Editor’s note: This profile is the first in a three-part series featuring the candidates slated for the Feb. 27 mayoral primary.
The morning of Feb. 26, 2003, Patrick Doolin had a rude awakening. He had just finished seventh in a field of nine candidates in the primary election for village commissioner. He received just 512 votes.
The good news was that he was one of eight candidates who advanced to the general election five weeks later. But finishing seventh did not bode well for his chances.
“It was a wakeup call,” Doolin said of that election four years later. “I thought I was a pretty well known guy.”
Over the next five weeks that year, Doolin began aggressively campaigning, making a point to go door-to-door for several hours each day. All the hard work paid off and on April 1, 2003, Doolin more than doubled his vote total in the primary receiving 1,153 votes, the second highest vote total in the commissioners’ race.
“It’s the most difficult thing you can do,” Doolin said of running for office.
That kind of hard work and determination will be at the center of his campaign for mayor this year, Doolin said, as he squares off against two other candidates in the Feb. 27 primary.
Critics of Doolin’s term on the council admit that he is smart and well spoken, but also describe him as arrogant. Some question his temperament and motivation. No one takes him lightly.
In his nearly four years on the village council Doolin has been a constant critic of Mayor Anthony Calderone. The irony here is that Doolin campaigned hard for the mayor in 1999 when Calderone unseated Lorraine Popelka. Today, Doolin said he is offended by the lack of debate on the village council and by the actions of the majority.
To change that, Doolin is campaigning on a proposal to strip commissioners of the administrative authority they wield over their departments. This will take politics out of the day-to-day affairs of village government, Doolin said.
“Elected officials should be policy makers,” Doolin said. “They have no experience in running a department. That’s why we have highly paid professional department heads.”
Doolin is also proposing a six month moratorium on new development of more than six units. He is worried about over developing the community.
“We’re losing some small town charm with these developments,” Doolin said.
While Doolin supported the Madison Commons development he voted against the Residences at the Grove. Doolin said he is concerned that Forest Park is losing industrial space, which doesn’t make as many demands of village resources, to an abundance of multi-family residential properties.
Doolin has also been a fierce critic of Police Chief James Ryan, and Ryan’s moves to fire two ranking officers.
Doolin is branding himself as a reformer who can clean up village government, ridding it of outside influences.
Growing up on the far south side of Chicago and in Oak Forest, Doolin attended the University of Illinois and graduated in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in sculpture. Today Doolin is a 40-year-old real estate broker.
It was through real estate that Doolin became interested in politics. While working at Reich and Becker in Forest Park, his boss, Carl Schwebl, encouraged him to get involved in the community and join the chamber of commerce.
“He was an excellent salesman,” Schwebl said, who later had a falling out with Doolin. The two parted ways after Doolin tried to buy the company from Schwebl.
From there, Doolin landed at Reich and Becker where he met Steve Johnsen, a Forest Park police lieutenant who sold real estate part-time. The two would eventually leave the company and open their own firm. According to Doolin, it was Johnsen who turned him on to local politics.
At the time, Johnsen was a supporter of Calderone’s. He invited Doolin to a kick off party for Calderone, who was beginning his campaign for mayor in 1999. Soon Doolin was volunteering to help with the campaign.
“There nary was a person that can say they worked harder than me to get him elected,” Doolin said. “I walked door-to-door. I put up signs, made phone calls, worked the polls. I bought into the message.”
After Calderone was elected mayor in 1999 he appointed Doolin to the Fire and Police Commission where he was named chairman.
But just as quickly as he was being welcomed to the inner circle, the friendship with Calderone began to fall apart. Doolin said he was turned off by the way Calderone tried to push a referendum to grant Forest Park home rule in 2001. The campaign was deliberately trying to fool voters, Doolin said. He decided that he wasn’t going to be a part of it.
Calderone and his allies said the relationship between Doolin and the mayor fell apart when Doolin and Johnsen tried to get a zoning variance to put up townhouses on a lot they had purchased at 133 Elgin Ave. The variance was not granted by the zoning board of appeals. Doolin lobbied the village council to overrule the ZBA, but was told the proposal could not be approved because it covered 100 percent of the lot, Calderone said.
“They lobbied us elected officials,” said Calderone. “It all went downhill from there.”
Now in his second bid for public office, Doolin is facing Calderone and Commissioner Terry Steinbach. Both challengers are calling for a change in attitude at village hall, accusing the incumbent of pandering to the interests of political donors and allies over those of residents.
Doolin is bringing the energy and, some say, the sharp elbows that have made him a success in business, to politics.
“I’m a passionate, intense guy,” Doolin said. “Everything I do is 100 percent.”