With over 100 people packed into the village hall council chambers, it was evident that the May 11 council meeting was not a routine gathering. The attendees, including spouses, children and extended family, were assembled to witness the swearing in of a newly elected Forest Park Village Council.

Judge Pat Rodgers, Circuit Court of Cook County, 5th District, administered the oaths of office to Mayor Anthony Calderone and commissioners Joseph Byrnes, Dan Novak, Rachell Entler and Tom Mannix. Both Mannix and Calderone successfully ran as incumbents in the recent April elections. Yesterday’s meeting marked the inauguration of Calderone’s fifth mayoral term and Mannix’s second as a commissioner.

Newcomers Byrnes, Novak and Entler will assume the roles of commissioner of Accounts and Finance, Streets and Public Improvements, and Public Property, respectively. Mannix shifts into a new position as commissioner of Health and Public Safety.

After the ceremony, the newly elected officials graciously thanked their families for their support. Byrnes also highlighted the importance of collaboration, saying, “The five of us will work together for the betterment of Forest Park.”

Novak remarked, “I look forward to serving you and getting engaged. I am definitely looking forward to the hard work and challenges ahead.” Entler concluded, “I look forward to the next four years.”

Byrnes, a resident of Forest Park since 1961, told the Review he was motivated to run for office after an encouraging conversation with Calderone following a council meeting. Byrnes has been a regular attendee for years. He also said he is excited to begin work on several issues confronting Forest Park. Byrnes acknowledged the ongoing flooding issues, the unresolved Altenheim property and the development of the Roosevelt Road business corridor as areas for improvement. Most importantly, he stressed transparency. 

“We have to be an open council,” Byrnes said. “We have to talk to our constituents. … There is nothing in here that is a secret.”

The newly seated council also unanimously passed resolutions recognizing each of the three outgoing commissioners, Rory Hoskins, Mark Hosty and Chris Harris. The mayor then presented each individual with a framed copy of the official document, which praised the “strong fiscal management” of the outgoing officials during the recession.

Hosty, a council member for the last 16 years, thanked the village staff, including the police and fire departments, before saying, “I look forward to spending time with my family. I’m not going to miss any more soccer, lacrosse and Little League.” Hosty began his tenure in 1999 before running successfully for three more terms.

Hoskins, the village’s first African American commissioner, echoed Hosty’s appreciation for the municipal staff before remarking, “I think this is emotional for a lot of us who will not be serving after tonight. … It’s truly been an honor to serve Forest Park.” Hoskins was first elected in 2007 and again in 2011.

Harris’ remarks were a bit more contentious, with some even eliciting loud booing from a few attendees. After referring to his time serving Forest Park as an “absolute honor,” Harris added, “I know some of the council had different motives for running. Whether it was advancing political careers, or expanding their political businesses or just enjoying the title … but when I ran four years ago it was to be the voice of the people.”

Harris then referred to the election tactics of his opponent, Mayor Calderone, as “reprehensible” and described Calderone’s administration as an “autocratic, monolithic empire.” Harris, first elected in 2011, concluded, “I came in with great aspirations … [for] moving Forest Park forward in technology, business practices and modern solutions, but that’s unfortunately not how things work here.”

Harris was not the only Calderone critic to voice frustration at the meeting. Another resident, Sarah Harling, lambasted members of Calderone’s extended family during public comment for “unethical” behavior during the election cycle, including “intimidation and general harassment” on social media.

Harling asserted that the behavior derailed productive public discourse and asked the mayor to “take leadership and hold these parties accountable for their actions carried out in your name.”

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