“Some of you were around 12 years ago and others not, but certainly they were not the best of times in the Village of Forest Park,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone, Monday night, at the April 27 village council meeting, describing the state of the village at the outset of Police Chief Jim Ryan’s tenure. Ryan is retiring on May 14, 2015.

Calderone thanked him for his service and added, “Jim Ryan had a huge task on his shoulders when he first took over the helm here because there were a few people who needed to be excused and over time he had the fortitude, the passion, the desire to see to it that the police department of Forest Park became second to none.”

Before beginning his appreciative remarks, Calderone explained the timing of the farewell ceremony to the larger-than-normal crowd gathered at village hall. The several dozen attendees included members of the police force, Ryan’s fiancée Megan, and even a few Boy Scouts. Calderone, who was visibly emotional at times, included a valediction for Ryan during this meeting to avoid conflicting with the transitions for newly elected commissioners scheduled for the May 11 meeting, closer to Ryan’s actual retirement.

Calderone also described the extensive search process that led to Ryan’s hiring, which included over 30 candidates, and stated, “I knew because of his posture and his style [during the process] that this was going to be the type of individual Forest Park needed to stabilize the ship here, to bring a sense of calm and to continue to lead our police department.”

Ryan began his law enforcement career at the Northfield Police Department in 1971 before spending three decades as a police officer in Des Plaines, eventually rising to chief of that department. In 2003, he was hired as Forest Park police chief.

The council unanimously passed a resolution recognizing Ryan’s “impressive 40-year law enforcement career” and presented him with an official framed copy.

The resolution praises Ryan’s work enacting a sharing program with the Federal Customs Service which helped to fund much-needed improvements for the department, including “police squad cars, two-way radios, the build-out of a state-of-the art detective division and the construction of a police garage.”

Ryan’s 12-year term as chief was not without controversy. Throughout the early years, the department dealt with sexual assault allegations, the contentious termination of a department sergeant and complaints over the use of Tasers.

During his farewell speech, Ryan commended his colleagues saying, “My job has been very easy. I’ve been very fortunate with a great group of department heads. They are very easy to work with and not all communities have that luxury. We all get along so well and we work well together.”

He continued, “Irish people feel that things happen because it was meant to happen and I think I was meant to be here.”

The commissioners then presented Ryan with an engraved glass plaque commemorating his tenure as police chief. After a quick photo session, Commissioner Rory Hoskins thanked Ryan for his service and added, “I think people generally feel that this is a safe town. We are not a perfect town, but we are a relatively safe town and that speaks to the leadership in town.”

During remarks to the Review after the meeting, Ryan acknowledged he will have more free time in retirement but added, “I plan on being busy.” He is excited to spend more time with his family, attend more of his grandchildren’s baseball games and play more golf. Most of his family lives around Chicago and Ryan has no plans to move out of the area.

When asked what he’ll miss about the job, he responded, “I’ll truly miss the camaraderie, seeing the guys at the roll calls, talking in the hallways … but we’ll still play golf, go to lunch.”

Despite his impending retirement, Ryan told the Review he has no plans to stop his fitness regime. “I go to the gym every day. Instead of getting there at 5, I’ll get there at 9 now.” 

Rain barrel program moves forward

At his penultimate village council meeting as Public Safety Commissioner, Chris Harris remained concerned about the village’s rain barrel program, asking Mayor Anthony Calderone, “I’m going to beat a dead horse on the rain barrels and just ask for an update.”

The mayor quickly responded saying, “Forest Park is definitely going to have rain barrels within the next meeting or two. Once all this internal stuff has been put in place, we will be ready to pull the trigger.” The mayor added that the village’s law firm, SRD, is currently reviewing the agreement and the program will move forward once “a couple small processes” are implemented at village hall.

As previously reported by the Review, the two men have sparred over the shuttered initiative, with Harris contending that Calderone rebuffed efforts by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) to restart the program.

At a previous council meeting, Harris stated the original communication from the MWRD was dated August 2014, not in February 2015 as the mayor claimed. The Review reached out the MWRD to clarify the timelines of correspondence.

Allison Fore, an MWRD public and intergovernmental affairs officer, told the Review in an email, “The district’s first mailing regarding rain barrels was sent to municipalities on August 12, 2014, and the second was mailed on Feb. 25, 2015.”