In a wide-ranging interview Monday in his Des Plaines Avenue office, Anthony Calderone displayed both his usual bravado and a hint of self-reflection in explaining his path to narrow re-election to a fifth term as mayor of Forest Park.
“I had to go against all odds” to be re-elected, said Calderone. He railed on the Forest Park Review “for being perpetually against me” and on his opponent, Commissioner Chris Harris, “for repeatedly calling me corrupt.”
In the April 7 election, Calderone was re-elected by less than 100 votes and his longest-serving colleague on the village council, Mark Hosty, was turned decisively out of office. Another colleague, Tom Mannix, won re-election though his vote total was a distant fourth in the tally. Two Calderone-backed newcomers for the village council — Joe Byrnes and Rachell Entler — easily won election, as did independent Daniel Novak.
Calderone acknowledged his re-election was not a mandate and that there was “a large separation” in the vote spread that left Mannix and Hosty at the bottom of the tote board.
“This election has caused me to do some reflection,” he said. “Despite all of the efforts to communicate with residents, we have to do more. We have to figure out how to touch them. And I have to do better in listening and getting feedback from residents.”
Saying he hadn’t “given residents ample opportunity” to be heard, he said he would “take it to the streets.” Calderone said he would ask District 91 public schools to allow him to host quarterly community forums in each of the schools.
Calderone said he understands that there “are some wounds that need to be healed, some bridges that need to be built. I want to find people who want to come out and engage.”
Calderone said he was stirred by the success of the Proviso Together movement that saw two Forest Park residents and a veteran Maywood school board member win a majority on the District 209 Proviso high schools board. Saying that Claudia Medina, Ned Wagner and Theresa Kelly “have a monumental challenge” ahead of them on the board, the Proviso East alum added, “I’m encouraged by the possibilities. [That district] has been dysfunctional for a long, long time.”
Asked if he thought his support of Medina and Wagner would damage his relationships among other Proviso Township elected leaders, Calderone said, “I don’t know. I’m certain at some point I’ll find out.” He said he was never directly urged to back ShawnTe Raines-Welch, the wife of state Rep. Chris Welch and a candidate for the District 209 school board. “I’m not going to step into other towns’ politics, and if I get looked at funny for a while, that’s OK.”
Calderone said he was optimistic about the next four years and promised an activist approach to addressing issues. He said he would invite the new village council “together in different settings, all open to the public, to set goals” for the new term. He said he had not consistently made such plans.
Following up on a campaign promise, Calderone said that, within 90 days, he would appoint the Diversity Committee he has been promoting since November. In recent weeks, he noted, five or six people have called him to volunteer their service. While the impetus for the committee was Calderone’s plan to propose an ordinance banning residents from wearing their pants too low, he admitted, “I know when I’m on the no-win side of an issue,” but “I want the committee amongst themselves to develop their mission and purpose.” He returned to the theme first heard when he proposed a saggy pants rule. “Should a community have any kind of standards and ideals? Is that proper or should we accept whatever happens because it is acceptable in a different culture?”
New commissioner Entler told the Review last week and again over the weekend that the Diversity Committee was high on her list of worthy projects and she would sit down soon with Calderone to hear his ideas and offer hers.
Asked again about his possible involvement in negative fliers targeting his opponent Harris during the final days of the campaign, Calderone said that he had “Zero percent to do with that crap. I don’t like it.” Told that his cousin, Nick Tricoci, had been a regular poster of anti-Harris material on social media during the campaign, Calderone said, “He may have been a little over-excited.”
Calderone also confirmed that he will recommend to the village council that Deputy Police Chief Tom Aftanas be promoted to police chief on the mid-May retirement of Chief Jim Ryan. “That will definitely be my recommendation. If they want to conduct a search then, we will. But I believe in promoting from within.”
This article has been changed to eliminate a reference to village commissioner candidate Daniel Novak as the top vote-getter in that race in the April 7 election. He finished second, 16 votes behind Joseph Byrnes.