In 2009 Rachel Entler and two other members of Forest Park’s Youth Commission resigned their posts upset at what they saw as political interference and criticism from Mayor Anthony Calderone. In 1999 the newly elected Calderone bypassed then Acting Police Chief Joe Byrnes for the position of chief of police. Shortly thereafter Byrnes retired from the police department after a 25 year career and began to work in security for hospitals.
Those disagreements are all ancient history now as Entler and Byrnes have aligned with Calderone and the Progress for Forest Park slate in this spring’s village election. Entler and Byrnes are running for village commissioner on a slate led by Calderone and also includes incumbent commissioners Mark Hosty and Tom Mannix. Campaign signs featuring their five names have started to pop up around town. The other candidate for village council is Dan Novak who is running as an independent.
Calderone asked Byrnes and Entler to run for the village council and be on his slate.
“I believe in good government and I believe in having candidates whose interests are truly in Forest Park and I believe that Rachell and Joe both fit those requirements,” Calderone said.
Entler said that Calderone contacted her a few months ago and they met in November to talk things over.
“I sat down with Tony and we talked a lot about the things that were happening in Forest Park and we talked about our disagreement in the past and that was a big disagreement that we had, and it was a public one. But in the end there are so many things about Forest Park that are great that I think Tony had a hand in and there are a lot of things going forward that I agreed with him on,” Entler said. “It’s been a little troubling the last couple of years to see commissioners and the mayor get into squabbles that get turned into the perception that people can’t work together.”
Neither Entler nor Byrnes has been known as Calderone supporters in the past. Entler said that she voted for Terry Steinbach in the 2007 mayoral election and said she couldn’t remember who she voted for in 2011 mayoral election. That lack of support in the past didn’t stop Calderone, Hosty, and Mannix from wanting Entler and Byrnes on their team.
“It’s kind of known amongst them that I have friends who have not necessarily supported Tom and Mark and Tony in the past,” Entler said. “They assured me that yeah they were looking for ideas and they were looking for opinions, they weren’t looking for arguments.”
Both Byrnes and Entler say that if they are elected they will not feel obligated to support Calderone all the time.
“Nobody pressures me to do anything,” said Byrnes, a former park district commissioner. “If I don’t like something I’ll come right out and tell you. I’m not a rubber stamp for anybody. People know me in town. They know that I am not a yes man for anybody.”
Entler also said that if elected she will not feel obligated to support Calderone. She said that she will make up her own mind on the issues should she be elected.
“I think it’s good to have people who have differing opinions and can express those opinions,” Entler said. “Good councils thrive on differing opinions. I don’t think you have to agree with everybody in order to work with them.”
Entler and Calderone both say that Entler would bring fresh ideas and new perspectives to the village council.
“I was very clear with them that I was my own person and I do my own thinking, and part of my value was that I would see things differently from them” Entler said. “One I’m a woman. That whole experience brings a different perspective on things and two, and we kind of joke about this, I’m not a white male.”
Byrnes and Entler say they hope to be part of a new dynamic on the village council where too often in the past disagreements seemed to sometimes be personal in nature.
“It is better off going with a group of people and start off with some civility and some understanding of what you what to accomplish,” Byrnes said. “We’ll disagree and there’s no harm in disagreeing just as long as you don’t kill each other over it. The disagreements will be on a friendlier basis and in a civil manner.”
Hosty said that he is looking forward to a new village council.
“We don’t have to be in lockstep, but we don’t have to argue about everything,” Hosty said. “I think the diversity of Joe and Rachel would be a great addition to Tony, Tom and I. They’ll bring a fresh look … I think it will be really good for the village to add these two to the council. We don’t have to go in every Monday night expecting to get attacked on crazy stuff. We can actually go in and have discussions about doing good things for the village of Forest Park.”
Byrnes said that any differences he had with Calderone about being passed over for police chief were resolved long ago.
That’s something that was between Tony Calderone and myself and we straightened that out. I have no hard feelings. I understood what he did. He wanted to come in with a different philosophy and he did. I can’t blame him for that. That probably was over two years after I retired.”
Novak is hoping to make a virtue out of not being part of the slate.
“That makes me the independent choice,” said Novak, the son of former park district director Dave Novak. “I’m an independent candidate not affiliated with any other commissioner or either mayoral candidate.”
Calderone, who helped coach Novak’s Little League baseball team when Novak was a kid, said that the slate was already formed before Novak decided to run for commissioner.
“We started doing some collaboration a number of months ago and Dan came late to the game,” Calderone said.
Former commissioner and mayoral candidate Marty Tellalian said that he will contribute to Novak’s campaign but will not give any money to Entler or Byrne despite having received support from them in the past.
“I would have, but with them aligning with the mayor it makes me concerned that they’re really not going to say what they think is best for the village,” Tellalian said. “That they’re not going to be independent and are already starting to play politics.”
This story has been changed to correct the spelling of Joe Byrnes’ last name.