I was surprised but not shocked to hear that Commissioner Tim Gillian is not seeking a fourth term. To anyone who has attended council meetings, it was apparent that Tim’s frustration with the job was growing.
Tim is a lifelong Forest Parker and it’s obvious that he has a deep love for this town. The village was at a crossroads when he first ran for commissioner. It may sound ridiculous today but I wasn’t sure whether we were headed for poverty or prosperity.
Tim has been serving Forest Park since he signed up to be an auxiliary police officer in 1978. Community service was already in his blood, as Tim’s father worked on political campaigns for former mayor and state senator Howard Mohr. A dozen years ago, Tim was elected commissioner and has been re-elected twice.
Tim set goals when he first became commissioner and most of those goals have been achieved. During the Madison Street reconstruction, he coordinated communication between contractors and business owners. He also spearheaded removal of the residency requirement for village employees. Most importantly, he championed the creation of the village manager’s position. Tim firmly believed that Forest Park needed oversight by professionals.
Not all of his campaigns were successful. Tim fought hard for the village to change its form of government from commission to home rule. He believes voters were scared off by the increased taxing power that village officials would have enjoyed under home rule. However, his purpose was to give the village more power over zoning and regulatory matters and to give the Forest Park government more flexible financing. After the voters said no, Tim dropped the matter.
Tim is proud that the village experienced such dynamic growth and change during his tenure. But, in recent years, he tired of the political infighting, which sometimes caused his face to redden at council meetings.
One of Tim’s proudest accomplishments is the Millennium on Madison event he arranged for the celebration of the new century. It was an unforgettable New Year’s Eve party with tents, music and plenty of parents with kids in tow. The highlight was the midnight fireworks display. It’s one thing to watch aerial shells explode in the spaciousness of the park, but the narrow confines of Madison gave the pyrotechnics powerful immediacy.
Over the years, Tim has been seen as being joined at the hip with Mayor Anthony Calderone but I believe he is an independent thinker. When Forest Park went through troubling times, I continued to trust Tim as commissioner and he was open to answering my questions about village policy. I’ve also enjoyed writing pieces to promote his family’s fund-raisers to defeat cystic fibrosis.
I’m happy for Tim and his decision to leave the grind of public life. It reminds me of another recreational pilot, Ted Williams, who upon retiring John Updike wrote, “He even knew how to do that, the hardest thing. Quit.”