Wednesday, May 22, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: May 29
Featured image: Maywood Trustees Isiah Brandon, Miguel Jones and Nathaniel George-Booker were sworn-in on May 21. All are younger than 35. | Trustee Antonio Sanchez/Facebook
As of May 21, the average age of the current Maywood Board of Trustees is 47, likely making it the youngest village board in Proviso Township.
Not that anyone has been counting. Why? Because as far as anyone in the room during Tuesday night’s swearing-in ceremony can remember, there’s never been a need to do so. It’s always been assumed in this town that being a village trustee is something best done in retirement. But that’s the past. This is now.
Trustees Miguel Jones, 30, Isiah Brandon, 31, and Nathaniel George-Booker, 34, were all sworn-in last night — Jones and George-Booker to their first terms; Brandon to his second. Jones and George-Booker replaced former trustees Henderson Yarbrough, 76, and Ron Rivers, 70.
They join Trustees Antonio Sanchez, 39, and Kimyada Wellington, 47, on a 7-member board that includes Maywood Mayor Edwenna Perkins, 76, and Trustee Melvin Lightford, 72.
There have been young trustees in Maywood before. State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th), for instance, was just 29 when she was elected to her first term.
Eric Stith, who was in his early 30s when he served as a village trustee in the early 1990s, was among the onlookers who witnessed this current crop of young trustees sworn-in.
But rarely, if ever, have so many young people, particularly young African-American men, been given the oath of office — Brandon and Jones by Maywood native Judge Shelvin Hall and George-Booker by Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough — at one time.
“I’m so glad we’ve got some youth coming in here,” said Lightford, prompting wild applause from the packed room inside of Council Chambers, 125 S. 5th Ave. in Maywood.
During their comments following the swearing-in, Jones and Sanchez made their youth apparent.
“To quote Tupac,” Jones said while thanking his family for the sacrifices they made for him to get an education and launch a career, “‘There’s no way to pay you back, but my plan is to show you that I understand.”
Sanchez congratulated the new trustees by quoting the rapper Post Malone: “‘Now they always say congratulations, worked so hard, forgot how to vacation.'”
During his comments, George-Booker spoke to the shared sense of sacrifice common among his colleagues — a sense born of the awareness that young people who grow up in Maywood and leave for college often don’t return due to financial and other reasons.
At one time, the new trustee said, he was one of the them — living in New York while working as an area director for the world’s largest hotel company.
“I was living my best life and coming home [to Maywood] being rich Uncle Nate for the holidays,” he said.
“Going back and forth made me realize that, when we were coming up we had all the family members who were around us and when we all became the first generation of college gradates, it was great, right? But the reality was we kind of all left.”
George-Booker said that he realized he wanted to make a deeper investment in his hometown. When his grandparents died, he bought their home and renovated it “to invest in Maywood,” he said.
“When I came home and got involved with my immediate family, I realized my community family had a need, as well,” the trustee explained. “They had also been neglected … One time, my pastor preached on, ‘Are you willing to sacrifice your job for your future … And then he gave the word in Genesis, where it says, ‘Return to the land of your father where your people are and I’ll be with you.'”
Brandon, who was first elected a trustee at 27, recruited both Jones and Wellington to run for their current seats. Now a two-term trustee at just 31, he has the rare combination of institutional knowledge and youth.
He recalled prior young trustees elected in the village, but added that “there’s never been this many at one time.”
On Tuesday, as the young trustees referenced decades-old problems in Maywood, they offered up their own ideas and solutions.
During his comments, Brandon echoed Stith, who in 1991 told a Chicago Tribune reporter that the village suffered “a big blow” when it lost American Can Company in 1975.
“During the campaign, as I went house to house, door to door, I listened to your concerns and ideas,” Brandon told the audience on Tuesday.
“And it is my goal to bring those concerns and ideas to this board. I also listened to your stories about the good old days — the stories about the American Can Company and Canada Dry, which provided employment for thousands of residents.”
”Maywood has taken a bad rap,” Ralph W. Connor, then a director of community development for Maywood. told the Tribune in 1991. Connor would go on to serve as mayor from 2001 until 2005. “People have this perception and that isn’t true.”
“I want to make sure we take a step back and think about the brand that Maywood is,” Jones, a finance professional, said during his comments Tuesday, offering a solution to a chronic problem outlined by Connor decades ago.
That brand renaissance could start by revitalizing two key village commissions, George-Booker indicated, when he recommended that, at the next regular meeting, the board consider making changes to the Economic Development Commission and reinstating its youth commission. VFP
Correction: A previous version of this article attributed the wrong age to Henderson Yarbrough. He is 76, not 72. VFP regrets the error.
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