and Michael Rogers voted against it. Jaycox and Ealey-Cross are no longer on the board.
Some trustees who supported the relocation argued that the mayor’s supporters were using the office for personal and business activities, although there’s been scant evidence presented that proves the claim.
Dorris claimed that moving the office into the same building as other administrative departments would “only reestablish a common tradition of the Mayor’s office being located within the municipal building. She said that this tradition is followed by most local governments, including Maywood, until it was disrupted by former Mayor Ralph Conner, Mayor Yarbrough’s predecessor,” according to a June 2014 Village Free Press article.
Opponents of the relocation, however, have argued that the costs related to the move are prohibitive and that the administrative building is not suitable for most employees who work in it, let alone the mayor, who has noted in the past that she believes the move is politically motivated while expressing staunch disapproval of the board’s decision.
Rogers, a retired architect, has said the 40 Madison building is an aesthetic and ergonomic disaster and wasn’t designed for administrative purposes. He also noted that it would be disrespectful to move the mayor’s office against her wishes.
In May 2014, Myers drafted a memo in which he estimated that the cost of the office relocation would be $17,000. The memo also stated that the village’s public works department would relocate furniture to an open space on the second floor of the 40 Madison building, “between the Finance Department (Water Department) and the conference room.”
At the June 18, 2014 meeting in which the vote was made in favor of the office relocation, however, Dorris, “who had helped introduce the relocation proposal and was among the cohort of trustees who voted to direct Myers to look into the prospective costs of a move, denied that the $17,000 figure existed,” according to the report published by Village Free Press at the time.
Last April, when the matter was brought up again by board members who were unsatisfied that Myers hadn’t executed the relocation, Myers said, “We just don’t have the space.”
At the July 26, 2016 meeting, where it was revealed that Norfleet would finally carry out the move, both opponents and supporters of the relocation reiterated arguments made two years ago.
Trustee Isiah Brandon, who wasn’t on the board at the time the directive to relocate the office was made, said that he felt that the move was rushed and disrespectful.
“I’m against the mayor’s office being in 40 Madison,” he said. “To move the mayor’s office where she has no privacy and it’s an open room (…) is inconsiderate (and) disrespectful.”
Brandon said the mayor wasn’t consulted on the move and that she would have to share a single space with the board’s executive assistant. At 125 S. 5th Ave., the mayor’s office included a suite of three rooms — a personal office for the mayor, an area housing the executive assistant and a separate conference room.
“That building was built to be a public works facility,” said Rogers of 40 Madison. “It was never meant to be the castle where you put your administrative people in.”
Dorris said that the relocation would increase the village’s capacity to serve residents by moving the mayor in the same building as other administrative workers. She also addressed Rogers’s description of the 40 Madison location, noting that if the space is good enough for village staff then it should be good enough for the mayor.
“This was discussed three years ago. The sitting village manager at the time was given a directive but he didn’t act on it,” said Dorris, adding that she admired Norfleet for carrying the directive out and that the relocation “is not about disrespect.”
Rogers has argued that the best long-term solution to the village’s office space problem would be to convert the multipurpose building at 200 S. 5th Ave. into a village hall, where officers for the mayor, trustees and other village staff members would be housed. Currently, Maywood trustees don’t have offices at all.
“I think (the) bigger problem is that the trustees have no offices whatsoever,” Rogers said. “It’s not that we don’t have space. We have space. We’re putting the wrong tenants into the space we have. We need to respect everybody.”
Perkins or Norfleet didn’t comment directly on the relocation at the July 26 meeting. Neither could be immediately reached for comment about issues such as what costs, if any, would be attributed to the relocation.
Below is an illustration drafted last year by Myers comparing the layouts of the mayor’s office space at 125 S. 5th Ave. and the then-proposed office space at 40 Madison. These may be different from Norfleet’s execution of the relocation. More as this story develops. VFP
Layout of existing mayor’s office at 125 S. 5th Avenue
Layout of proposed mayor’s office at 40 Madison Street